Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia seeks public input on Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act

Nova Scotia has launched an online survey and is seeking public submissions on its 2018 Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act.

Legislation was proclaimed in 2018 and required review within 4 years

Brad Johns is Nova Scotia's justice minister and attorney general. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is hoping to improve its Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act based on feedback from the public.

An online survey was launched Thursday. The public is also being invited to send submissions by email, mail and phone.

The legislation was proclaimed in July 2018 and provides options for people being harmed by others online. 

It included a requirement for the minister to review the act and submit a report to the legislature within four years.

The act allows victims and families to use alternative means of dispute resolution and obtain protection orders to get alleged offenders to stop damaging activities.

Other provisions include requesting removal of online content and seeking compensation.

Brad Johns, Nova Scotia's justice minister and attorney general, said there will always be a need to update the act to keep pace with technology, but it has proven effective so far.

Out of 620 cases that have come forward under the act, only two have gone to court," Johns said in an interview. 

"Most times, complainants are concerned about getting images down or having cyberbullying stopped," he said.

"And I think a lot of times that can be accomplished outside of the court system ... and those numbers certainly show that the current legislation seems to be working."

Achieved a balance, says minister 

Nova Scotia's previous anti-cyberbullying law, a first in Canada, was enacted in 2013 in response to the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, but was eventually struck down for being unconstitutional.

Johns said the challenge with the current legislation was trying to get a "fine fit" between an individual's rights and freedoms and addressing the issues of cyberbullying and the sharing of non-consensual intimate images. 

He said the current legislation, in his view, has achieved that balance.

But Wayne MacKay, the former chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Cyberbullying and a professor emeritus at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law, said the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and the current legislation lacks teeth.

Listen to Wayne MacKay's full interview with Information Morning:

"I don't think it's probably achieving the kind of deterrent effect that we'd like it to at this point, and I guess as further evidence of that, there still is a disturbing amount of cyberbullying and a disturbing amount of sharing of intimate images without consent," MacKay told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Monday.

"So it seems to me we should look at what can be done to make this act better, tougher and more effective." 

A man with a white beard and glasses stands outside a building.
Wayne MacKay is the former chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. (Nick Pearce)

MacKay said the act can also be inaccessible to many people given the time and money it takes to go through the courts.

"I think that the major remedies, which involve taking down the images, giving people real compensation ... that needs to be a bit broader than just a very lengthy, expensive court case, in my opinion," he said. 

Johns said in addition to seeking submissions from the public, government is also planning a series of focus groups.

Nova Scotians have until Jan. 28 to register their feedback with the province. 

With files from Stephanie Blanchet and CBC Radio's Information Morning