Canada is among the world leaders of internet use and social media penetration in the world. According to recent studies, 86% of Canadians use the Internet and 91% of Canadian Internet users have a social media account.
As the Internet and social media become more prevalent in people’s everyday lives, it’s opened up a Pandora’s box of cybercrimes such as computer hacking, online fraud, identity theft, cyber terrorism, online sexual exploitation, physical violence and sexual assault. While Canada has taken steps to confront cybercrimes, the breakneck pace of technological advancements and the cross-border nature of many online crimes will require new policing measures to keep pace with internet-related crimes.
The examples of cybercrimes given may seem to be in obvious conflict with the law, however other – more subtle – crimes are quickly emerging. One example is cyberbullying. While bullying is hardly a new problem, in today’s online world the seriousness and potential harm caused by bullying can escalate rapidly.
Unlike other forms of bullying, the harassment, humiliation, intimidation and threatening of others through cyberbullying occurs 24 hours a day. It is relentless and aggressive, reaching kids at the dinner table while sitting with their parents, or in the privacy of their bedroom. There is no safe zone.
As a tragic response to online bullying, there’s been a number of teen suicides across Canada: from 14 year old Amanda Todd in Port Coquitlam, BC (2012) to 15 year old Todd Loik in North Battleford, Saskatchewan (2013) to 15 year old James Hubley in Ottawa, Ontario (2011) all the way to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where 17 year old Rehtaeh Parson died a few days after attempting suicide on April 4, 2013.
But cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for kids, adults can be bullies too. According to Statistics Canada, 7% of Canadian adults experience some form of online bullying. Examples aren’t hard to come by. In 2009, an Ottawa restaurant owner began an online hate campaign against a dissatisfied customer which included impersonating the victim and sending sexually explicit e-mails. In 2013, a group of mothers in Arizona created a Facebook group to bash pictures of babies toddlers. In 2014, an Ottawa man was charged after a decade-long, cross border campaign of harassment and cyberbullying against 38 people.
According to Get Cyber Safe – national public awareness campaign created to educate Canadians about Internet security – the following cyber-related offences could be charged:
- Criminal harassment
- Uttering threats
- Mischief in relation to data
- Unauthorized use of a computer
- Identity fraud
- False messages, indecent or harassing telephone calls
- Counseling suicide
- Incitement of hatred
- Child pornography
- Defamatory libel
However, while measures are already in place to tackle cyber-bullying, some claim it’s not enough. The federal government has addressed these concerns with Bill C-13 – the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act – which comes into force on March 9, 2015.
It’s hard not to applaud efforts to address the problem of cyberbullying and give police greater powers to fight cybercrime. There is no doubt that Canada’s Criminal Code needed to be modernized for the digital age to protect Canadians from online predators and exploitation. However, many believe Bill C-13 is part of a larger agenda aimed at increasing the surveillance powers of police while impinging on Canadians’ fundamental right to privacy using tragic suicide cases as a guise for pushing a broader agenda.
With the March 9 deadline soon approaching, how do you feel about cyberbullying, privacy rights and Bill C-13?
“We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.”
– Carol Todd (Amanda Todd’s mother)
Visit the following links to learn more about Bill C-13:
- Cyberbullying law would let police ‘remotely hack into computers, mobile devices, or cars’
- Choosing between Privacy and Bullying
- Cyberbullying bill draws fire from diverse mix of critics
- Can police tackle cyberbullying without Bill C-13?
Have you or someone you care about suffered from cyberbullying?
Don’t suffer in silence, talk to a friend or family member and get help now.
Learn more about Cyber-Bullying, the Law and What You Can Do:
Need help right now? Call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868