Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Parsons Case Drives Demand for Change

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Parsons Case Drives Demand for Change

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Parsons case drives demand for change

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An editorial from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, published April 24:

The deep, widespread public anger over what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons is ultimately about one thing: Effective change.

Whether that change comes from tweaking laws, procedures, responsibilities or other areas -- or some combination of the above -- what's important to the public is that whatever measures are taken, they must be effective in helping to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

Viewed in that light, this week's meeting of Rehtaeh's parents, Glen Canning and Leah Parsons, and their partners with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson underlined the seriousness with which Ottawa now seems to be targeting cyberbullying. But for Rehtaeh's parents and others, the proof of Ottawa's sincerity will be no doubt measured by the results.

Premier Darrell Dexter, who met with Mr. Harper afterwards, said he was encouraged by the prime minister's positive response to provincial proposals to amend the Criminal Code to better combat cyberbullying. That plan would see a new Criminal Code offence created, prohibiting, with a maximum sentence of 10 years, malicious online distribution of an intimate photo of another person.

There's reason to believe such a change could make a difference in how -- and more pointedly, even if -- such cases get prosecuted now.

Brenda Cossman, a University of Toronto law professor, said this week that current child pornography laws don't give police and prosecutors the best tools for situations where teens distribute explicit photos of other teens online. A new law could fill that need, she said.

Similarly, we're encouraged to hear Mr. Nicholson vow to expedite the federal, provincial and territorial committee review begun last fall to identify potential gaps in Canadian criminal law regarding cyberbullying and non-consensual distribution of intimate photos. The federal justice minister, who met with his provincial and territorial counterparts Wednesday in Ottawa, now wants a final report by June. …

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