Nova Scotia

CyberSCAN unit regroups after court quashes cyberbullying law

The man who has spent the last two years leading a team of investigators at Nova Scotia's CyberSCAN unit is disappointed in a court decision that will void legal action in hundreds of bullying cases.

Since 2013, the team has handled 820 complaints in Nova Scotia

CyberSCAN director Roger Merrick said his unit has heard from people who claim they are being victimized again in the wake of Friday's court ruling that struck down Nova Scotia's cyberbullying law. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The man who has spent the last two years leading a team of investigators at Nova Scotia's CyberSCAN unit is disappointed in a court decision that will void legal action in hundreds of bullying cases.

Roger Merrick was appointed director of the Department of Justice's cyberbullying unit in 2013. Since then, he said, the team has handled 820 complaints.

It's important we continue to educate young people about cyberbullying and its impact.- Roger Merrick, director, Nova Scotia Department of Justice's cyberbullying unit

"At any one time, we had 40 ongoing cases," said Merrick. "We've had a lot of feedback from victims who had obtained protection orders, now wondering about their options.

"My heart goes out to them."

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Glen McDougall quashed the Cyber-Safety Act last Friday in response to a charter challenge by privacy lawyer David Fraser. 

Merrick said the ruling leaves no level of protection for victims of cyberbullying.

The act was the first law passed in Canada aimed at protecting victims of online harassment. It was introduced by the Nova Scotia government following intense public pressure surrounding the death of teenager Rehtaeh Parsons.

Parsons's family alleged the 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in November 2011, when she was 15, and bullied for months after a digital photo of the incident was passed around her school.

She was taken off life support after attempting suicide in 2013.

Moving forward

Since Friday's court decision, Merrick said, his unit has heard from people who claim they are being victimized again.

Staff are redirecting callers to police departments or mental-health resources until the Department of Justice decides whether it will file an appeal.

In the meantime, the CyberSCAN unit plans to focus on public education. 

"We are looking at revamping our presentation to deliver cyber-safety messages. To date we've done 800 presentations all over the province for groups ranging from 30 students to 300," said Merrick.

"It's important we continue to educate young people about cyberbullying and its impact."

About the Author

Angela MacIvor is CBC Nova Scotia's investigative reporter. She has been with CBC since 2006 as a reporter and producer in all three Maritime provinces. All news tips welcome. Send an email to cbcnsinvestigates@cbc.ca

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