10/25/2017 13:20 EDT | Updated 10/27/2017 20:44 EDT

Cyberbullying and intellectual capacity bills tweaked by Nova Scotia government

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Liberal government has decided to move forward with legislative tweaks to two key bills involving cyberbullying and giving greater autonomy to people with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said Wednesday that changes to the proposed Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act would see the mandatory review period for the act changed from five years to three.

He said the act would also enable the CyberSCAN unit to share information with authorities, including police, with the consent of the victim.

"It was important to the opposition (Tories) that those elements were reflected in the bill," he said. "The role of the CyberSCAN Unit has been and will continue to be an exchange and dialogue between the victims of bullying and the resources that CyberSCAN are able to provide them."

He said that would include getting cases to the court and mediating cases.

But Furey said the government has decided against reinstating the unit's former role of shepherding cases through the courts on behalf of victims.

"We have concerns around CyberSCAN overstepping their authority relative to the work they were doing in the past," Furey said.

He said legal authorities have been split on how involved the unit should be in the process, but he said the government believes the unit would remain valuable because of its mediation and restorative justice functions.

Progressive Conservative MLA Karla MacFarlane, who recommended the changes involving CyberSCAN, said she was satisfied that a suitable compromise had been reached.

"Now they (CyberSCAN) at least have to provide all the information that would be valuable to (victims) in going through these (legal) steps and that wasn't actually in their bill."

As far as the Adult Capacity and Decision-Making Act is concerned, Furey said the government is also moving to a three-year review period to ensure the law's effectiveness and to include a consideration of supported decision making.

Another change involves guardianship orders.

Furey said the changes "may" allow the person who is the subject of a guardianship order or any other interested person with knowledge of a person's capacity, to apply to the court for a review of a guardianship order.

"Any one of us knowing the circumstances and believing that individual actually has capacity may . . . advance that concern," he said.

Furey said the wording was not "shall" because it would have put a significant burden on some guardians who also have a responsibility to seek an order when they see that a person's capacity has diminished.

He said while court access concerns were also raised through the consultation process, the government has moved to make an agreement with Nova Scotia Legal Aid concerning help with court costs.

Furey said legal aid would now be responsible for free-of-charge services for adults and for their representatives who meet the threshold for qualifying for legal aid.

NDP MLA Claudia Chender said she was disappointed there was no changes around supported decision making — which would allow a person to make decisions for themselves with the help of someone else.

She said "only time will tell" whether the omission would result in a court challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as some advocates have suggested.