An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Hedy Fry  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Dead, as of March 27, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code in order to clarify that cyberbullying is an offence.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 27, 2013 Passed That the 19th Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights(recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying)), presented on Thursday, February 28 2013, be concurred in.
  • June 6, 2012 Tie That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise again today to speak to Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying). In the little time I have left today, I will focus primarily on good examples of action taken by the community in my riding of Drummond to fight bullying and cyberbullying.

In my riding, the Sûreté du Québec is very committed to the fight against violence and bullying. Officer Daniel Jutras visits schools and gives presentations to raise awareness. Mr. Jutras does an excellent job. He has made several presentations this year, at schools in Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover and Saint-Germain-de-Grantham among others, as a result of the hard work of parent and citizens' committees.

In Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, the Groupe de soutien d'aide aux victimes d'intimidation, a parent-run committee in the town, organized an evening presentation on bullying. It was a great success: many people attended, and young and old alike showed keen interest.

Bullying affects society as a whole. It is very important to adopt a preventive—rather than a legislative and punitive—approach to bullying. Our work must really focus on prevention. There are a lot of people doing just that in my riding. For example, there is a parents' committee of the Des Chênes school board that had as its guest Jasmin Roy, the founder of the Jasmin Roy Foundation, and an anti-bulling advocate. He came to Drummondville and gave an excellent presentation. Once again, both young and old were interested in his presentation. Everybody had questions or comments on the issue. As a society, this issue concerns us all.

I think that it is important that all levels of government get involved in the fight against bullying and cyberbullying. Not only is it a hot button issue, it is an age-old societal problem that must be addressed, so that we can live in a better society.

If time permits, I would also like to say that it is important to understand bullying in order to address it. Human beings need to learn to live together with all their differences; the great riches of humanity are to be found in its plurality and diversity. I think that this fits in well with our goal of combatting bullying and cyberbullying through prevention. That is the first step, and everybody needs to get on board.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this evening's debate. I enjoyed my hon. colleague's speech. I know that there were other speeches made the last time the bill was debated in this House. All members in this House agree that it is important to combat cyberbullying.

I would also like to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Centre for introducing this bill in the House. This is an important issue in every region of the country.

It is somewhat ironic that we are speaking about cyberbullying legislation on the day that the Ontario legislature passed Bill C-13, the provincial government's anti-bullying legislation. Of course, there are fundamental differences between these two pieces of legislation. Bill C-273 is certainly not as controversial as the Ontario bill seems to be, but it is an extremely important piece of legislation on an extremely important issue. Bill C-273 would clarify the existing law in the Criminal Code as it applies to cyberbullying by amending the code.

This issue affects many families in Nova Scotia, as well as in other provinces and territories. There are way too many examples of it. Who of us has not experienced or witnessed bullying when we were in school ourselves? When I was in school, we certainly did not have the added concern of being exposed to bullying on the Internet with people talking anonymously about us and posting disturbing pictures. There are many things that happen today.

I heard from a parent in my riding whose daughter has been bullied since last October. The incidents started in school, there were incidents in class that were addressed by the school, but then they continued in the hallway. Kids would giggle as she walked by and so forth. The impact on this child, of what may seem to us as not that serious as adults, was truly tragic.

For instance, she does not want to go to school now. She refuses to go, if members can imagine. She is obviously very unhappy. She is at home and angry about the situation she is in. This is a case where bullying has affected the entire family. Her parent feels the pain of not being able to help or protect her daughter and her siblings have to deal with her behaviour.

It is clear that teenagers, at the most difficult time in life in many ways, find this kind of abuse difficult if not impossible to ignore and very hard to cope with. Since we have all been teenagers, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what that sort of thing feels like and what a difficult and emotional time it can be.

Despite the impact it was having on her at the time, the daughter did not tell anyone. She did not want to tell anyone that she was being bullied because she did not think that there was anything that could be done about it. She was afraid that telling would make it worse. She perceived that she would be with those kids for the rest of the year, spending a lot of time around the children who were bullying her, and the fact that they would have been told to stop or punished in some way would not have had any long-term effect in helping her.

We have had other examples of this in Nova Scotia, unfortunately, and some have been well publicized.

There was a young woman named Jenna Bowers-Bryanton of Nova Scotia who took her own life on January 17 of last year after being harassed at school and through a social networking site.

In recent weeks, if members can imagine, a person on Facebook has purported to be a leader of a group called Libya Torial, whatever that is supposed to be, that allegedly drove three Nova Scotia girls to kill themselves. It is hard to imagine that anyone would want to claim credit for that, to say that they are the group that bullied these poor kids to the point where things were so awful for them that they wanted to kill themselves.

All of us, whether as parents, parliamentarians or individuals of society kind of want to say to a young person, especially a teenager who is going through that kind of difficult time, “No matter how hard it gets, you can handle it, and no matter had bad it gets, it will get better”. Those are two very important messages that we have to give to young people. However, they are not the answer. That is not how we address the problem. It is just one small step to try to support the person who is going through this kind of difficulty.

Another person from Nova Scotia who was targeted was Courtney Brown, who very sadly committed suicide. In Ontario, in June of last year, there was a 16-year-old girl who was violently attacked at school by two other girls while another student videotaped the attack and later posted it on YouTube. That is just awful.

Bullying is why a young fellow, Travis Price of Nova Scotia, founded the Pink Shirt Day, after a fellow student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Thank goodness that does not happen to us here because lots of us like to wear pink shirts. They look good. Interestingly, I heard a presentation from a folklorist in Nova Scotia, Clary Croft, who is an expert in costume and clothing over the centuries. He talked about how a hundred years or so ago when pink first came into public awareness, it was a man's colour and blue was considered a woman's colour. My colleague from Winnipeg North says it still is.

Travis was so concerned about seeing the bullying, he started Pink Shirt Day, this movement across the country where one day each year kids in schools wear pink shirts to say they are against bullying.

It is important that all of us as adults, and everyone in society, say that bullying is wrong. We need to send a message to people who are perpetrators, whether in a moment of dislike, on the Internet when they are anonymous at home and are able to put something up very quickly, or whether it is more deliberate. We want to say to people that this is wrong and they should think about what they are doing and the pain they are causing.

One of the things about the Internet is that so often the perpetrator does not see the impact of what is happening. We know one of the values, for instance, of healing circles, which the aboriginals in our country have used for so long, is that the person who has committed some harmful act is forced to confront the person who has been harmed by it and to consider the impact. That is why restorative justice has been very valuable.

The problem here is that sometimes it is impossible to identify the perpetrator because there are websites where they can post things anonymously. With YouTube they can use a false name, or they can impersonate someone. In fact, they can impersonate the person they are bullying. That is a form of bullying.

