08/16/2013 10:35 EDT

Rehtaeh Parsons Cyber-Safety Act Aims To Crack Down On Bullying, But At What Price?

The death of Rehtaeh Parsons, which came after allegedly suffering years of intense and systematic bullying, has ignited a flurry of debate -- and the inevitable rush from politicians to legislate.

Nova Scotia's Bill 61, called the Cyber-safety Act, allows victims of bullying to sue. It also extends a school's authority beyond its property lines, and parents and offenders face jail time and fines.

In short, it's a bully of a bill. And in Nova Scotia, it's now law.

It may also be just what we need. But some legal experts are asking, is it too early to even know what we need?

"They did it in haste," Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser told the Chronicle Herald, adding "They made a number of what I think might be fatal mistakes in putting the legislation together.”

Among the more prominent of those 'fatal' mistakes, Fraser argues, is the failure to take into account the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“People may not want to hear it, but cyberbullying is charter-protected speech, just on its face. Anything that communicates meaning — good, bad, beautiful, ugly — is expression and it’s protected by the charter. And so, if you’re going to do anything that limits that, it has to be justifiable.”

In any case, legislation is cold comfort to the Parsons' family. The Nova Scotia teen died in hospital on April 7, shortly after trying to end her own life. Her family claims her schoolmates sexually assaulted her in 2011 and then shared images of the assault.

Parsons' father, Glen Canning, says there was a nearly non-existent police response to the family's original complaints. Suspects were only arrested last week, with two Halifax teens now facing child pornography charges.

The arrests come years after the incident allegedly took place, a bittersweet justice for the Parsons family.

"We're just hopeful there's charges laid and others to arrest, hoping that they're finally willing to tell their side of the story," Rehateh's mother, Leah Parsons told The Canadian Press.

"A sense of relief came over me that at least they're going to be questioned."

The family's ordeal, however, is far from over.

“It's relatively unusual to have young people charged with child pornography, though there are a few other precedents for that,” law professor Wayne MacKay told CBC News. "So there are so many new elements that have come out of the Rehtaeh Parsons situation that it seems to be a never-ending process."

And there are concerns the ever-present chatter in both the media and on the internet has severely prejudiced any future trial.

Not too mention wild pre-arrest speculation and opinioneering from notable scribes like the National Post's Christie Blatchford.

"What [the police] had was a complainant whose evidence was all over the map, independent evidence that supported the notion that any sex was consensual, and no evidence that Rehtaeh was so drunk that she couldn’t consent: The case was a mess," she wrote in an April 26 column.

It should be noted that Blatchford's column was roundly derided by everyone from the victim's father, Glen Canning to Vice magazine, which summed up her opinion as "insane".

But still, very much, Charter-protected.

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