Cyberbullying and the Non-consensual Distribution of Intimate Images

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CCSO CYBERCRIME WORKING GROUP

Report to the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety

June 2013

Executive Summary

At their October 2012 meeting, Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety directed senior officials to identify potential gaps in the Criminal Code on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and report back to Deputy Ministers. This work was assigned to the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (CCSO), Criminal Justice, Cybercrime Working Group (CWG). A Sub-Group on Cyberbullying was established in January 2013, and is co-chaired by the Department of Justice Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

At their April 24, 2013 meeting, FPT Ministers directed officials to expedite this work and to submit a final report to FPT Deputy Ministers in June 2013. This work was conducted in two parts: the Sub-Group completed the analysis of the issue of cyberbullying in April 2013 and the analysis of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images was undertaken by the CWG and CCSO plenary in April-May 2013.

The Report is divided into two parts: the first part of the report addresses the issue of cyberbullying and includes information relating to the scope of the problem, the impact of cyberbullying on victims, existing legislative and policy responses and options for Criminal Code reform to address the issue.

The second part of the Report addresses the issue of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and contains information about the scope of the problem, existing Criminal Code responses and options for a new Criminal Code offence.

With respect to cyberbullying, the Working Group considered the scope of the behaviour involved, the existing Criminal Code offences and the jurisprudence interpreting those offences. The Working Group also reviewed academic and other research reports on the issue of bullying and cyberbullying. The Working Group recommends that the Criminal Code be amended to modernize certain existing offences to deal with harassment through electronic media, as well as the investigative powers for law enforcement, to ensure that all acts of cyberbullying carried out through the use of new technologies can be effectively investigated and prosecuted. Should the proposed changes be made, the Working Group concluded that crimes involving telecommunications, such as cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, could be more effectively and efficiently investigated. The Working Group concluded that existing Criminal Code offences generally cover most serious bullying behaviour and a new specific Criminal Code offence of bullying or cyberbullying is not required.

On the issue of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, the Working Group and CCSO reviewed related literature and existing Criminal Code offences and concluded that there is a gap in the Criminal Code's treatment of this conduct. The Working Group recommends that a new criminal offence addressing the non-consensual distribution of intimate images be created, including complementary amendments relating to, for example, the forfeiture of items used in the commission of the offence and restitution to permit the victim to be compensated for any costs associated with having the images removed from the Internet.

Finally, the Working Group acknowledges that cyberbullying is, in fact, a recent manifestation of the longstanding social problem of bullying. The Working Group believes that a multi-faceted approach should be taken, which would include modernizing the Criminal Code. In that vein, the Working Group recommends that all levels of government continue to adopt and support a multi-pronged approach to addressing these issues.

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