This is not easy, but it is very important that governments do what they can to address this, that we enable police to get access to information about who is doing what. I am not endorsing what we have heard before from the Minister of Public Safety, but I think we all recognize that there is a need to take measures to try to stop this kind of thing.

We have a case in Nova Scotia where a young person was bullied, on Facebook I believe it was. That person is going to ask the court that his or her name remain confidential when the bully is sued. I know the media does not like that. Some members of the media have actually opposed this request. I understand their reasoning. However, in a case like this when we consider the harm of cyberbullying, it is important to protect that person as much as possible and not compound it. How else are they going to have an answer to this?

Mr. Speaker, I see you rising, which tells me I am at the end of my time. However, I want to congratulate my colleague for Vancouver Centre for bringing forward this bill on this important issue. I look forward to supporting it.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak at second reading debate on Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying).

I would like to thank the member for Vancouver Centre for introducing Bill C-273 and for giving us the opportunity to discuss this very current issue of cyberbullying.

The issue of bullying and cyberbullying is an important issue for Parliament to discuss. I can say with certainty that those of us on this side of the House stand with those who have been bullied. We are concerned with the issue of bullying and cyberbullying. In fact, as I am sure members are aware, the issue is currently being studied by the Senate committee on human rights.

Despite my concerns relating to the issue of bullying and cyberbullying, I will not be voting in support of Bill C-273 as I think that criminal legislative reform, if indeed any is needed, should await the outcome of the Senate committee review. Further, should the Senate committee recommend criminal law reform, reforms may well be very different from those proposed in Bill C-273. This is, of course, why we are having the Senate review. It is incumbent upon us to get the best advice possible before we proceed with any legislative changes.

I would like to add that my opposition to Bill C-273 should not be interpreted to mean that the government is not interested in the issue of bullying or cyberbullying. It is. The government takes the protection of Canada's youth very seriously, and has been very active over the past few years in areas related to bullying. I am going to speak to a few of those.

Specifically, the National Crime Prevention Centre and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police run a number of programs that target youth who are at risk for bullying-type behaviour. The NCPC has funded approximately 30 projects since 2007, which have addressed primarily youth violence and bullying. Additionally, the NCPC has developed resources for the Canadian public on evidence-based interventions to effectively address bullying.

The RCMP run seven outreach initiatives and program activities which address the issue of cyberbullying. One such example is deal.org, a for youth, by youth web initiative to inform youth about youth crime and victimization. The website also contains a cyberbullying fact sheet, an online interactive cyberbullying game and various blog posts on the topic of cyberbullying.

The RCMP also partners with several national organizations with respect to bullying and cyberbullying. In December 2011, in collaboration with PREVNet and researchers at the University of Victoria, the RCMP began piloting the WITS programs for the prevention of peer victimization and bullying, including cyberbullying. WITS stands for walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help.

Through this partnership, RCMP members have already engaged in many schools and with children in the program's activities. The provinces and territories are also very active in developing and implementing anti-bullying initiatives. Many have also introduced amendments to their education or schools acts in an attempt to more effectively manage what appears to be a growing challenge. Bullying behaviour, as a social phenomenon, has been around for a very long time. The previous speaker mentioned that any of us who have been in school or who have kids in school are familiar with issues of bullying. We have all witnessed this taking place.

It is the relatively new phenomena, though, of cyberbullying that has grabbed the attention of the public, the media and now, today, our Parliament. Over the past number of years we increasingly heard more about it, and this is primarily because of the social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. According to the Nielsen Company in the United States, 22% of the average Internet user's time on line is spent on social media. In fact, a 2008 Reuters news article reported that social media is the top online activity. It is clear that social media is a popular way of connecting people, but it also has its risks.

To this end, the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights has been conducting a study on the issue of cyberbullying, in part to address Canada's international human rights obligation under article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is to protect children from all forms of neglect, abuse and exploitation.

The committee hearings are ongoing, and it has heard from a number of child advocacy stakeholders, as well as persons who have been affected by cyberbullying. The committee must table this important report no later than October 31, 2012. I believe it would be wise for Parliament to await this report before undertaking any criminal law reform in this area.

With regard to this bill specifically, there are two concerns that relate to the amendments proposed to the criminal harassment and defamatory libel provisions. One, the amendments are not needed, as courts have already interpreted these two provisions as applying to behaviour committed via the Internet. Two, these amendments to only some of the applicable offences may lead to interpretation difficulties with respect to other unnamed Criminal Code offences.

I will delve into this second issue a little further. The Criminal Code already possesses a number of offences that are applicable to bullying behaviour, including those amended by the bill, but others as well, such as intimidation, section 423; uttering threats, section 264.1; and robbery, section 343, among others.

As mentioned, Bill C-273 only proposes to clarify that criminal harassment and defamation can be committed using a computer. Not clarifying that the other offences can also be committed using a computer may lead to those other offences being interpreted to only apply to behaviour that is not committed using a computer. In other words, by mentioning via computer in one section, this could signal to the courts that Parliament's intent is to exclude behaviour committed via computer from other offences.

In closing, I would like to take another opportunity to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Centre for raising this important issue of cyberbullying. It is an issue that I believe deserves Parliament's attention. However, we should also consider the issue when we have the benefit of the report from the Senate committee that is currently vested with this review.

I know that, while all of us in this House oppose bullying and oppose cyberbullying, this is not a motion; this is a bill, and a bill has a consequence in law. It is our responsibility, as legislators, to make sure that, when we pass a bill into law, it has the effect we want it to have. Unfortunately, this bill would not be Parliament's best effort.

We should await the Senate committee review and take the advice that comes from that review. We know it is actively hearing from witnesses. We know some of those witnesses include people who have been cyberbullied. We look forward to the report.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the growing popularity of social media comes the growing problem of cyberbullying. Those who have been bullied on the Internet can attest to the anger, shame and powerlessness they feel when personal information or a photo taken without their knowledge is posted online.

In 2002, Ghyslain Raza, a young boy from Trois-Rivières, saw a video of himself posted on YouTube without his consent. That video was viewed by millions of people around the world. The young boy, who was 14 at the time, suffered a deep depression and had to be hospitalized.

Bullying, defamation and harassment should not be tolerated because they can cause serious harm and irreparable damage. Using email or social media to commit these acts does not make them acceptable either.

What is the definition of cyberbullying? Education expert Bill Belsey describes it like this:

Cyberbullying is the use of information and communication technologies, such as email, cellphone, pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal websites and defamatory online personal polling websites, to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.

Cyberbullying therefore includes all of the elements involved in the usual forms of bullying, but transposes them to an online and highly public environment.

On social networking sites like Piczo, Facebook and MySpace, bullies often focus on chat rooms because they are very popular. Messages, photographs and videos can have a devastating impact on victims because they are seen by thousands or even millions of people and because the bullying can go viral.

