House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Drummond has three minutes to finish his speech.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

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

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

5:20 p.m.

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

5:30 p.m.

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

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I rise—in the time that has been allocated to me today—to carry out one of the duties of public office in the Canadian Parliament, I find myself able to draw on my relevant experience as a criminal defence lawyer and on empirical and theoretical legal notions.

The first thing that struck me when I began my term here in Parliament was that more of my colleagues have a background in law than in political science. I simply wanted to mention this. Young people who have their sights set on political office and are deciding what to study at university should consider studying law.

My speech today on cyberbullying will give me an opportunity to draw on my professional experience in both private practice and as a legal aid lawyer. I will briefly review my experience.

After passing the bar exam in 2006, I started working in legal aid. I articled for six months. My articling supervisor at the time was Bernard Lynch, a criminal lawyer. From 2006 to 2007, I worked on approximately 400 cases with the same employer. Much of the subject matter in those cases would today be considered cybercrime. I will put all of this into context.

In 2006, I was called upon to work on a case involving child pornography. I represented a client who was charged with storing information of a deviant nature on his computer—information and photographs that involved minors—and also with sharing that information with people in the United States. That was my first introduction to cybercrime.

I opened my own legal practice in 2010, and in 2011 I worked on four other cases involving youth. Three minors and an adult were co-accused. They were all charged with the same offence: uttering racially motivated hate speech on the Internet, making this publicly available in chat rooms, and uttering death threats and threats of bodily harm to individuals and designated groups, including aboriginals.

I asked myself how I ended up with these cases, since I myself am a member of the Uashat community. I am the lawyer who handled these cases. The young people claimed to belong to a skinhead movement, which was not proven.

We can see the evolution of these cases, and my comments today are based on my personal and professional experience.

In retrospect, some day I will be able to boast about the fact that I witnessed first-hand the expansion of cybercrime. Offences involving the inappropriate use of electronic devices were certainly common when I first started working as a jurist with the judicial district of Mingan, in 2006, but it is only over the years that accusations about the hate-related nature of comments made online reached unprecedented levels, including with our youth.

I mentioned that in 2006 it was an adult who was charged. Over time, I noticed a kind of democratization of that offence, if I may say so. Indeed, by 2011, many more young people were targeted and they were making much greater use of social media. So, something which, at the beginning, was an offence involving distinctive groups, including adults with a sexual deviance, has now spread to young people in general.

It is only after discussing the issue with the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord that it seemed relevant to present my thoughts to the public. My years of practice with young people have gradually led me to adopt a pragmatic view of the situations involving offences committed by minors. My knowledge of the principles of gradation for sentences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act lead me to believe that, depending on the seriousness of a case, the courts try to identify sentences other than remand, such as ordering that a young offender be put in a youth centre.

During the discussions on the letter of the bill before us and on the advisability of the measures to adjust sanctions applicable to cyberbullying, I presented to my colleagues numerous elements that are used as benchmarks to write a pre-sentence report.

A pre-sentence report is part of the criminal justice system for youth but also for adults, for which the same type of report is sometimes written. That is always done at the request of the defence attorney, or of the crown prosecutor. Personally, in a given situation or case, when I would see that a young person was very likely to be found guilty of an offence, I would invite him to cooperate with social workers. Usually, it was the social worker dealing with the young person. When a request is made for a pre-sentence report, the social worker ultimately meets the young offender and writes a report that mentions, among other things, the young person's risk of reoffending, his ability to reintegrate the community—that ability is rather obvious in the case of a young person, but less so in the case of an adult—and the support that he enjoys, both at a social and family level.

The report's conclusions will include a recommendation to the judge regarding the sentence to be handed down. I wanted to explain that aspect.

As my colleagues were told during consideration of the bill, my experience in the field allows me to say that it is quite unlikely that a minor, with no previous summary conviction offences in the area of criminal harassment—a summary conviction offence is a type of criminal offence, the other type being an indictable offence, well, it is a little bit complicated—defamatory libel or false messages, would be sentenced to a period in a youth facility.

