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Changes to Bill C-13 Could Have Saved Rehtaeh's Life

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This morning I spoke before The House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and shared my thoughts on Bill C-13. Other presenters included Carol Todd, Allan Hubley, Alycha Reda, and Kimberly Chiles.

I know there are concerns with C-13 and believe me, if there was something better on the table I'd be all over it. There isn't, not that I can see. Police have to have the ability to act fast when it comes to cyber-crime or their response is pointless.

Carol Todd, a close friend, stated she opposes C-13 because, "We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety. We should not have to sacrifice our children's privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, sextortion and revenge pornography."

I see it differently. Our children's rights and privacy is already being violated -- violated by some of the sickest people you can imagine. If it's a choice between them and the police I'm siding with the police.

I'm open to suggestions. If anyone has a better solution that's realistic and that they think will work let's hear it?

Here is the statement I read before the Committee:

Mr. Chair,

Good morning and thank you for allowing me to come here today and express my thoughts on Bill C-13.

My name is Glen Canning. In April of 2013 my daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, ended her life following a very traumatic sexual assault and months of cyber-harassment.

The worst part of the harassment she endured involved a photo that was spread by text messaging and on social media.

I would first of all like to clarify that the lens I'm looking through is much different from the lens others may be using when looking at Bill C-13 and in searching for a workable resolution.

I am a father who has lost a daughter. A beautiful, intelligent, kind, and promising daughter. Because of that I am angry, I am hurt, and I am determined to do what I can to address and attempt to fix a serious flaw in our criminal justice system.

The more serious aspect of the flaw has left police officers trying to fight what I liken to "guerrilla warfare" using conventional tactics that are outdated, slow, ineffective and often misguided.

Many families facing a crisis similar to ours share much of the same stories. Officers are often unsure what to do, what laws to apply, or how to gather evidence from online sources.

I recently spoke to a young woman who was stalked online and had an image passed around her high school. The image showed a young man holding a hunting rifle standing in front of a tree with the photo tacked to it. The photo was of the young woman and her eyes were shot out. The police officer she spoke to told her the best way to fight this was to stay off Facebook.

The first and most important step we need to take to combat online crime involving harassment, stalking, threats and image sharing is to stop treating the victims like they are part of the problem. They are as innocent as a drunk driving victim.

Our family has been deeply and forever changed by what happened to Rehtaeh.

Much of Rehtaeh's story has been very public.

A 15-year-old girl going to a sleep over at a friend's house. Innocent enough -- most parents can relate to that. During that night she has a drink, then a few too many -- she is young and hasn't yet experienced the quick effects of alcohol.

In the next few days a story spreads that she slept with four boys. She recalls nothing. Then a photo is shared. It shows Rehtaeh, hanging out a window, naked from the waist down, while a male performs a sex act on her and looks the camera smiling, giving a thumbs up. Rehtaeh had no idea any of this happened.

The police are called, and the photo goes viral. Police officers are told who took it, who has it, and what is being done with it.

They do nothing. They seize no cell phones, track no phone numbers, speak to no witnesses and gather no evidence. In the end the only cell phone they went after was Rehtaeh's. They had warrants in for cellular data but the warrants took months to process. The damage was done. Hundreds of people had, and most likely still have, that photograph of Rehtaeh.

The police later claim what happened with the photo was not a police or law enforcement issue. They stood by and did nothing as her life was destroyed and told us it wasn't an issue for them.

Now I'd like you consider something completely different. Same girl, same incident and the same photo.

In this version of the story, the police see a clear violation of the law. They immediately turn to telecom companies to find out who the photo has been shared with. They do everything they can to stop its spread and to hold the sharers responsible. They do this in a matter of hours.

Most importantly, they make sure that when Rehtaeh Parsons tries to start her life over at a new school that the image isn't going to show up and tear her apart all over again.

Our daughter's story remains a very public story. It's easy for almost anyone to picture her in their minds. Her smile, her glasses, her long hair. Most of you have families; children of your own. Picture someone you love -- ask yourself which story ending would you prefer?

Bill C-13 is not going to replace indifference or incompetence when it comes to addressing cyber-crime. But hopefully, due to stories like Rehtaeh's, Amanda Todd's, and Jamie Hubley's, police departments across Canada are getting the message that this can be deadly and it needs to be addressed quickly and effectively.

We live in an age of instant messaging and viral videos. Everyday Canadians go online to enrich their lives, share their dreams, reach out to family and friends and expand their horizons.

Others do so to hunt children, lure teenagers, spread hate, to terrorize and torment and rejoice in bringing pain and sadness to others.

Social media, the Internet, text messaging, email, shares, and numerous other means of mass communication have all dramatically changed the way we reach out to each other. When Rehtaeh died her mother shared a post on Facebook that literally spread throughout the world in a matter of hours. It's that fast and that powerful.

In the wrong hands it's just as fast and it's just as powerful. Someone in Rehtaeh's shoes won't be helped unless the speed of that help is as viral as the problem.

I do believe, if properly enforced, the amendments in Bill C-13 would have made a difference to our daughter. I will never know if the police had the power and ability to stop that photo from spreading. If they had, it's quite possible I'd be looking at Rehtaeh's picture in a yearbook instead of in a newspaper article.

I respect privacy as much as any Canadian; however, I believe Bill C-13 is not about an invasion of privacy -- it is about allowing police officers to effectively address the many challenges of instant mass communication and abuse.

Technology has changed our lives dramatically and we need to provide new tools so police officers can hold accountable those who use this technology to hurt and torment others.

I am not standing before you today with concerns or worries about what Bill C-13 might mean to privacy. I am before you today because we can't have another Rehtaeh Parsons.

It seems so out of place to complain about privacy while our children openly terrorize each other to death for Likes on Facebook.

I'm not presenting you with evidence of whose life has been destroyed by a state invasion of privacy -- in fact, I don't believe anyone has done that. Instead, I'm here to underscore the impact of a life lost because we have failed to prevent the distribution of images that could have saved that life -- Rehtaeh's life.

My daughter's life.

Thank you.

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