Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

PM pledges to battle online bullying

Push follows meeting with Parsons' family

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OTTAWA -- A crime is a crime, regardless of whether or not it happens on the Internet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday as his government promised to expedite efforts to create a new law against cyber-bullying.

"We absolutely must speak out against the notion that some people have that 'anything goes' on the Internet," Harper said during question period in the House of Commons.

"Something that is a crime is a crime if it happens on the Internet as well."

Harper's comments followed his meeting Tuesday with the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old Nova Scotia teenager who took her own life earlier this month.

Her family alleges Parsons was sexually assaulted by four boys in 2011 and a digital photograph of the incident was shared around her school.

Parsons' parents want federal laws beefed up so more can be done to combat cyber-crime.

"Our Criminal Code dates from another era," said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, whose question in the Commons prompted Harper's remarks.

"There are realities in today's society it simply does not address. We are committed to working with the government to make changes to the Criminal Code to deal with cases like Rehtaeh's before the House rises for the summer."

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, meanwhile, pushed his provincial and territorial counterparts Wednesday to speed up efforts to create a law that would curb cyber-bullying.

"Today, when I met with my counterparts, I recommended that we expedite the review of our laws by June and I was pleased to receive unanimous support," Nicholson said in an email. "I look forward to receiving this report."

While it wasn't clear Wednesday when an anti-cyberbullying bill might be introduced, Harper told the Commons his government plans give law officials tools to combat cyber-crime.

"One of the difficulties here is that investigative tools for our police officers have not kept pace with the Internet age," he said.

"That must change."

Parsons' parents, Glen Canning and Leah Parsons, met the prime minister for about 45 minutes on Tuesday. Canning later said the family felt "helpless" in trying for an entire year to get relief for Rehtaeh from her tormentors.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2013 A16

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