According to a Statistics Canada survey, approximately 7% of adult Internet users are bullied over the Internet. The risk is higher for some people, including young adults, where the rate is 17%. It is also likely that young people who are already experiencing integration problems or being harassed at school are more likely to be cyberbullying targets. People perceived as different are also targeted: homosexuals, people with a physical or mental disability and immigrants, for example.

In 2009, University of Toronto professors Faye Mishna and Robert MacFadden carried out a study of more than 2,000 students in the greater Toronto area. The results were alarming. Over 21% of students—one in five—said that they had been victims of cyberbullying.

The Montreal police force also conducted a survey of young people, which indicated that 27% of young people aged 9 to 17 say they have been victims of bullying or harassment on the Internet.

Kids Help Phone also conducted a survey of young people in 2007. The responses are heartbreaking. The young people said that the bullying often involves students who already know each other. For example, one young person confided:

I was playing Habbo Hotel [an online game] and the person (since I'm black) made fun of my race. They called me bad words and names.…

Most of the time the people bullying me online were the same people that were bullying me in real life, but used technology to escalate it and make the pictures/rumours spread faster and farther.

So it is important not to underestimate the psychological impact that cyberbullying can have on young people.

Another girl confided:

About six months ago my friend or my so-called friend had a hate page on her website and I was on it there were many names that just weren't necessary to say. I felt like she betrayed me I felt angry I couldn't help it, then people started making fun of me at school and I had no self-confidence so I started to hurt myself and everyone found out then I was just so scared of what they were going to do to me that I almost committed suicide.

As a teacher, I saw students faced with cyberbullying problems a number of times, and I can attest that the effects are devastating and that young people feel completely lost and destitute.

The bill introduced by the member for Vancouver South aims to amend three sections of the Criminal Code in order to include cyberbullying. In fact, it is proposing amendments to sections 264, 298 and 372 of the Criminal Code. They deal with criminal harassment, defamatory libel and false messages, respectively.

Amendments to section 264 of the Criminal Code would mean that repeated communication using a computer or similar device, or a threatening attitude causing a person to be concerned for his safety, would be considered harassment. The amendment to the other two sections serves the same purpose: to broaden the scope of the code to include the use of a computer in the commission of a crime.

The spirit of this bill is worthy. It aims to eliminate any grey areas or ambiguity in the law to ensure that cyberbullying, when a crime is involved, is penalized.

We obviously agree with the spirit of the bill. We do, however, have misgivings about the implementation of this legislation when it comes to young people. We are afraid that the bill will lead to the criminalization of behaviour among young people that could be modified through education and awareness building, in other words, through more prevention.

The many studies conducted by Professor Belsey, the founder of bullying.org, led him to the conclusion that bullying is a behaviour that can be influenced and therefore changed. He observed that the best way of addressing such behaviour is through education and awareness building. When consulted about Bill C–273, Professor Belsey said the following: “Bullying is a behaviour and is therefore very fluid. Should a child be threatened with expulsion every time he behaves in this way? If that were the approach, there would be no children left at school. Since bullying is an acquired behaviour, it also means that with a little bit of help and support, these behaviours can be changed.”

When it comes to education and awareness building, Canada could draw inspiration from a Finnish program called KiVa, considered one of the best in the world. The objective is to influence “witnesses” of acts of bullying and encourage them to intervene. Instead of expelling the culprits, a dialogue takes place between the bully, his victim and other student witnesses. The program has really helped to rekindle young people’s interest in school and to make students more motivated and successful. After just one year, victimization and harassment had dropped markedly, and KiVa won the European award for crime prevention.

Here, too, prevention programs are beginning to appear. The RCMP and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation have joined forces to design presentations that target students from grades 4 to 12. They are teaching youth how to recognize, respond to and prevent this behaviour.

In Quebec, several police services have joined forces to create “Vous NET pas seul”, a program to prevent cyberbullying. The program's objectives include inviting young people and their parents to be vigilant when surfing the Internet. There are two components—one for teenagers, which aims to inform them of the dangers of careless surfing, and one for parents, which demystifies the Internet and gives advice on safety and monitoring.

Sites like WebAware explain the various forms of cyberbullying and its legal consequences and provide young people and parents with tips on how to protect themselves.

The Sûreté du Québec is working with several school boards to increase awareness about the problem among youth. In my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry, Isabelle Pépin, a school psychologist, is intervening in this area at Edgar-Hébert secondary school. In order to be successful when it comes to this issue, she believes that everyone needs to get involved: governments, parents, teachers, students and the general public—basically society as a whole. We must say no to all forms of bullying and cyberbullying in particular.

Perhaps the computer gives us a degree of anonymity that prevents the development of a feeling of empathy towards the victims because there are no direct links between the bully, the victims and the witnesses. But we must remember that real people are hiding behind the aliases.

I hope that this bill will help to make people aware of the dangers of cyberbullying. But my colleagues and I believe that amendments could be considered when the bill is studied in committee. Young people should not be put in prison. They and their parents should be made aware of the problem. By giving ourselves proper tools, we can change behaviour and prevent cyberbullying.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the bill and to congratulate the member for Vancouver Centre for bringing it forward. This issue is important to her, and I share her concerns.

Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying), has been brought forward to really slightly redefine criminal harassment, defamatory libel and legislation pertaining to false messages. It is a good bill and one that we should support.

This issue is especially pertinent in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas. Last year we had quite a local controversy. It was about bullying in general, but also cyberbullying. We had a number of charges of cyberbullying within our local school system toward LGBT community members in our riding. That launched a purple letter campaign by local constituent Kaitlin Burnett, which really took off. It was an effort to get all members of the community to act against bullying.

To show that this kind of bullying is real, during the municipal election we had a small political party slate form that was against this purple letter campaign and against changing any laws that would reduce bullying toward the LGBT community. Heated debates were held all the way through the municipal election campaign about this issue . I strongly support the purple letter campaign and this bill to strengthen measures against cyberbullying, because it is very real.

Most Canadians also believe in this. I have here some polling from Angus Reid showing that a vast majority of Canadians agree that bullying now extends beyond face-to-face or even written bullying to the Internet as well. This is a very real issue. It is real for Canadians and it is real for my constituents.

I hope members on the other side of the House will join with us and support this important private member's bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

moved that Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure again to stand in the House to speak to this bill.

Bill C-273 is an act to amend the Criminal Code under the heading of cyberbullying. There are three sections of the Criminal Code that are applicable here and that are currently applicable.

The first is “Criminal Harassment”, which states:

No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

That includes repeatedly communicating this criminal harassment, directly or indirectly, to the other person or anyone known to them and engaging in threatening conduct. It is an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The second component of the Criminal Code that I need to talk about is section 298, which is about defamatory libel.

