Mothers of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd welcome N.S. cyberbully laws
Published Thursday, August 8, 2013 8:28AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 8, 2013 11:10PM EDT
The mother of Rehtaeh Parsons says she's hopeful new cyberbullying legislation in Nova Scotia will be effective, but she still wonders if authorities have the technology to enforce it.
Leah Parsons told CTV's Canada AM that she's happy that the Nova Scotia government acted quickly to pass the legislation, which took effect Wednesday.
Under the new law, Nova Scotia residents can sue or seek a protection order from the courts if they or their children are being cyberbullied. Breach of the order can result in a jail sentence of up to six months or a fine of up to $5,000.
"I think that Nova Scotia acted pretty fast to put it in place … I just hope that they have the tools there to enforce it," she said. "I don't think the technology is there for the police to be able to get the information quick enough when it's via Facebook or YouTube."
Leah Parsons' 17-year-old daughter, Rehtaeh, hanged herself in April in her Halifax home. She was taken off life-support a few days later.
Her family says she suffered from cyberbullying in the months leading up to her death, after a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted was being passed around her school.
The new legislation also calls for the creation of a specialized investigative unit which will be dedicated to pursuing perpetrators, no matter if they're adults or children.
If a lawsuit is launched, parents of cyberbullies can be held liable for damages if the perpetrator is a minor.
Also, under the new law, school principals must investigate each case of alleged bullying -- even those which occur off school property.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said the goal of the laws is to prompt a general change in behaviour.
"Our goal is to try and make people aware that to be disrespectful and invade people's privacy and to be harmful is not acceptable in our society or in our community," he said.
Carol Todd, the mother of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, said she's very happy to see that Nova Scotia has taken steps to fight cyberbullying and hopes British Columbia will consider similar measures.
Todd said that despite her daughter's suicide bringing international attention to the dangers of cyberbullying, many kids still "don't get it."
Amanda Todd took her own life last October after allegedly being the target of online sexual exploitation, bullying and harassment. She was 15 at the time.
Her story sparked international attention after a she posted a video to YouTube describing her torment.
"I know that the kids that were closest to Amanda have changed their habits and have changed their patterns on how they use social media, but a whole bunch of kids out there that still don't get it," Todd said. "They still say 'it's a joke.' But what these kids need to learn is that these jokes can be fatally harmful."
She added that more resources have to be invested in educating young people on the importance of "kindness, respect and compassion."
"As we do that it will progress along the years," she said.
Todd said news of Rehtaeh Parsons' death "stunned" her and prompted her to reach out to Leah Parsons.
"The two girls, their personalities and what they did and what happened in their lives were so hauntingly similar," she said, adding that she used Facebook to contact Leah Parsons.
The two mothers eventually met in Winnipeg to speak with each other in person, and continue to keep in touch via social media.
"Social media can be used for good things," she said, noting that the two connect every few days to see how each other is doing.
"As it is, unfortunately, we share something. We share the death of our daughters… we can talk to each other about that."