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Dr. Hedy Fry on her Bill to amend the Criminal Code to include Cyberbullying

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Published on May 1, 2012

House of Commons
April 24, 2012
Debate on Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying)

"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; engaging in threatening conduct; and, 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 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, and that is designed to insult the person 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 am attempting 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 to be 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" when engaging in those three prohibited components in the Criminal Code.

Today, if we look at any of those offences, whether it be defamatory libel, et cetera, they cannot be done by telephone, printed on paper, said to someone else or announced over 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 issue. Bullying may be age-related such as when students push other students in the school, call them a name, talk to people in the school and make fun of them. That is the kind of bullying we are very familiar with in the playground and in the school. The issue with 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 us 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 I am speaking about of the Criminal Code.

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, they can escape the harassment and the statements people are making about them. Today, it is on people's BlackBerries, iPhones or computers. It is inescapable. They can travel from Penticton to Bonn, Germany and it follows them every year. Therefore, whatever happens with respect to cyberbullying is there forever and follows people wherever they go, to whatever corner of the earth, and at any age. That makes it an insidious, dangerous and permanent form of bullying."

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