Defamatory libel is anything that is:

published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him [or her] to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.

A defamatory libel may be published directly, by insinuation or irony, in words legibly marked upon any substance.

The third piece that I attempt to change is the one that speaks to the issue of false messaging, which states:

[Anyone] who, with intent to injure or alarm any person, conveys or causes or procures to be conveyed by letter, telegram, telephone, cable, radio or otherwise information that he [or she] knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

What I am attempting to do with these three areas is amend the Criminal Code by adding “using electronic messaging” and “using a computer” to be able to continue to do these three prohibited components in the Criminal Code.

Today, if we look at any of those issues, whether it be defamatory libel, et cetera, one cannot use a telephone to do it, one cannot print it on paper, one cannot say it to someone else or say it on the radio. However, we now have a new modern mode of communication called the computer or electronic media. People have been using that communications mode in order to commit these three prohibited criminal offences. What I intend to do is add the new communications mode, which is the computer or electronic messaging, to the Criminal Code.

I want to add that it is very important to understand that cyberbullying is not an age-related thing. Bullying may be age related, such as when somebody pushes somebody in the school, calls them a name, talks to people in the school and makes fun of them. That is the kind of bullying we are very familiar with in the playground and in the school. The thing about the new method of communications, via computer, electronic messaging and social messaging, is that the person can be of any age. It goes on in offices. A neighbour who may not like us or someone who knows us in political life or another life may try to spread information about a person at any age. The insidiousness of using this mode of communication is that it is there forever. We can be 90 years old and it is still there in social media, in a computer, set there for life, whatever it is these people did that fall under the subsections of the Criminal Code I am speaking about.

Students say to us that they are bullied in the schoolyard but when they go home they know they are safe, they are with their family and friends and they can escape the harassment and the statements people are making about them. Today, it is on people's BlackBerrys, iPhones or computers. It is inescapable. They can travel from Penticton to Bonn, Germany, and it follows them everywhere. Therefore, whatever happens with respect to cyberbullying is there forever and follows people wherever they go, to whatever corner of the earth and whatever age. That makes it an insidious, dangerous and permanent form of bullying.

It is a new phenomenon that is linked to advancements in technology. One can be bullied by mobile, wireless and the Internet. Bullying can happen by posting harmful, cruel text messages or images, by posting sensitive private information about another person, by pretending to be someone else to make a person look bad or by intentionally smearing someone from an online group. Bullying, no matter where it occurs, is about power, control and human relationships. The intent is to harass, degrade and inflict harm and fear. This is different from traditional bullying as it is done with anonymity. That is another piece of cyberbullying. It is anonymous. For example, it could be from somebody named joe@google.ca. One would have no idea who the person is. Therefore, anonymity is a problem.

As I said, the reach of the Internet is international, reaches around the world and endures over the course of one's life. There are many campaigns out there to combat bullying and many are in schools. Although this type of bullying is not age restricted, recent examples of the impact of bullying that we know about are mostly in schools. Quite often adults do not like to complain. It is shameful for them to know that somebody is bullying them and they do not know who is doing it. They try to hide it and keep it secret. Therefore, the data that has been collected so far has been from a lot of information collected in schools, but I will give one example outside of a school.

As with Jamie Hubley and the high-profile case of Tyler Clementi in the United States, cyberbullying can affect one's mental health, well-being, academic performance and ability to get a job. For people who were cyberbullied when they were 25 years old, if that was pulled up when they were trying get a promotion at age 50, it might be conceived as true and the answer to the promotion might be no. It affects every aspect of one's life.

A recent study by Jennifer Shapka at UBC found that children especially do not equate cyberbullying with traditional forms of bullying and that currently all of the anti-bullying techniques we have set up to deal with bullying do not work. They work for the traditional in-your-face bullying such as name-calling, shoving and pushing, but they do not actually work to prevent cyberbullying. We need to look at this as a real problem.

In the study of 17,000 Vancouver students, 30% reported taking part in cyberbullying compared to 12% who took part in real bullying. Only 12% take part in real bullying because they are identifiable and so most do not do it. However, they feel anonymous and safe when they cyberbully and so a larger percentage have been cyberbullying.

A startling revelation was that 95% said that what happens online is only intended as a joke. However, this joking does serious and permanent harm. Again, one of the problems with cyberbullying is that people have no way of knowing if it is a joke or not. They do not see facial expressions with cyberbullying nor do they see mannerisms. It is just a clear cut statement.

Another difference is the anonymity, as I said, and I want to reflect on that end of it. It means that anyone today can be a bully because they can hide behind that anonymity. It could be someone who everyone respects and thinks is a really neat person who is doing the bullying. The perception that a bully has to be more powerful, bigger or more popular applies only in one-on-one bullying in a school yard or face to face. It does not apply with online bullying.

Much of the content posted online can follow people for the rest of their lives. It never goes away, even after their death. Therefore, there are serious implications with cyberbullying, and one is that it can lead to suicide. I mentioned Tyler Clementi. He was a young gay student who took his life after his roommate at university video-recorded his personal relationship with another young male over the Internet. Shortly afterwards, Tyler jumped off a bridge. A court recently found Tyler's roommate guilty of a number of offences, including breach of privacy and hate crime.

Those types of bullying happen every day. I believe as legislators we have a responsibility to lead by example. That is why I have introduced this legislation that I hope all members will support. It does not create any new Criminal Code legislation. It uses the existing Criminal Code legislation, the sections that deal with defamatory libel, false messages and criminal harassment.

Adding electronic forms of communication to those sections would clarify cyberbullying in the same manner as traditional print, telecommunications, television and radio are also identified under these headings. Other jurisdictions are beginning to look at how to combat cyberbullying, and this is happening in the European Union now. Actually Nova Scotia is leading in Canada in looking at this issue.

No legislation can end bullying or cyberbullying, but this change would offer a protection to the victim and decrease the risk of cyberbullying because people would understand that there is a penalty attached to it and it would take away the powerlessness that the victim feels. There is nothing more effective than public awareness campaigns, programming in schools, et cetera, but this bill would raise awareness, encourage a debate and it would lead to a Criminal Code that is keeping pace with new advancements in technology.

I hope members will support this bill. I want to stress that this problem of cyberbullying is pervasive, is not limited to any age, will follow us through the rest of our life and is now happening in every environment, whether in Parliament or among office staff, friends or community advocates. People out there are engaging in cyberbullying constantly. I want to stress that this is not an age-related issue and it can harm people for the rest of their lives and even until after death. I know there are physical and psychological effects of cyberbullying, but the fact is that it is broader reaching than the schoolyard and the office. The damage and harm continues. It is forever there in cyberspace for anyone to see or to read.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying).

