Nova Scotia

New Nova Scotia anti-cyberbullying law won't come before next spring

It will be next spring at the earliest before Nova Scotia is ready to introduce its new Cyber Safety Act, Justice Minister Diana Whalen said Thursday.

New law will do a better job balancing the need for protection with free speech, says justice minister

It will be next spring at the earliest before the province gets a new Cyber Safety Act to replace the law that was struck down last year by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

Justice Minister Diana Whalen says it's a priority for her department, but it will take time.

"This time it won't be done in three weeks as the previous act was," she said Thursday.

"That was rushed and it was done very quickly with all party support. But we want to make sure that this time, we get it right and we can move forward with something strong."

Act was too broad

Nova Scotia introduced its Cyber Safety Act in 2013 amid great fanfare. It was in response to public outcry over the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old girl from Cole Harbour. Her family said she was assaulted and subject to relentless online bullying before she attempted suicide.

It was the first such legislation in Canada.

But critics said the law was too broad and it was eventually challenged in court.

In a ruling in December 2015, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Glen McDougall agreed the law violated the Charter of Rights and it was struck down.

"I was sorry to see that our landmark act, the Cyberbullying Act, was shot down," Whalen said.

Her department has started consulting with experts in the field including one of the lawyers who successfully challenged the original law, David Fraser.

Model for other provinces

Whalen said the new legislation must strike a proper balance between the need for protection and the need to respect free speech rights.

"I think we have an opportunity here to write something that is strong and respects those balances we're talking about and really will be a model for the rest of Canada because other provinces in Canada are watching to see what we do," the justice minister said.

Whalen said things have changed since the original Nova Scotia act was introduced. She cites federal legislation that outlaws the distribution of intimate images without consent as a protection that wasn't there before.