New Remedies For Cyberbullying In Nova Scotia

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Provisions of the Nova Scotia Cyber-safety Act came into force today, as announced by the Minister of Justice of Nova Scotia.

Protective Orders

It is now possible, in Nova Scotia, for the targets of cyberbullying to make an application for a protective order to a justice of the peace. If the target is a minor, the minor’s parent may make an application.

The Cyber-safety Act defines cyberbullying as:

means any electronic communication through the use of technology including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, computers, other electronic devices, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites and electronic mail, typically repeated or with continuing effect, that is intended or ought reasonably be expected to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other damage or harm to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation, and includes assisting or encouraging such communication in any way

If an individual is found to have engaged in cyberbullying, the justice of the peace may make orders such as restricting or prohibiting communication with the target or using the Internet-enabled devices for a period of up to one year.

If the identity of the alleged cyberbully cannot be determined, the justice of the peace may make orders necessary to assist in identifying the alleged cyberbully. For example, the justice of the peace may order any person having custody or control of information respecting the ownership or use of any electronic device or use of any Internet Protocol address, website, username or account, electronic-mail address or other unique identifier, identified as being used for the purpose of the  cyberbullying, to disclose information to assist in identifying the  alleged cyberbully.

Civil Liability

The provisions of the Cyber-safety Act creating the new statutory tort of cyberbullying have also been proclaimed into force. A court may award damages (including general, special, aggravated and punitive damages) to compensate the target of cyberbullying, as well as issue injunctions and any other order the court considers just and reasonable in the circumstances.

Parents of a cyberbully who is a minor may be parties to the tort if they know of the the minor’s activity, know or ought reasonably to expect the activity to cause harm to the target and fail to take steps to prevent the activity from continuing.

Even if parents are unaware of the minor’s activities, they may be jointly and severally liable for damage awards unless they satisfy a reverse onus to demonstrate that they exercised reasonable supervision over the minor who engaged in the cyberbullying and made reasonable efforts to prevent or discourage the kind of activity that resulted in the loss or damage.

Other provisions of the Cyber-safety Act, including those dealing with creating a unit to investigate cyberbullying complaints are not yet in force. However, the government announced it is hiring and invited applications.