Sunday, November 24, 2013

Anti-Bullying Legislation a Good Thing, Right?

Following the debacle of the Rehteah Parsons case last year, I was a little unsure of how the noises being made by both the provincial and federal governments about tightening up both the law and the legal process around the issue of bullying were going to work out.

Unsure because, really, can you actually legislate bullying out of existence?

And as far as Rehteah's case went, a sexual assault is a sexual assault is a sexual assault, is it not? Even if the police refuse to properly investigate the matter?*

But be that as it may, I initially thought it was a good thing when the federal government recently announced changes to the Criminal Code making it a criminal offence to spread intimate pictures of someone without their consent. After all, what could go wrong with that, right?

A lot, apparently. At least, a lot when you're talking about a federal government that is willing to be more than a little sneaky and turn its self- this proclaimed anti-bullying legislation into ... what exactly?

Apparently only about one and a half pages of the 65-page Bill actually deal with making it illegal to spread an intimate picture of someone without their consent.

The rest of the Bill varies widely, much of it giving the police new powers to obtain digital information (including lowering the standard required to get a warrant to obtain such information from having "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" a crime has been committed to having "reasonable grounds to suspect" a crime has been committed). And let's not forget the provisions about obtaining production orders against financial institutions for banking records.

But, wait, there's even more.
One section of the bill makes it illegal to use a device to hook up to a telecommunications service without lawful payment. It’s not clear whether computer programs count as a device, or if the proposal could be broad enough to punish something as common as hooking up cable without paying for it or accessing a locked Wi-Fi signal. 
Now whether or not these amendments are "good ideas" is not really the point.

No, the point is this - how dare the government try to sneak in all these totally unrelated criminal provisions under the heading of "protecting children from cyber-bullying"? And how dare the media go along with that characterization, happily proclaiming the new legislation as being about protecting our children from cyber-bulling, full stop, until someone stood up and demanded that the truth be made known?

This is so whether or not one thinks these amendments are a good idea. And I say that despite the fact that one, in particular, I do believe is a very good, appropriate change. Just not one to be characterized as above.

You see, one of the amendments expands the definition of “identifiable groups” that can be the subject of hate speech to include a person’s age, sex, mental or physical disability and national origin. And this particular change, I firmly believe, is a very good thing.

One of the reasons why the writer of this vile hate-filled "letter" could not be prosecuted was because individuals with physical or mental disabilities were not included as an "identifiable group" under sec. 318 of the Criminal Code.  You see, while it is a crime in Canada to "advocate or promote genocide" based on colour, race, religion, ethnic original or sexual orientation, neither age, race, sex nor physical or mental disability was included. From which one can only (wrongly) presume that it is, indeed, okay with Canadians to advocate killing off, amongst others, persons with disabilities.

That it was only after this incident that the government stepped up to amend that section is sad. But the fact that they are willing to do so now is a good thing. Although apparently they were not so anxious for anyone to actually realize they are doing a good thing ... after all, they could have scored points with many Canadian citizens had they proclaimed the fact that they were making this change instead of hiding it among so many other hidden amendments.

By the by, no one should have any trouble with this particular amendment, should they?

Well, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, of all people, apparently is not in favour of this proposed amendment.
“Imagine your rant about children today. Your rant about men this, women that. The question is what on earth is contemplated here,” said Vonn. 
“Which is not to condone hate. We don’t do that. But we are talking about some very serious provisions of the Criminal Code. 
In particular, Vonn said she has heard concerns from the Palestinian community that protecting national origin could criminalize harsh criticism of Israel.
Perhaps some legal education is called for here.

First of all, "rants" are not criminalized. Neither before this proposed amendment nor afterwards.

What is (and, just for the record) has been criminalized) is "advocating or promoting genocide" and "publicly stirring up and inciting hatred" against an identifiable group. So unless someone would believe that you're seriously calling for the death of all children or all members of the (presumably) opposite sex you should be okay.

And about those Palestinians - correct me if I'm wrong (and I know you will) but aren't chances pretty good they were already covered by the term "ethnic origin"?

Then again, should I really be surprised?

After all, we have a government that is unethical enough to try to put this one over on the very people it has been elected to serve and a media who was either too complicit or too stupid lazy to actually do its homework (as in, actually read the proposed legislation) and initially call foul.

Why would I expect the BC Civil Liberties Association to be any better? My bad.

* The much-belated recent police investigation falling, in my mind, in the category of "Too Little. Too Late."

1 comment:

Deb Reynolds said...

lost my first comment...

welcome to US-style legislation where a bill which should be 2 paragraphs becomes a 734 page nightmare of pork, special interests and ridiculous crap.

There is an entire rant on so-called "hate crimes" but now is not the thing I will say, politicians are the one group I think it should be mandatory to hate. (with exceptions for the very few.)