Speech on Cyberbullying (C-13)

I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, an Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. I thank the Minister of Justice for introducing this long-awaited bill, which was tabled just last week.

I followed yesterday's debate in the House closely, as there are many aspects of the bill to study. The bill primarily seeks to address the issue of cyberbullying.

As we all know, cyberbullying is having devastating effects, particularly on young people. It is something we all agree must be addressed and eliminated. The tragic stories of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, Todd Loik and others have spurred a national discussion on how society must do a better job of working together to address bullying, harassment and other heinous acts. These acts can take place in public places like schools or the workplace, but they can also take place online through social media sites, apps, et cetera.

Regardless of where bullying and harassment takes place, proper tools are needed to address these very serious acts. Eliminating cyberbullying is a complex task, requiring a multi-faceted approach. It means giving police the tools they need to properly investigate cases and bring forward charges as needed. It means having resources and education tools available and accessible to youth, as well as their parents.

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter town hall meeting in Coquitlam to talk about crime. We talked about cyberbullying and the need for a holistic approach. It is clear to me we need a collaborative and well thought out strategy to address how bullying happens, how it affects people, how we can deal with it and how we can try to eliminate it.

Parliament has debated this before. Last year, the NDP put forward a proposal to strike an all-party committee to study and craft a national anti-bullying strategy. Unfortunately, the government voted down the motion. However, I believe the motion generated a lot of debate, which is healthy and crucial for a democracy. I have no doubt that part of the solution of cyberbullying lies in modernizing the Criminal Code to ensure it reflects the realities of crimes and how they are committed today.

The same was required for child luring laws. I proposed two private member's bills to close loopholes in the Criminal Code. The bills would have ensured prosecution of child predators was not hindered by whether a child was lured online instead of in person, or if the luring was inside or outside of Canada's borders. My work on the bills has shown me that as legislators we must look at how the Criminal Code is working in today's digital era and make improvements as needed.

Earlier this year, I seconded legislation put forward by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, which, like the legislation before us today, would criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Bill C-540 was introduced in Parliament earlier this year. It is quite a simple, straightforward, one-page bill. With consent from the government, the bill could have moved forward before the House rose in June. When I first looked at Bill C-13, the government's legislation before us today, I was pleased to see that the contents of Bill C-540 were included in the bill.

 

However, there is much more in Bill C-13 that must be looked at. It contains dozens of clauses, of which only a handful directly relate to cyberbullying. Many clauses were adopted from the failed Bill C-30, known as the protecting children from Internet predators act. Bill C-30 was also widely associated with comments made by the former Conservative public safety minister, who had the gall to accuse opposition members of supporting child pornographers when they raised questions about the bill's scope. The bill was not just rejected by the opposition; it was widely rejected by privacy advocates and the public, forcing the Conservatives to back away from the bill earlier this year. I cannot recall another time when the government received such scathing criticism of a bill that it realized the error of its ways and was forced to abandon the bill.

Needless to say, when I learned that a number of clauses from failed Bill C-30 would be included in the cyberbullying bill before us today, I was very concerned. While Bill C-13 targets cyberbullying, it also goes after other issues, such as banks' financial data, the terrorist financing act, telemarketing, and the theft of telecommunication services.

The minister has assured us that prior judicial authorization is required in every single clause of the bill and that there is no ability for police to act without warrants here. However, lawful access provisions require close scrutiny. This is a complex, lengthy bill that requires careful study at committee.

As I mentioned before, only a few pages of this 70-page omnibus-style bill are directly related to cyberbullying. Yesterday the NDP proposed what I think is a very smart legislative solution. Our justice critic proposed splitting this bill in two. The cyberbullying provisions would be removed from Bill C-13 and put into a separate bill that could be expedited through the legislative process. In this way, the justice committee could take the appropriate amount of time to study other provisions contained in Bill C-13. I am disappointed that the Conservatives rejected this very logical proposal.

I intend to support Bill C-13 at second reading. I believe it deserves to be carefully studied at committee.

As I have outlined in my remarks today, cyberbullying is a very distressing problem. By making it illegal to distribute intimate images of people without their consent, we give police and the courts another tool to go after those who attack and victimize others online.

The other provisions in this bill require careful scrutiny. I am hopeful that members of the justice committee will be given adequate time to study this bill thoroughly.

In closing, I would like to say a few words on a more personal note. I want to acknowledge the courage and perseverance of the parents of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and others. In the wake of the tragedy of losing a child, they have spoken out publicly and have asked hard questions of us as a society. They are driving a national debate on how we must do a better job protecting young people from online crime. I believe that their work will spare other young people and their families from enduring pain, suffering, and tragedy resulting from such terrible unchecked acts as cyberbullying.

In my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam and in Port Moody, the story of Amanda Todd has resonated with parents, children, educators, policy-makers, city officials, the police, and so many others. In fact, it has resonated not only across the country but around the world. Although Amanda will never know the legacy she left, her heartbreaking final words will forever haunt us and remind us that we must do a better job.