Nova Scotia

N.S. wants ban on spreading images after Rehtaeh Parsons case

The Nova Scotia government is asking the federal government to make distributing intimate images against someone's wishes a crime under the Criminal Code.

Ross Landry to meet with Rob Nicholson in Ottawa

Rehtaeh Parsons was buried on Saturday. She was 17. (Facebook)

Nova Scotia wants the federal government to make distributing intimate images against someone's wishes a crime under the Criminal Code.

It's the government's latest response to the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, 17,  who was taken off life support on April 7 after trying to take her own life a few days earlier.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry will be in Ottawa next week to meet with federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to discuss the issue.

Landry has asked the federal government to criminalize emailing, texting or posting images for a "malicious or sexual purpose."

Julie Di Mambro, Nicholson's press secretary, issued a statement on his behalf Friday evening.

"While the administration of justice is a provincial matter, we're always open to hearing from our provincial counterparts on ways in which we can improve Canada’s justice system," the statement read.

"Federal, provincial, and territorial justice and public safety ministers directed senior officials to identify potential gaps in the Criminal Code on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. When the minister meets with his counterparts next week, he will propose to accelerate this review."

According to Rehtaeh's mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15 years old. Rehtaeh was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at her school and on social media.

Police investigated, but no charges were laid.

"It has become apparent that our laws have not kept pace with the world we live in," Landry said in a release.

Dan MacRury, a Crown prosecutor who is Nova Scotia's representative on a national cybercrime working group, said he believes an enforceable law could be put in place, despite the challenges presented by technology.

"From a technology point of view, it's like any investigation. [Police] would have to prove who sent the item."

He said what constitutes an intimate image would have to be worked out as the law is drafted, but the intent would be to crack down on the distribution of harmful images depicting genitalia.

"Obviously we wouldn't be looking at just kissing," said MacRury.

"We’re not talking about pictures of lakes, we’re talking about intimate pictures that can be harmful to somebody. The reality is you have to prove that there’s a malicious purpose and I mean that’s one of the things — or for a sexual purpose — and I think that those are the targets that you have to look at."

MacRury said while there are provisions in the Criminal Code that outlaw child pornography, there are no protections in place to prevent the malicious dissemination of sexual images for adults. He said the province would also push to address that gap.

Landry said he has reached out to his provincial counterpart to build support. The premier's office said Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant has already responded saying his province supports Nova Scotia's efforts.

With files from The Canadian Press