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Anti-Cyberbullying Legislation: Saskatchewan Passes Motion, Urges Criminal Code Changes

04/25/2013 03:54 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT
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REGINA - The Saskatchewan government and the Opposition NDP have unanimously passed a motion to help stop cyberbullies.

The motion, introduced in the legislature Thursday by Premier Brad Wall, says the province supports federal efforts to combat cyberbullying, including changes to the Criminal Code that would make it an offence to share intimate images without consent.

Wall acknowledged there are harassment and pornography laws, but he said police need more tools to hold perpetrators accountable.

"There are arrows in the quiver of law enforcement today ... especially with respect to minors," said Wall. "But why not give them even more, and when you do that I think you raise the expectation that we have of law enforcement."

NDP Leader Cam Broten said the issue touches families in a big way.

"We've seen the heart-breaking examples across the country, but it hits home to every person who is a parent or a grandparent or has a little one they love," said Broten.

"So it's appropriate to have the discussion today and I'm glad we're able to do it."

Wall said the motion was prompted by the cases of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons and British Columbia teen Amanda Todd. Parsons took her own life earlier this month following an alleged rape and online harassment that included posting photos of the assault. Todd committed suicide last year after being sexually exploited online and subsequently bullied.

Wall said the cases are tragic, but he hopes they can serve as a message to other young people.

"I think when we hear about these stories, the first reaction is anger. You feel real anger that this could possibly, possibly happen," said Wall.

"But then you sit down and you start talking with family and in our case ... you talk with the attorney general and talk to the minister of education. You start canvassing options," he said.

"The important thing here is that we are going to explore every possible option."

The federal government said Wednesday that it will fast-track efforts to create an anti-cyberbullying law.

The Nova Scotia government stepped up its fight against cyberbullying Thursday by introducing legislation that could strip people of their phones and computers, impose hefty fines and clear the way for court action against online bullies. The Cyber-Safety Act would create a team of five investigators in the Justice Department, who would be trained to look into cyberbullying complaints.

Wall says that's an idea worth exploring in Saskatchewan.

The premier, who has three teenage children, says there's also a role for parents to play. He says discussions in his home often start with his kids "bugging" him about "creeping" on their Facebook pages.

"But it gives us a chance to talk about it. (They say), 'Well, why are you doing that?' and I can say, 'Because I think it's important for all of us to know what's going on there, online, on Facebook,' and we can maybe provide some counsel and advice ...." said Wall.

"Those discussions aren't always comfortable but, boy, they're important."

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