This bill was introduced by the member for Vancouver Centre in September 2011. However, this is not the first time this issue has been brought to the attention of this House, as the member for Vancouver Centre previously introduced a similar private member's bill on the same topic in previous Parliaments.

I do not think I am alone when I say that I think cyberbullying is an issue which requires serious attention from this country's policy-makers and legislators.

Please allow me to take a moment to describe in a bit of detail what Bill C-273 aims to do. It is not a complicated bill. This bill seeks to amend three existing Criminal Code offences. Those offences are section 264, criminal harassment; section 298, defamatory libel; and section 372, false messages, indecent telephone calls and harassing telephone calls.

First, both the criminal harassment provision and the defamatory libel provision would be amended to add a “for greater certainty” provision to each of these offences. This provision would clarify that when the conduct that forms the basis of these offences is committed through the use of a computer or a group of interconnected computers, or in other words over the Internet, that behaviour would be captured by these offences.

The criminal harassment provision is also known as the stalking offence and, among other things, makes it an offence to engage in harassing conduct, knowing or reckless as to whether another person is harassed and which causes the other person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of someone known to him or her. As I said, Bill C-273 would clarify that harassing behaviour could be done through the use of a computer.

I think it is important to note that the courts have already interpreted section 264 of the Criminal Code as applying to conduct that is carried out through the use of computers or over the Internet. Therefore, section 264 as it is presently worded already applies.

As I mentioned, this bill also proposes to amend the definition of defamatory libel found in section 298 of the Criminal Code. The defamatory libel provision is intended to protect the reputation of an individual from matters which are published that could expose the person to hatred, contempt, ridicule or insult.

Bill C-273 would amend the definition found in section 298 to make it clear that this section would apply if the information was published by means of a computer or group of interconnected computers or related computers, the Internet.

Finally, as I previously mentioned, Bill C-273 would also amend section 372 of the Criminal Code, the false messages, indecent telephone calls and harassing telephone calls offence. Section 372 actually contains three criminal offences. First, false messages conveyed by letter, telegram, telephone, among other means. Second, indecent phone calls. Third, harassing phone calls.

Bill C-273 proposes to amend all three offences to extend the scope of the enumerated offences to include the use of computer systems or electronic communications.

The sponsor's stated goal of these proposed amendments is to target the growing use of cyberbullying, the act of bullying another individual through the use of a computer, computer system or the Internet. She indicates that this is a problem which affects over half of Canada's youth, whether they witness the bullying, are victims of bullying or are the bullies themselves.

The member for Vancouver Centre is not alone in recognizing the seriousness of the issue. There have been many attempts to ascertain to what extent bullying and cyberbullying is occurring in Canadian schools and playgrounds. For example, a survey of 2,186 students in the greater Toronto area, conducted by the University of Toronto School of Social Work in 2008, confirms the view that cyberbullying is a growing problem. The results of the survey indicated that in the month prior to the survey, 27% of the students polled, or 1 in 4, had been bullied online, and 35% of the students, or 1 out of every 3, reported that they had bullied someone else.

Another recent survey conducted in 2011 by the Nova Scotia cyberbullying task force found that 60% of Nova Scotian students indicated they had been bullied. As I mentioned previously, there is no doubt that cyberbullying and indeed bullying in its traditional forms should be carefully considered by policy-makers and lawmakers.

The goal of Bill C-273 is laudable and targets a very important issue which is having an increasing impact on Canada's youth.

I would however like to pause for a moment to consider whether the bill's focus on these three criminal offences is the best approach. There are other offences which could also apply in a situation of bullying that are not included in the bill, such as intimidation, section 423, or uttering death threats, section 264, or personation, also known as identity fraud, section 403. Any of these offences, if the facts permitted, could be used in a situation of bullying. Yet Bill C-273 does not propose similar amendments to these offences to clarify that they could be committed over the Internet or via telecommunications.

This leads me to wonder whether the amendments to the Criminal Code proposed by Bill C-273 are a complete response to this issue or if the issue requires further exploration. For example, if the clarification is added to only some of the applicable offences but not all, will there be any negative consequences? Would it lead courts to interpret these other offences as no longer applying when the conduct occurs through the use of a computer or a group of computers?

I also think we should consider whether the bill's focus on cyberbullying is the right focus. It might be useful at this time to explore in more detail the type of behaviour which can be described as bullying itself.

Bullying is defined in many different ways by many different people, but I think it is safe to say that bullying includes a wide range of behaviour that can include conduct such as insults, threats and physical aggression that are intended to reduce the targeted person's perceived power and that can have a physical and/or emotional impact on the targeted person.

Cyberbullying is used to refer to such conduct that is carried out through the use of new technologies, including the Internet. Bullying has been around for as long as human beings have socialized with each other. But the recent explosion of new technologies has created a new way to commit an old offence with increased speed, reach, prevalence, duration and impact on young people.

Cyberbullying provides the perpetrators with a sense of anonymity and follows the victims wherever they go. Victims of cyberbullying often report that when the bullying takes place online, the impact of the bullying is felt more profoundly.

As I am sure all members are aware, bullying and cyberbullying have been receiving much media attention over the past few years as high profile cases of teen suicide have been linked regrettably to this issue. These tragic cases highlight the importance of addressing the issue of bullying which is becoming of increasing importance to Canadians.

Once again I would like to thank the member for Vancouver Centre for bringing this important issue before us today. I hope that as we continue to consider Bill C-273 we can also consider some of the questions that I have posed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the Liberals' Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying). As I mentioned in the questions I asked my Liberal colleague, it is commendable to introduce a bill to move Canada forward and protect adult and youth victims of online cyberbullying. Still, many people believe that harsher punishment for cyberbullies may not be the best way to prevent cyberbullying. I will leave it up to each individual to consider that issue.

What I want to talk about today is the Conservative government's lack of leadership on the cyberbullying issue. Since coming to power, the Conservatives have done nothing to protect young people who are victims of bullying or cyberbullying. That is why my Liberal colleague felt the need to introduce a bill.

There are all kinds of things the Government of Canada could do. Even if the Conservative government does not agree with me, it has a role to play in fighting bullying and cyberbullying.

There is no magical solution to combat youth bullying. Nevertheless, every stakeholder has a role to play, whether it be the federal government, the provinces, the school boards, parents, the young people being bullied, or those that witness it. Everyone has a role to play in addressing this problem.

I am going to give the Conservative government some advice and offer good examples of what has been done by other countries that have decided to take a leadership role in the area of cyberbullying. I would advise my Conservative colleagues to take notes.

Finland has developed the KiVa program, generally considered one of the best national anti-bullying programs in the world. Education is at the heart of this program, and the objective is to encourage witnesses to take action and to put an end to bullying when they see it.