The bill under consideration aims at updating the Criminal Code so that it gives greater coverage to certain offences perpetrated using a computer or on the Internet. This update is essential in this era of social networks and electronic communications.

That being said, the effect of the massive use of social media by young people will have to be weighed. As I pointed out at the beginning, we have seen that their use has been gradually increasing. They were used a little less in 2006 and, in 2011, they were used quite widely. Young people use social media quite commonly. Their passion for electronic communication is such that provision should be made for an alternative dispute resolution process or mechanisms for assessing the appropriateness of diversion for cases that otherwise would be tried summarily under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

When I refer to diversion, I am speaking about all the alternative measures that can be used within the community, within the existing system, to support a young person, rather than prosecuting a case and saddling that person with such a liability, especially when the charge is less serious, as in the case of cyberbullying.

I am well aware that the courts today work in conjunction with social workers and the community to determine whether it would be appropriate, in a particular case, to find an alternative to confining the young person in an institution or perhaps even prosecution. At that point, judges will often try to find an alternative.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

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

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address an issue that is really important. I know the member for Vancouver Centre has taken on an issue that has a huge impact . If we were to talk to the average Canadian, they would recognize that cyberbullying is there, it is real and it is an issue that does need to be addressed.

I believe the member for Vancouver Centre, who I have come to know over the last year, has recognized that this Parliament needs to address the issue today, and I applaud her for taking it on. Through her, the Liberal Party has come to grips with this issue and recognizes that the bill must go to the committee stage.

The speaker before me from the New Democratic Party made the suggestion that there could be some amendments. One of the things I do know about the member for Vancouver Centre is that she does approach things with an open mind and we can rest assure that she will be open to amendments.

We have a bill before us today that, with the support of the Conservatives and the New Democrats, could be sent to committee.

At the end of the day, Canadians will be well-served by recognizing the efforts of the member for Vancouver Centre in bringing forward the bill. We need to take advantage of this opportunity by allowing the bill to be debated in committee, allowing members to call upon witnesses who have the expertise on this particular topic and potentially making the bill even better. This is not to take anything away from the current bill because I believe the current bill accomplishes a great deal and, at the very least, is a great starting point for us.

We have had a lot of discussion about cyberbullying and the impact that it has on young people. Yes, it does have a serious and significant impact on young people but this bill deals with people of all ages. Cyberbullying impacts people of all ages. It has no discrimination in that sense. That is one of the reasons I believe that Canadians of all ages and all backgrounds have a vested interest in this particular issue and should be taking notes on what is taking place this evening. We as a House have a wonderful opportunity to take what is a serious issue and bring it to the next level.

We are talking about a bill that would have an impact on all ages because of cyberbullying. We are talking about people in the workplace. How many individuals are discredited through YouTube or Facebook by someone who hides behind a computer and takes on an unknown name believing that he or she can do and say whatever it is that he or she wants. It may be something against a colleague who might be looking for a promotion, it may be something that is very mean-spirited or it may be the spreading a false rumour in a workplace environment and the impact that would have on an individual.

We can think about it in terms of the community as a whole. Maybe it is a next-door neighbour or someone who has it in for a person who has actually done nothing wrong. Rumours are created because people say something on the Internet or on Facebook using a false name and believe they can get away with it.

There are consequences to those types of actions. We hear of depression. If people find out on some website that someone is claiming an action or maybe posting pictures that would compromise them, they often end up in a very serious depression that will often lead to suicide.

This is one of the reasons we need to take this issue seriously. Over the last 10 or 15 years, the Internet has grown so that it is in every home, most businesses and every environment we can imagine in Canadian society. We need some safety in the form of legislation such as this that would deal with the negative sides of the Internet. We often talk about the benefits of the Internet, but there are aspects of it that cause serious problems in society. That is the reason we need to bring in legislation to resolve some of the potential consequences of causing mischief on the Internet. That mischief often leads to very cruel actions that could potentially lead to someone committing suicide.

