Canada: Search For Solutions To Cyber-Bullying Continues

Last Updated: October 1 2013

Article by Teresa R. Haykowsky, McLennan Ross LLP and Suzanne Lundrigan, Alberta School Boards Association

Cyber-bullying grabbed headlines across Canada again this year, triggering Nova Scotia to pass a special law aimed at stamping it out in schools. As schools and school boards prep for the coming school year, this article cites resources you can look to for guidance when dealing with this issue and also lets you know about one town in the US which passed a bylaw making parents liable for children's bullying.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons' suicide garnered international headlines. Parsons killed herself after she was allegedly sexually assaulted when she was 15 – and photos of the incident were posted online.

As reported by the CBC on August 22, 2013 Parsons' classmates mocked her and she endured relentless harassment and humiliation after a picture of the assault was circulated at school and on social media. The 17-year-old died in April.

Two 18-year-olds have been charged with child pornography in connection with the case. They can't be named because they were 17 at the time of the alleged offences. (A detailed summary of Parsons' story is found here.)

Shortly after Parsons' death, Nova Scotia's legislature passed the Cyber-safety Act (Bill 61) in May 2013.

The legislation defines cyber-bullying as:

"any electronic communication [...] 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"

Significantly, as well as holding cyber-bullies liable for their behavior, the new legislation means parents of young cyber-bullies may face penalties because of their children's misbehavior. To avoid charges, parents will have to prove they were actively supervising their child – and taking reasonable steps to stop their child's bullying behavior.

While Alberta doesn't have an equivalent law, the incoming Education Act references cyber-bullying and in a new development imposes a positive responsibility on students to report incidents of bullying – wherever it occurs: at school; off school property or in cyberspace. School boards are also now required to write student codes of conduct that speak specifically to bullying.

The Parsons case triggered much self examination and a search for preventative measures. On April 18, 2013, Nova Scotia appointed two respected Canadian experts to review the approach of Halifax Regional School Board, and associated agencies, to the events that led to the tragic death of Parsons.

On June 14, 2013 Nova Scotia accepted the 13 recommendations of the two out-of-province experts, Debra Pepler and Penny Milton of Ontario, who issued their June 10, 2013 report reviewing how the Halifax Regional School Board and associated agencies handled events leading to the death of high school Parsons.

"Rehtaeh's story is not an easy one to listen to, but it's important that we hear it," said Marilyn More, lead minister for the Action Team on Sexual Violence and Bullying. "Dr. Pepler and Ms. Milton have written a thorough report on her experiences and implementing their recommendations will help prevent another tragedy. This is not the end of our work; far from it. The review and its recommendations will be added to the efforts currently underway."

The 13 recommendations from Pepler's and Milton's June 14, 2013 final report included:

  • Government, school boards, community and social agencies are to promote safety at every opportunity – both to prevent bullying, cyber-bullying and sexual aggression
  • Department of Education is to revise school codes of conduct to include opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes when they violate the school code
  • Government and school boards are to include young people in advisory roles and that "many different students" play meaningful roles in the development of policies, procedures, protocols and initiatives that affect them
  • School boards are to develop a standard to guide school administrators in determining what informal information to share when a student transfers between high schools
  • School boards are to ask (through surveys and other tools) students, staff and parents about the quality of their relationships within the school community
  • Department of Education and Early Childhood Development are to emphasize social-emotional learning when reviewing and revising curriculum.

The province has asked the Department of Health and Wellness to prepare options to review the IWK Health Centre's mental-health programs, services and policies as it relates to Parsons' case, a move supported by the reviewers.

The province is conducting an independent review by out-of-province experts into the actions of the Public Prosecution Service and police. This will begin immediately after police release the results of their criminal investigation.

An action plan in response to the all of the recommendations will be completed in the next few weeks.

"If there is one message we want to emphasize, it is this: work together. Good relationships will be essential for finding solutions that work," Dr. Pepler and Ms. Milton said in their report. "We need to listen, learn from each other, and build a body of evidence that will help us all to respond effectively in crisis situations."