When bullying occurs, instead of removing the culprits from their environment, discussions are organized between the bully, his victim and other young witnesses. The focus is very much on including the community, broadly speaking, in efforts to combat bullying. Schools, for example, are subject to fines if they fail to deal with bullying. Bullies are also subject to fines, regardless of their age. I admit that in Canada, this is an area of provincial jurisdiction.

Here is another example that will perhaps better reflect the way things work in Canada. In United States, the U.S. government created the website www.stopbullying.gov, which provides information for the public on combatting bullying. Additionally, the government organized a White House conference on bullying prevention. I congratulate the American president, Barack Obama. In 2011, with a view to bringing together experts in the field, the government also organized an annual summit for federal partners who work in bullying prevention. The aim was to bring together key stakeholders in the fight against bullying. The stakeholders come from all levels of government and civil society, and they include parents and young advocates. The aim is to encourage co-operation and share best practices.

As a Canadian citizen and an NDP member, I would very much like my own Prime Minister to show as much leadership as the U.S. President. I live in hope, but I am still waiting.

Sweden is also a good example. This country really is a frontrunner in various social areas and has made a number of progressive breakthroughs. Since 1994, the federal government has required that every school develop a plan to fight bullying. It is the responsibility of school principals to ensure the plan is followed. This is something that concerns schools, but there are other things that the government can do. Unfortunately, over the last few years, cyberbullying has spread in society, particularly through social media. More and more young people are victims of cyberbullying.

There have been good initiatives at the provincial level, and I hope the federal government is doing everything it can to support them.

In Ontario, for instance, the Accepting Schools Act sets out potential consequences for bullying, which include expulsion. It also includes increased financial support for training on bullying prevention and encourages schools to create gay-straight alliances.

British Columbia is another leader in the fight against cyberbullying. In 2007, the provincial government gave school boards a mandate to establish policies to fight bullying.

That is a great pity, at the end of the day. It is now 2012, and the Conservative government has not yet put anything on the table. Besides, as far as I know, and I have discussed it with some Conservative MPs, nothing is expected to be put forward that will allow the Canadian government to finally take an active part against cyberbullying.

Coming back to British Columbia, not all of the school boards in the province took part in the initiative. The proposed codes of behaviour for students require that schools work closely with students and parents to fight bullying.

I could talk about many other things. Alberta’s Bill 206 contains some good initiatives. Nova Scotia, unfortunately because of the suicide of a student, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, has also put forward a measure to respond to cyberbullying. Manitoba has been active on this issue since 2004. Quebec has also passed legislation that requires school boards to develop a plan to fight bullying.

There are many things that different levels of government and society are doing to take action and help young people who are victims of cyberbullying, because the ones who are victims of cyberbullying are primarily—we must admit—young people.

Several economic, government and social players have a role in this. Currently, the Government of Canada is still absent from the equation. We have no national plan to combat cyberbullying, or bullying in general, and no concrete government plan. It is quite deplorable.

I am going to tell my Conservative government what I want. What I want is for the federal government to clearly adopt a leadership role and work alongside the provinces, anti-bullying groups and other key stakeholders in order to address the issue of bullying, particularly, as I mentioned, among youth.

This means more than simply making changes to the Criminal Code; it also means developing a national strategy to fight bullying. Our communities need resources and programs to help them deal with the root causes of bullying.

This is why I will vote in favour of my Liberal colleague's bill. It is a step in the right direction, because currently, the federal government is doing nothing. I thank my colleague for her bill.

The notion of cyberbullying may be abstract to some people. I will try and define it by using the definition of Bill Belsey, who a decade ago created www.cyberbullying.org, an information-packed resource that for years has been providing support and assistance to the young victims of bullying. I would invite my colleagues to visit this website to see the good work that he does.

Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. I agree entirely with this definition of cyberbullying because, at the end of the day, it involves aggressive behaviour that has very serious ramifications for our youth.

To establish a link with Bill C-213, I should point out that the public also agrees with criminalizing cyberbullying and including it in the Criminal Code. Indeed, an Angus Reid poll has revealed that 65% of Canadians believe that bullying should be considered a crime, even when it does not involve physical violence, while only 19% of Canadians think that bullying should be considered a crime only when it involves violence. Just 6% of Canadians believe that bullying should not be considered a crime. It is quite evident that the vast majority of Canadians support this type of initiative, because people realize that not enough is being done.

Clearly, it is not easy to know why our children are victims of bullying. There may be a number of clues: the child may lose interest in going to school, might be irritable, or may have trouble concentrating.

I will conclude with a sobering observation. People do not realize the extent to which young people are affected by bullying. An analysis of schools in the Toronto area showed that a child is a victim of bullying every seven seconds. It truly is an epidemic. We must at all costs mobilize and fight cyberbullying.

I conclude by saying that the NDP will be pleased to vote in favour of this bill. However, the federal government must do more.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to cyberbullying.

As my colleagues have noted in the debate thus far, Bill C-273 would amend the Criminal Code to broaden the scope of crimes constituting criminal harassment, defamatory libel and false messaging. My colleague, the member for Vancouver Centre, has explained the definitions with respect to each of these crimes. The current law provides, for example, that an individual is libel for false messaging if he or she deliberately spreads false information through the mediums of letter, telegram, telephone, cable, radio and the like. However, there is no provision that prohibits false messaging through the newest and most widely used medium, the Internet.

Before I proceed any further, I want to commend the hard work of my colleague, the member for Vancouver Centre, and her remarkable foresight in bringing this matter to public attention years ago and for her ongoing dedication to rectifying what is certainly a vital issue in our increasingly technologically-oriented Internet society.

With the proliferation of potential uses and abuses of the Internet, the crime of Internet harassment presents challenges for law enforcement personnel, legislators, educators, parents and the like. Indeed, given its immediacy, anonymity and accessibility, the Internet offers a forum, through social networking sites and the like, for harassment and other social ills committed against minors.

Accordingly, Bill C-273 is an important step in the right direction as the current legislation does not adequately protect Canadians and, in particular, young persons from such online abuse.

In 2009, Professors Faye Mishna and Robert MacFadden from the University of Toronto undertook a survey of roughly 2,200 students from 33 schools in the greater Toronto area in order to gauge the effects of cyberbullying. The results were alarming. They determined that over 50% of the students had been bullied online and that the bulk of cyberbullying occurred between students who attended the same school and knew each other in person. More important, the results revealed that individuals who would tend not to bully others face to face would be far more likely to engage in bullying over the Internet.

Professor Qing Li from the University of Calgary found that, as a result of the impersonal nature of the Internet, whereby we do not experience the same feelings of regret or shame that come hand-in-hand with personal interaction, not only are more people likely to engage in cyberbullying, but those who do so feel that they can say whatever they want without any fear of repercussion or sanction. Simply put, the ability to cloak oneself in the shadows of cyberspace removes barriers, decreases the likelihood of punishment and, thus, results in more bullying and more victims.