That is why I stand in my place today to encourage the government to think beyond today to tomorrow and to think of the thousands of victims out there. The House of Commons has a role to play. If we pass this bill today, ideally unanimously, we would be saying to Canadians that we understand the seriousness of cyberbullying and that we are prepared to allow this bill to go to the next stage. That next stage is committee, and once it is in committee, if the government wants to see some amendments or the NDP has ideas or the member for Vancouver Centre has some other ideas to share, there would be a will to see that take place.

I like to think that all members would, at the very least, recognize the need to address this very real issue. The member for Vancouver Centre and the Liberal Party have recognized that, which is why we are behind the bill and want to see it not only voted on but go to committee and ultimately go out of committee, so that it can come back in report stage and third reading and become the law of Canada. We need to recognize not only the importance of the Internet but also that we could improve the Internet by bringing forward the legislation being proposed here this afternoon.

I look forward to the Conservative Party and New Democratic Party recognizing, as we recognize, the importance of that issue and allowing the bill to go to committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, I will let him know I will need to interrupt him at 11 minutes after the hour, so he will have roughly three to four minutes at most.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

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

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members of the House who have spoken in support of the bill. I also want to thank the Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Canadian police boards for also supporting the bill.

I want to assure everyone in the House that the bill is not bringing a new provision into the Criminal Code. Within the Criminal Code there already exist criminal sanctions against criminal harassment, defamatory libel and false messages, and they pertain to all forms of communication, including print media, radio, speech on the phone, et cetera.

All the bill is doing is adding cyberspace or a computer to the list of things that are already there, so the bill is not changing anything. It is adding a new form of communication to the communications messages that the already existing component of the Criminal Code pertains to.

I heard people speak, and I heard a lot of them being concerned about children. Bullying is one thing. Bullying occurs in schools. The difference between bullying and cyberbullying is that a lot of people do not bully each other in their community or in their workplace because we can see them doing it. It is not adult behaviour, and people are ashamed to do it.

What has happened is that since cyberspace and social media have occurred, people who would not be caught doing this face to face are now using social media to bully their colleagues in the workplace, to bully their neighbours, to bully people in their communities. They are doing things that they would never do before. It has moved forward from the bullying in the schoolyard to this new type of bullying that affects adults and people of all ages. I wanted to clarify that.

Under the Criminal Code provisions, when and if someone goes to court, obviously the youth protection agencies and the court would look at it in terms of the age of the person it is applicable to, so nothing will be criminalizing young people in the bill.

The really terrible difference about cyberbullying is its anonymity. It allows people of all ages to bully each other and spread false messages, to carry out criminal harassment and to defame and libel people they know and talk to every day, but nobody would know it was them.

The problem about cyberbullying or this kind of bullying is that because it is done anonymously and because it is done on the Internet, it lasts forever. A person might be 95 or 102, and this messaging would be there about that person. A person may be moving to another country, but it will follow them wherever they go because of the nature of cyberspace. They can never escape it. There is no way they can run and hide.

I have some colleagues who talked about harm. The harm is real. My mother used to say, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never harm you”. I used to believe that, but that is no longer true.

We do not have to punch somebody, push them, shove them, do nuggies on them or do whatever we want to do anymore. We do not need to hurt somebody physically, because the emotional damage done by cyberbullying is so expansive, and it reaches everywhere, even after death, that people cannot escape it. That is why a lot of people resort to suicide as a result of cyberbullying. I can think of no outcome that is worse than someone committing suicide. This is a real issue, and I really wanted to speak to it.

A lot of people suggested that there are other areas within the Criminal Code that could apply to this issue. I want to assure everyone here that I have learned a lot listening to people speak in this House. There is no limit to what we can learn when we listen to other people's opinions.

If the bill goes to committee, I am prepared to be open to anything that will strengthen the bill and make it more effective and more relevant. I do not believe that as the House of Commons, as parliamentarians, we should abdicate our role and wait until the Senate has done something. We have a duty here to legislate. We are elected officials. I want us to deal with this here in this House and in this place.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.