NOTE: The following is an op-ed from Justice Minister Mark Furey.
Bullying today goes far beyond the playground, campus, or workplace; it can be online and quickly seen and shared by many, where the victim has no escape.
The rapid growth of smartphones, social media and the anonymity of the online world has created increasing opportunity for cyberbullying and the unwanted sharing of intimate images. These behaviours can result in psychological damage and trauma to the victim and sometimes with tragic consequences.
As both a parent and a concerned citizen I want those who are bullied online, or who are victims of the unwanted sharing of intimate images, to have access to justice and to the supports they need.
The Intimate Images and Cyber-Protection Act was adopted in July, in response to the growth of these issues. It provides victims with support and alternatives to criminal prosecution.
This legislation is about increasing access to justice.
Victims can now access free dispute resolution services, including advice, negotiation and mediation. They can also seek a protection order through the courts for the alleged offenders to stop the activity, remove online content, prohibit further contact from the alleged offenders and seek compensation for damages.
The province’s CyberScan unit will work with victims to help them understand their options and navigate the justice system.
Where possible, CyberScan will seek to resolve the matter informally through voluntary dispute resolution. Experience has shown us that many people want and are able to resolve matters outside of court. Often, the victim simply wants to have the harmful and hurtful content – whether it is a photo or an offensive post removed and removed quickly.
We are confident that many incidents of cyberbullying and the unwanted sharing of intimate images will continue to be resolved through restorative approaches.
The department has developed tools that are understandable and easy to access, including a step-by-step guide on the legislation, found at https://novascotia.ca/cyberscan/ .
We have also partnered with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia to provide victims and others with free legal information and referrals to lawyers.
And we continue to focus on prevention by educating Nova Scotians on the harmful impacts of cyberbullying and the unwanted sharing of intimate images. Since 2013, CyberScan staff have already connected with over 24,000 Nova Scotia young people through public and class presentations. This will continue to be a significant focus of their work.
As the online world continues to evolve, new mediums and social networks will present new challenges and opportunities. It is important that we stay on top of them, and that we ensure this legislation remains responsive, current and effective. Because what is most important is that victims are protected and that they have access to the supports they need.
If you believe you are the victim of cyberbullying or that an intimate image of you was shared without your consent call CyberScan:
— 902-424-6990 (within HRM)
— 855-702-8324 (toll-free)