In a word, the veil of separation, distance and anonymity that the Internet provides has amplified the problem of bullying simply by expanding the arena of threat far wider than the public sphere to which it was once confined. Indeed, children who are victims of cyberbullying can no longer even seek refuge in the comfort of their own homes.

Addressing cyberbullying is an issue of the utmost importance, as has been set forth in the comments this evening. Protecting our youth is one of the most vital responsibilities that not only we as parliamentarians but society as a whole share: protecting, in effect, the most vulnerable among us. When I was minister of justice, the first piece of legislation that I tabled before the House at the time was a bill to protect children and other vulnerable persons. The bill then sought, as we do now, to provide protection for those who are the victims of such hateful and harmful crime.

Unfortunately, it is not always the case that legislation, criminal law in particular, is able to keep pace with the technological developments in our society. As I have said elsewhere, while science races, the law lags and very often the scientists beat the lawyers. The lack of comprehensive legislation in this regard, coupled with the lack of consequences for online bullies, only further enables cyberbullying by incentivizing online abuse as an alternative to physical bullying.

In 2009, Statistics Canada reported that eight out of ten Canadian households owned a computer and had access to the Internet and that the number of Canadian Internet users was increasing.

A recent study by comScore found that Canada continues to lead the world in online engagement, with visitors spending an average of 45 hours per month online.

The statistics about cyberbullying are particularly troubling and I do not wish to repeat many of the numbers we have heard this evening. I want to focus on two high-profile cases that arose from the U.S. and illustrate quite vividly the problem that this legislation seeks to address.

The first is the tragic case of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri girl who committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying. What is so shocking about Megan's case is that the bullying was not at the hands of one of her peers but was committed by an adult. In that case, the mother of a former friend of Megans set up a fake Myspace page pretending to be a boy, Josh, who had just moved to the area and was home-schooled. Within a few weeks of Megan becoming friends with this Josh and communicating extensively online with him, the tone of his messages dramatically changed, Eventually, Megan hung herself in the closet. While the mother who orchestrated the fake account was acquitted of murder, the case sparked numerous U.S. states and Congress to consider changing their statutes. The bill before us, Bill C-273, does not limit its application to young offenders.

Another high-profile case, mentioned earlier in discussion by the member for Vancouver Centre, was that of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who committed suicide in 2010 by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. Members may recall it at the time. It was later revealed that Clementi's roommate secretly filmed Clementi's sexual encounter with another man and broadcast it on the Internet without anyone's knowledge. Clementi, who had not yet made his sexual orientation public, took his own life in consequence.

We see, through troubling incidents such as these and others that have been described in debate this evening, that cyberbullying is real and can have devastating consequences. Parliament needs to act to adopt this legislation but parents and legislators must also intervene to denounce cyberbullying and discuss appropriate technology use with our children. While this legislation cannot, in and of itself, prevent cyberbullying, it can deter and dissuade people from it, as well as sanction those engaged in it, something that the current law does not provide.

In the time remaining, I will briefly discuss a few particular concerns that might form the basis for some discussion in committee and potential amendment. Some reference has already been made to this regard.

The first is that there is a lack of uniformity in the terms surrounding the problem, be it cyberbullying, cyberharassment or cyberstalking and the like, or any such variation thereupon. The proposal before us uses none of these but it may be useful to define such terms for greater clarity.

Second is something that is difficult to address. There is the question of the jurisdictional limits and the anonymity of the Internet. As we have observed, even with our own House investigation into threats made by the group Anonymous, it can be difficult for law enforcement personnel to identify, locate, arrest and prosecute alleged offenders.

Third is the issue of harm, as some argue that cyberbullying has only emotional consequences, unlike the physical scars that may result from traditional bullying. Certainly both are problematic and must be addressed and redressed but it may be that online activity requires different wording than what is presently in the Criminal Code. I look forward to submissions in that regard as well.

This bill is a necessary addition to our criminal law to address the ever-growing problem of harassment over the Internet by text message and the like. I look forward to its deliberation in committee and its subsequent passage through the House.

This is but the start of a larger dialogue that we need to engage in as a nation with respect to trying to determine the ethical limits of the conduct and misconduct and the related and appropriate use of technology, as we as parents are now forced to tackle issues that were inconceivable when we were children. I am sure I speak for many of my colleagues when I express the hope that the society which we build should seek to be one in which our children are not targets of harassment and abuse either in person or online.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss this legislation introduced by the member for Vancouver Centre that proposes to strengthen our ability to deal with cyberbullying.

Bill C-273 seeks to amend three Criminal Code offences: section 264, criminal harassment; section 298, defamatory libel; and section 372, false messages, indecent telephone calls and harassing telephone calls, to ensure that all three of these offences are interpreted to capture behaviour that occurs using a computer or over the Internet. The sponsor's stated goal with these proposed amendments is to target the growing issue of cyberbullying, a term that has received a lot of media and academic attention and scrutiny.

I am sure we can all acknowledge that the issue of bullying is not new. However, technology has forever changed the nature and scope of bullying, as it has changed so many other aspects of our society. The immediacy and broad reach of new technologies has made bullying easier, faster, anonymous, more prevalent, permanent and more cruel than ever before.

The member for Vancouver Centre is in good company in recognizing the increasing challenge posed by computer technology to the issue of bullying. In fact, many leading Canadian scholars and academics have been involved in work to ascertain to what extent bullying and cyberbullying is occurring in Canadian schools and on playgrounds. It is challenging to get an accurate sense of the level of bullying in Canada but many people are trying, and I think it is fair to say that the incidents of bullying are not insignificant.

For example, in her remarks upon the introduction of the bill, the member for Vancouver Centre referred to a University of Toronto survey on cyberbullying. She stated:

In a recent study by the University of Toronto, 50% of surveyed students reported that they had been bullied online....

Other reports make the same point. For example, a 2010 research report published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, which studied 33 junior high schools in Toronto, reported that almost 50% of students surveyed had been bullied online.

It is not just students who are affected by this issue. Many educators, non-governmental organizations and parents have reported that cyberbullying is one of their biggest concerns relating to schools and education today. A Statistics Canada survey conducted in 2007 of 2,162 Canadian parents with children age 5 to 24 years found that bullying was a concern to 80% of parents.

Another survey conducted in 2010 on behalf of the Canadian Teachers Federation found that 85% of Canadians felt that bullying and violence were very serious problems.

Finally, an Angus Reid poll from this year found that 88% of Canadians surveyed felt that bullying was a serious problem in elementary school and 94% felt that it was a problem in high school and middle school.

