POLITICS
11/13/2018 17:42 EST | Updated 11/13/2018 17:42 EST

'Revenge Porn' Law Aims To Protect Victims In Newfoundland And Labrador

"You will be held accountable."

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons in St. John's on June 27, 2017.
Paul Daly/CP
Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons in St. John's on June 27, 2017.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is the latest province to introduce "revenge porn" legislation, offering legal recourse to people who have had intimate images shared without their consent.

The Intimate Images Protection Act would give victims the option to take their case to civil court, where judges could order damages or issue a court order to remove the images.

"This legislation will give power back to victims, hold people accountable for their actions and hopefully deter this negative behaviour in others," Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

Parsons introduced the bill in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, following the lead of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia.

He stressed the importance of improving public education about the crime, so young people see the legislation as a clear message against sharing intimate photos without consent.

Andrew Vaughan/CP
People attend a community vigil to remember Rehtaeh Parsons in Halifax on Apr. 11, 2013.

'You will be held accountable'

Preventing future offences is an essential piece, Parsons said, as the images move fast online and the damage done to victims often can't be undone.

"There's no fixing the emotional harm ... I don't think there's any way to downplay the seriousness of it," Parsons said.

"We need to educate that this is wrong and by doing this, this is what could result from your actions. You will be held accountable."

Even the threat of spreading privately shared images can have a crippling impact, Parsons said.

The crime affects people of all ages but can especially damaging to youth.

Parsons referenced the story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Nova Scotia teen who died in 2013 after attempting to take her own life, after photos circulated showing what her family called a sexual assault.

The young girl's story has become a catalyst for a national conversation around the devastating impact of sexual assault and cyber-bullying, and how the two often go hand-in-hand.

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Newfoundland and Labrador's bill allows for judicial discretion when addressing the cases, asking judges to "make any other order that the court considers just and reasonable in the circumstances."

Parsons said he hopes judges will take "creative" and thoughtful approaches to a file with little existing case law to draw from.

Members debated the bill Tuesday, with some praise for the fact that the onus is not on the victim to prove they did not consent to have images circulated.

The defendant would have to prove that they reasonably believed there was ongoing consent to distribute the image, otherwise the action would be interpreted as non-consensual.

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