BRITISH COLUMBIA

Amanda Todd's Mother Wants B.C. Bullying Laws After Action On Rethaeh Parsons

08/09/2013 12:17 EDT
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Carol Todd has one simple question: What's taking British Columbia so long?

Now that Nova Scotia has a law allowing those who are bullied online to sue their tormentors, Amanda Todd's mother, who lived through her 15-year old daughter taking her own life 10 months ago after enduring relentless online abuse, wants to see similar legislation in British Columbia.

"It will be really interesting to see now that there is a law in Nova Scotia, if the other provinces follow suit," said Todd.

Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support in April after she attempted suicide in her Dartmouth home, distraught over online tormenting after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted at a November 2011 house party was passed around her school.

“Now look at British Columbia," said Todd. "My daughter died too and most of it was due to cyberbullying,” she said. “And there is no law here.”

It’s been 10 months since Amanda Todd’s heartbreaking YouTube video and subsequent suicide shocked the world and brought the harsh truth about online bullying to light – the tormenters often get away with it.

Amid the outcry that followed politicians – B.C. Premier Christy Clark in particular – were swift to denounce the bullying and vowed to take steps to prevent it from happening again.

On Wednesday, the Cyber-Safety Act came into effect in Nova Scotia. On Thursday, the RCMP laid child pornography charges on two suspects connected to the Parsons investigation.

From the other side of the country, Todd applauded the authorities and supported Parsons' family, who she has come to know well. She speaks to Rehtaeh’s mother regularly.

And while she understands perhaps like no other what those close to Parsons are going through, she fails to understand why the same swift action can’t be matched on the West Coast.

“It’s not sour apples,” she said. “My point is all this happened in Nova Scotia very quickly."

B.C.'s Ministry of Justice didn't give specifics when asked whether the province would follow Nova Scotia's lead and introduce anti-cyberbullying legislation.

"We support and continue to work with our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts on Criminal Code reforms to address the problem of cyberbullying and the distribution of intimate images," Attorney-General Suzanne Anton said in a prepared statement.

"We also recognize that this is not just about laws – it’s about a fundamental societal change to erase bullying on all fronts and create a world where kids feel free to report bullying and teachers and parents know how to recognize and address bullying."

B.C.'s actions to combat bullying have included an online tool victims can use to report harassment anonymously. The province will also implement new policies around workplace bullying in November, The Financial Post reports.

Todd clearly understands that legislation alone won't change the behaviour behind cyberbullying. Prevention and teaching need to take place in the home and schools, she said.

“It’s not going to be my daughter affected by these laws now,” said Todd. “But it might help other children who are being affected by [cyberbullying].”

Since her daughter’s death, Todd has become a public figure in the battle to protect children online. Not a day goes by without someone reaching out to her to share their story, or to find support. It’s a position she accepts because it continues the work her daughter Amanda was just starting when she died.

“Amanda looked for support groups but couldn’t find them,” explained Todd. “So she found others online and they became her support network. I am just keeping that work going.”

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