We all recognize that these are very serious issues and the government has been active in addressing the issue of bullying through several federal departments. For example, bullying is being addressed by the national crime prevention strategy, which is administered by Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre. The National Crime Prevention Centre provides funding to organizations, including schools, to implement crime prevention. The interventions target the risk factors that are associated with future involvement in crime, including aggressive and anti-social behaviour, which are also linked to involvement in bullying.

The federal government also offers programming and project funding to help address and prevent bullying through the RCMP, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Justice Canada.

Provincial governments are also dealing with the issue through various measures. For example, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta have all recently introduced new anti-bullying legislation that requires schools to implement anti-bullying policies and procedures. Ontario's keeping our kids safe in school act, which came into force in February 2010, requires, among other things, all school staff to report to principals serious student incidents, including bullying.

Quebec's bill 56, as another example, will require schools to implement an anti-bullying plan and allow principals to expel repeat offenders when it is passed by the provincial legislature.

Earlier this month, Nova Scotia announced that it would be introducing legislation in the near future to address the issue of bullying. It will likely take into account the 85 recommendations contained in the recently released task force report on bullying and cyberbullying. The task force, which was struck by the Government of Nova Scotia in 2011, released its report on March 22 of this year.

In addition to federal and provincial efforts to address bullying and cyberbullying, some municipalities have enacted bylaws against bullying. Edmonton, Alberta was the first municipality to do so in 2003. It currently has a bylaw in force that would impose a fine of up to $250 on anyone who bullies a person under the age of 18.

It is also interesting to note that other jurisdictions, including the United States, have also been addressing the issue of bullying and cyberbullying through legislative reforms. To date, 50 U.S. states have enacted legislation that address bullying or cyberbullying in some way and a few of them flow through the imposition of criminal sanctions.

As members can see, there is much work under way to address the issue of bullying. It is an issue that I take very seriously as it has affected my own family.

I would just like to raise for our consideration a few points regarding the approach this bill is proposing. I would ask members to think about the scope of the bill and the fact that it only addresses the issue of cyberbullying and not the broader issue of bullying. In my opinion, these two types of bullying are so closely intertwined that it may well make more sense to deal with both together. As well, it limits the focus to three Criminal Code offences and not to other offences that could also apply in a situation of bullying, such as intimidation, personation and uttering threats. We should consider whether the narrower approach is the right approach.

I do not want these comments to detract from the importance of this issue so, in closing, I express my thanks to the member for Vancouver Centre for bringing this very important issue before us today.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 24th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say first of all that I am speaking today on Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code on cyberbullying.

I am greatly concerned about cyberbullying and bullying. I really want to make people aware of this terrible scourge. As a former teacher, and as a father, this is an issue that is of immediate concern to me. We know it is a very serious social problem with tragic consequences and implications.

In my community, in the Drummond riding, people are very involved and are aware of the issue. They are taking action to inform and enlighten people about this serious problem. The parents' committee of the Des Chênes school board, which I am proud to recognize and commend, is a very active committee. Recently, these parents sent out an invitation to Jasmin Roy, who established the Fondation Jasmin Roy that fights against bullying and cyberbullying.

Mr. Roy gave a speech in Drummondville, and the room was full to overflowing. Everyone listened closely. Parents and young people, people who had never been bullied and others who had been bullied or were still being bullied, everyone was very concerned about the issue. At the end of the speech, I had planned to ask a question because I found the subject extremely interesting and worrying. When I raised my hand, I saw that all those in attendance had raised their hand at the same time. I was really astounded to see that the issue was of such great concern and that it touched so many people. It touched them personally, in the deepest part of themselves, and it touched their dignity.

This is really important, because when you bully someone, you attack their dignity, their self-esteem and their idea of themselves as individuals. It is very important to be treated with respect, and bullying and cyberbullying damage people's self-esteem. As we know, unfortunately, sometimes this has very serious consequences. It can lead to suicide. There is a great deal of depression. Mr. Roy himself explained that he had experienced periods of very serious depression because of the bullying he had suffered. We have to take action on this problem, and it is important that all levels of government be involved.

People in my municipality are very involved, including the parents' committee and the municipality itself. As an MP and a citizen myself, I decided to get involved too. In fact, I have offered my website to people to post messages of hope—youth and adults alike, anyone who has been bullied in the past or has witnessed this phenomenon and did not know what to do about it. Once again, I am offering my website to people who want to post messages of hope, to encourage people to condemn bullying and to call on organizations that can help.

It is imperative that we not sit back and do nothing about bullying. People need to get involved and condemn it. They need to go and get help, to tell their parents and teachers. Organizations exist. Tel-jeunes is a great organization that is making a difference in Quebec. It is absolutely crucial that people be able to intervene.

Once again, I would like to thank the entire Drummondville community for its great work.

We live in a time when communication is at a peak. This allows people to share information very quickly and across borders. Today's technology—whether telephones, cell phones or computers—is capable of doing more and more. Accessing the Internet is child's play for most people, and this allows us to stay in touch no matter where we are.

The Internet is creating an entire universe of new forms of interaction.

The use of email, websites, discussion forums, instant messages, text messages and social networks allows many very interesting messages to be shared; however, unfortunately, it also allows for an incredible form of abuse that we call cyberbullying. There are too many examples of people who have made headlines in the newspapers, the media and the national and international news because they got caught in the vicious cycle of cyberbullying and bullying. They committed deplorable acts that one can only be saddened to learn about. As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, some people go as far as committing suicide. We must put a stop to this scourge. All levels of government must get involved.

Since I have little time remaining, I will get right to the heart of my conclusion. What I think is important is that this bill is a beginning. It is not perfect but it must be supported in some way. We need to ensure that the main focus is prevention, because once such acts have been committed, the damage is done and the results are too sad. We really have to focus on creating greater harmony in schools and with people. We have to work on self-esteem.

When a person has high self-esteem, when he feels good about himself and he is involved in worthwhile activities, such as sports, hobbies and the arts, he has alternatives to bullying others. Such involvement also helps to create social ties and to ensure that victims of bullying have someone to talk to and to provide them with support in order to help them cope with this very real problem. Everyone needs to get involved.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government is not very involved. There are many things that can be done. The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord named a number of them earlier.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

September 19th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to reintroduce my private member's bill, which is an act to amend sections 264, 298 and 372 of the Criminal Code in order to clarify that cyberbullying is an offence. Cyberbullying is a problem that touches over half of Canada's youth, whether they witness bullying, are victims or are bullies themselves.

In a recent study by the University of Toronto, 50% of surveyed students reported that they had been bullied online and this insidious form of online bullying can follow youth through their whole lives.

This bill has the support of the Canadian Teachers' Federation and most media and other levels of communication are included under sections of this bill. It is time to add electronic communication.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)