Today marks one year since I last saw my daughter Rehtaeh alive. The last time we spoke, the last good bye, and the last "I love you." She got out of my car and walked into her mom's house. On the way home she asked if we could stop at McDonald's. How I wish we did, one last time. Rae passed away April 7, 2013. It's been a year-long nightmare but I try to keep hold of myself. Now that I'm outspoken about our daughter's struggles I've unfortunately attracted the attention of the worst society has to offer. They send messages reminding me Rehtaeh is "worm food," she's dead because I failed as a father. But it's mainly through talking that I've learned the difference Rehtaeh made and the impact she's had on others.
I'm writing you in hopes that you can step in and stop these three from causing further harm. Is there a group or organization or caucus, say, that you could refer this matter to and come up with a mechanism for stopping these bullies? I'd really appreciate any help you could provide as I'm now even scared to go to my mailbox for fear of what the next letter from the government might bring. Some of my fellow victims are afraid these bullies are going to get meaner and meaner and de-index our pensions or even cut them back. Some are even saying they're going to take away our mailboxes but I can't believe they'd be that cruel.
Wednesday, Peter MacKay, the new Justice Minister, unveiled Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. The similarly-named bill is now marketed as an effort to crack-down cyber-bullying, yet the vast majority of the bill simply brings back many (though not all) lawful access provisions. As this post suggests, some of the provisions raise some serious concerns. Yet the government is signalling that it would prefer to avoid such debates, wrapping up the provisions in the cyber-bullying flag and backtracking on a commitment made earlier this year to not bring forward Criminal Code amendments that were contained in Bill C-30.
We were horrified to find out that taking a photograph of oneself having sex with an unknowing and unconscious person then texting it out to pretty much everyone she knows wasn't a crime in Canada. Seriously, trust me. It isn't. But now, fortunately, it will be. I am very grateful to hear that Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney have announced new legislation that will address this disgusting crime that devastated our daughter Rehtaeh. Now, thanks to this new legislation, ignoring these young victims and their families will no longer be an option.
In so many of the instances in which the popular press (and the general public) apply the label "trolling," they're referring to sincere statements from people who believe every word they're saying. These alleged "trolls" have myriad intentions that may include getting a rise out of their target, but also include silencing their target, humiliating their target, inspiring fear or emotional distress in their target, etc etc etc. It's not provocation merely for provocation's sake, and the stakes are much higher. We don't need special Internet words for hate speech, harassment, or death threats. These words already exist.
Because, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to really get tired of living in a world that facilitates and celebrates the culture of crass and the glorification of stupid. And make no mistake about it. While stupid is everywhere, nowhere is it more pronounced than on the web these days. Mainly because it's easy, it's free, it's everywhere, and it's the fastest route to notoriety and fame. There's good stuff out there. Stuff that both manages to communicate something good and entertain at the same time. One doesn't cancel out the other. It's not an either/or proposition. We just need to sift through the flotsam rising all too often on the top of the information cesspool to get to it.
Rita-Clare LeBlanc had reached the darkest moment of her young life. The months of bullying at her high school had taken a toll and she decided to end her life and become yet another statistic of Nova Scotia's abysmal bullying record. She sat alone in her room and started to swallow her father's blood pressure pills. She was going to take as many as she could before passing out and dying. Fortunately, before the point of no return, her mother walked in and made her throw up the pills. She held her, cried with her, and together they vowed to do whatever it took to put Rita-Clare's promising life back together. Her story sounds so familiar by now.
Recently, I engaged in a bit of a Twitter-debate around Internet dangers and kids. Our children are making adult decisions online and it's argued that these protections should be the responsibility of social media companies. Those who oppose restrictions and protections argue that it is up to parents to teach children best judgement and to exercise common sense online. I think this is absolutely absurd.
Parents: Facebook is not in the business of raising my child, nor should you expect Facebook to raise yours. It is not the responsibility of Twitter to make sure my child behaves well online -- it is my responsibility to make sure my child behaves in any environment. If we want major change, it will not come from laws or banning people from websites; it will come from parents, communities, and schools to engage in dialogue and education to raise children who have an understanding of digital citizenship and accountability for their online and offline actions, because accountability and respect still matter.