Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to craft new cyberbullying law

The province's Justice Department says it is working on new cyberbullying legislation to replace the Cyber-safety Act, which was struck down in December by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Old Cyber-safety Act struck down in December 2015 by Nova Scotia Supreme Court

Justice Minister Diana Whalen says the province is working to draft a new cyberbullying law. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The province's Justice Department says it is working on new cyberbullying legislation to replace the Cyber-safety Act, which was struck down in December by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court

Since then the province has had no law on the books specifically dealing with cyberbullying. 

"We need to look again at how we can write an act that will stand the constitutional challenges and stand the test of time," Justice Minister Diana Whalen said Thursday.

Legal void

Since the previous act was struck down there's been a legal void in the province, she said.  

"We looked at the cases that had been dealt with by the CyberScan unit, realizing that there's a need, that people are being harmed. I think that Nova Scotians understand that, that people are vulnerable without a law in place."  

She said new legislation is needed because other existing laws aren't good enough to deal with cyberbullying and don't provide people with proper access to justice. 

"You need to have deep pockets in order to go forward and I think a lot of people are deterred by that," said Whalen.     

Province admits old law was too broad

The Department of Justice said in a news release Thursday that it accepts the court's ruling that the definition of cyberbullying in the former act was overly broad. The province will not appeal the court's decision.

Instead, the province will work on new legislation that it hopes will fill in the gaps in the previous act. 

Over the next several months the province said it will seek legal expertise to craft a new act that balances the right to freedom of speech with a way to protect the victims of cyberbullying.  

Man who challenged old law will help draft new one

According to Whalen, some of that legal expertise will come from David Fraser, the lawyer who arguied in court that the Cyber-safety Act should be struck down. 

He challenged the law, saying it violates the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"I actually spoke yesterday to David Fraser just to let him know what our decision was, to ask him if he would participate with us and he indicated that yes he would be happy to," said Whalen. 

"I have heard him on the media saying that he believes there is a way forward and we hope to have his good input on that."  

The earliest new cyberbulling legislation could be introduced is the fall. 

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