Honourable members, thank you for asking me to submit testimony as a witness for Bill C-13. I have submitted written testimony also, and this is my oral statement today.
My name is Carol Todd. I am an educator in British Columbia, but I am best known as the mother of Amanda Todd. Amanda has become a prominent figure worldwide in the fight against cyberbullying, sextortion, and revenge pornography.
She was born on November 27, 1996, and died too briefly at the age of 15.
While Amanda died far too young she left a legacy. The legacy is one of promoting greater awareness and education to the issues that surround cyberbullying, social media safety, and ultimately, mental health. Amanda was able to share this with us on her YouTube video, which has been viewed approximately 30 million times across the world.
Just recently someone was arrested and jailed in the Netherlands, being held responsible for some of the digital abuse and sextortion that Amanda had to endure online. The enforcement groups around the world must be commended for having worked together to make this happen.
I have travelled broadly to share her legacy. I watch the faces of young people, their parents, and their grandparents when I speak about my daughter and her legacy. They all understand the tragedy of Amanda's cyberbullying, but too often these families think that this could only happen to someone else, to someone else's child, or someone else's grandchild—ultimately, not in my backyard.
I might have thought the same thing before the perfect storm that resulted in my daughter's death.
I often talk about Amanda's story as the perfect storm. Her life from ages 12 to 15 encompassed the following areas: sextortion, bullying online and offline, cyber-harassment, mental health that included depression and social anxieties, learning challenges, and a medical diagnosis of ADHD. There were also ongoing moves from school to school that resulted in unstable peer relationships. The once bubbly daughter I had became reclusive and quiet. Unfortunately, Amanda was no longer able to handle the stress of what was going on around her.
Each of us can face our own special perfect storm, and while we cannot control everything, we can control some things. Creating a law to criminalize sextortion and revenge porn is a powerful first step in our fight to stop cyberbullying.
In order to stop cyberbullying, we will need additional things to Bill C-13's cyberbullying provisions. It will need to include education and awareness in our communities, in our schools, and in our governments. Both adults and youth need to step up to make the changes that will, in effect, make the necessary differences in our world and in our society.
We will need to have mental health programs improved and prioritized. We will need to teach families to communicate better and provide digital supervision. We will need the assistance of industry members such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft, and Apple. We will need to gather the non-profit leaders together with community leadership organizations to develop local and national programs. We also need a place where families can go for help.
I have been working closely and have ongoing conversations with other parents in Canada and around the world who have lost their children to cyberbullying and revenge pornography. I have also been in discussions with various organizations in Canada and in the U.S. about what has been going on in our social media world with respect to issues and legislation, and ultimately, change.
I've spoken to numerous young people, parents, law enforcement agencies, industry leaders, and governmental representatives in my mission to spread Amanda's legacy on her behalf, in addition to the many more who have watched via the videos and the documentaries that have been filmed and screened about her story.
Bill C-13's cyberbullying provisions are needed for my wish to come true as a mother of a cyberbullying victim. While I applaud the efforts of all of you in crafting the sextortion, revenge porn, and cyberbullying sections of Bill C-13, I am concerned about some of the other unrelated provisions that have been added to the bill in the name of Amanda, Rehtaeh, and all of the children lost to cyberbullying attacks.
I don't want to see our children victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of the privacy information of Canadians without proper legal process. We are Canadians with strong civil rights and values. A warrant should be required before any Canadian's personal information is turned over to anyone, including government authorities.
We should also be holding our telecommunication companies and Internet providers responsible for mishandling our private and personal information. We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety. We should not have to sacrifice our children's privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, sextortion, and revenge pornography.
Social media sites should also be held accountable to what is happening on the Internet highway.
Some of the areas that could be addressed include: having a central number or a list of numbers that include police or parents that could be called when something is online and needs to be removed quickly; consequences for social media sites that do not respond or address the problem with removal of the reported information or photos in a timely manner; identifying and holding people responsible for inappropriate photos and images, and negative statements made towards other people on social media sites, and organizations where incidents can be immediately acted upon; and most importantly, there needs to be serious consequences for the sites that do not respond. For example, having an international accord could be a possible solution. It should also include wording that allows similar sites to be covered under these laws. That would be the Facebooks and the Instagrams of the future.
Personally, I would like to see compensation for the surviving victims similar to a crimes compensation board, not necessarily in the form of a cash settlement, but compensation that takes into account costs associated with incidents, such as lost wages, therapy, and whatever else is necessary for a grieving person or a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. For the finer points of the privacy concerns, I defer to the privacy professionals also providing testimony on Bill C-13.
On my own behalf, I have one request. If there is any way we can separate these controversial provisions from the law designed to help other Canadians avoid the pain experienced by Rehtaeh and my Amanda, I would support that process. This would allow this bill to be free of controversy and to permit a thoughtful and careful review of the privacy-related provisions that have received broad opposition.
I do not want my privacy invaded. I don't want young people's privacy compromised. I don't want personal information being exploited, without a protection order that would support individuals. I do not want any Canadian hurt in my daughter's name. I want her legacy to continue to promote hope, celebrate our differences, and give strength to other young people every where.
I use the snowflake as an example of how precious, unique, and individual all of our children are. A snowflake is one of a kind. There are no two snowflakes that are the same. Our children, too, are one of a kind; no two are the same. A snowflake is brilliant and beautiful, as so are each of our children, and sadly they are very fragile. No matter how tough and strong our modern children appear, or how much they know about technology, they are still children and extremely fragile.
In conclusion, I want to thank all of you for the time and effort you have put into creating a law to address an abuse that has cost the lives of too many wonderful children. I want to thank you for inviting me to speak here before you today and submit my formal written statement in support of the cyberbullying provisions of Bill C-13, and also to include my thoughts about the other privacy issues that have been added to this bill.
I want to thank Canadians for their support and the Canadian government for putting cyberbullying at the centre of its safety and security strategies. I also want to thank the global community for all the support it has shown to Amanda's legacy, our personal family tragedy, and those of other families represented here today, as well as those who are not able to be here.
The voices of the children we have lost are silent, so it is through Amanda's legacy that we can continue to make those silent voices be heard. Please remember on behalf of my daughter Amanda, she wanted the world to be a better place, free of bullying and harassment. If she only knew the impact that she was making with the simple making and posting of her YouTube video.... When it comes to stopping cyberbullying, we are all in this together.