The Government of Canada recognizes that bullying and cyberbullying are serious concerns for many Canadian families and communities, and has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens.
While bullying is not new, cyberbullying or bullying carried out by electronic means is a relatively recent phenomenon. Anyone can be a victim of cyberbullying. As with bullying more generally, young people are the most common targets of this type of behaviour. Bullying and cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on their victims and are particularly harmful to both the welfare and development of child victims.
Protecting our Youth
The Government has undertaken education and awareness, prevention, and, enforcement activities to address the problems of bullying and cyberbullying.
Education and Awareness
- Through the Healthy Canadians website and Facebook pages, the Government reaches out to Canadians on health issues, including information on bullying and cyberbullying, and tips for bullying prevention and intervention.
- In February 2013, Facebook posts on bullying were seen by over 500,000 people and shared more than 6,500 times.
- The Youth Resource Centre provides RCMP officers working in over 5,000 schools across the country with cyberbullying lesson plans to teach youth how to recognize, respond to and prevent cyberbullying behaviour.
- Piloted in 2011, the Walk Away, Ignore, Talk it Out, Seek Help (WITS) program has RCMP officers in 50 elementary schools and has engaged over 8,800 students to prevent bullying and victimization. The program is run in collaboration with Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), the Rock Solid Foundation and University of Victoria researchers.
- The DEAL.org website is a unique by-youth, for-youth, web-based program that offers resources to youth, parents and educators on issues such as bullying and cyberbullying.
- GetCyberSafe, the Government of Canada’s public awareness campaign on online safety, has information about cyberbullying that includes how to talk to youth about it, and how to respond to this type of incident.
- Funded by the Government and operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Cybertip.ca promotes safe internet use through a range of interactive tools and educational materials for parents, educators and youth. Their new resource guide, “School and Family Approaches to Intervention and Prevention: Addressing Self/Peer Exploitation,” is designed to educate schools and families across Canada on the issue of youth or peers sharing sexual images of themselves.
- Since 2007, the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) has funded approximately 30 projects focusing on preventing youth violence and bullying. In the fall of 2012, the Government of Canada committed up to $10 million towards new crime prevention projects, including the prevention of school-based bullying.
- The NCPC has also developed practical resources and tools on ways to address bullying. These include examples of promising and model programs that can be implemented in local communities, diagnostic tools to assess the nature of and extent of bullying problems, and guides for parents and educators.
- NeedHelpNow.ca is a new resource designed to help youth who have made the mistake of sending sexual images of themselves to peers, which can lead to cyberbullying. The site offers youth tips on removing content, strategies for addressing peers and moving forward, as well as information on possible related Criminal Code violations.
- In 2011, the Government passed An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, which requires Internet service suppliers to report child pornography web sites to police.
Bullying and the Criminal Code
“Bullying” and “cyberbullying” captures a wide range of behaviour. Some of this behaviour, such as name calling and social exclusion, can be hurtful but it is not necessarily criminal behaviour. There are several existing Criminal Code offences that do directly address the more serious actions often associated with bullying and cyberbullying. These include: counselling suicide; criminal harassment; uttering threats; defamatory libel; incitement of hatred; unauthorized use of computer; extortion; false messages; indecent telephone calls; harassing telephone calls; intimidation; and mischief in relation to data. The Criminal Code also includes comprehensive prohibitions against child pornography including against making, making available and distributing images that depict the sexual abuse of a young person under the age of 18 years. Courts also have the authority to order the removal of child pornography content from the internet.
In October 2012, the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety directed senior officials to review the Criminal Code to identify any potential gaps related to cyberbullying and, in particular, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. In April 2013, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, committed to expediting this review and developing Criminal Code reform options as necessary.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting our young people. We will continue to build on these efforts, working with partners in the public and private sectors to address the problems of cyberbullying and bullying.