Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Push for changes to Criminal Code in suicide's wake

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HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's justice minister is pushing Ottawa to make it illegal to distribute intimate images for a malicious or sexual purpose without consent, a move he says was prompted by the death of Rehtaeh Parsons.

Ross Landry said Friday he plans to raise the matter with federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson next week in Ottawa.

Landry said he decided to ask for changes to the Criminal Code after meeting with Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh's mother.

"It's one of the commitments that I made last week to Ms. Parsons in the discussion," said Landry.

Landry said he would like to see the law also result in the prosecution of people who redistribute the images in question. But he added part of his discussion with Nicholson would focus on whether such a law would be enforceable.

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.

"The child-pornography provisions that are before the code are enforceable and they involve technology at the present time," said MacRury.

"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."

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.

A spokeswoman for Nicholson said in an emailed statement federal, provincial and territorial officials were asked to identify "potential gaps in the Criminal Code on cyber-bullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images" and added Nicholson "will propose to accelerate this review" when he meets with his counterparts next week.

Andrew Younger, the Liberal Opposition deputy house leader, said he welcomed the initiative, particularly after Landry had initially said he saw no reason to delve into Rehtaeh's case.

"He recognized quite quickly that this was a more serious issue than he realized and he's taking action now," said Younger.

The 17-year-old Halifax girl attempted suicide on April 4 and was taken off life-support three days later. Her family alleges she was sexually assaulted by four boys in November 2011 and a photograph of the incident was passed around her school.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 A22

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