Pepler and Milton did not assign any blame in their report and called for an independent commission to review the programs and services of the IWK Health Centre and the Capital Health Authority, which is the largest health service provider in the province, "as they relate to the case of Rehtaeh Parsons."

Tips and takeaways

We think some of the best ideas come from the recommendations out of Nova Scotia's February 29, 2012 Task Force Report on Bullying and Cyber-bullying chaired by Wayne MacKay. This report highlights that cyber-bullying is complex and multi-faceted. There are no simple fixes, or, as the title of the report suggests, "there's no app for that." Cyber-bullying is part of a much larger issue about deterioration in the quality of human relations in society as we adapt to a fast paced and high tech world. If your school jurisdiction is experiencing a decline in respectful and responsible relationships that must be reversed in order to get at the roots of bullying and cyber-bullying, it may consider the following tips and takeaways:

  • School jurisdictions may create or adopt age-appropriate, digital citizenship and online safety programs for all its students aimed at changing attitudes and values and not just providing information. Such programs could be prerequisites for continued access to school computers
  • School jurisdictions can draft standardized student computer usage agreements that include clearly defined consequences for misuse. Agreements should be signed by students, their parents and teachers
  • School jurisdictions can create a digital and printed parents' guide to combating bullying and cyber-bullying
  • School jurisdictions (and parents) should educate students about bullying and cyber-bullying: what it is, why it is inappropriate, that it will not be tolerated, and that it is harmful
  • School jurisdictions should create a clear mechanism for students to report on bullying, a process for evaluation of that data, and a student survey to be regularly executed every 2-3 years, to gauge the effectiveness of these reporting and evaluating methods
  • School jurisdictions can teach students about the possible dangers of improper Internet use and educational materials about cyber-hazards and digital citizenship

U.S. Town Bylaw Makes Parents Liable for Children's Bad Behavior

Meanwhile in Monona Wisconsin the municipality took the bold step of passing a bylaw that will make parents liable for any bullying done by their children. A first violation of the parent-liability clause carries a $114 fine. Subsequent violations within the same year carry fines of $177 each. On June 3, 2013, the Toronto Star reported that police officers in Monona Wisconsin wondered if parents whose children are bullying / cyber-bullying other students would co-operate more they faced fines for their children's bullying.

On May 29, 2013, the municipality of Monono passed this bylaw, with the assistance of the local school board. Now parents may be fined if their child is found to be a repeat bully. The municipality was mirrored the language in a state law that had already been tested in court. The parent-liability clause is part of a larger ordinance passed by city council to prohibit bullying and harassment.

It is believed Monona is the first town in the U.S. with such a parent-liability fine.

The fine is seen as a tool of last resort. Parents who make an effort to address their child's concerns would not be ticketed.

The town's mayor, Bob Miller, told the Star that this parent-liability clause was intended to be a "wake-up call" to parents who may not be attuned to what their children are doing at home on the Internet.

"There are parents who just believe their children could never do something that was inappropriate," the mayor said. He added that the ordinance has bite to it, but "it's not looking like we're looking to bust parents."

Tips and takeaways

  • School jurisdictions may wish to share this story with their school councils in September and discuss ways in which parents can become more engaged in the conduct of their children at school and in promoting anti-bullying conduct as school.
  • When discussing Internet use with your students, stress that they may not know with whom they are communicating. Teach them about and advise them to use safe Internet practices.

This article was prepared for the ASBA as part of the service provided to school boards who subscribe to the ASBA education netletter, Vis-a-Vis.

We encourage you to distribute this article to your school administrators who may wish to discuss cyber bullying with their teachers and staff.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
19 Dec 2017, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

McLennan Ross previously conducted a webinar on June 6, 2017 about the passage of Bill 17, during which we reviewed the changes to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. During that webinar, we identified a number of issues which would depend upon the language of the Regulations, which had not yet been developed.

21 Nov 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Changes to the Employment Standards Code this year increased the number of unpaid leaves to which employees are entitled for the purpose of allowing them to deal with family related issues.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions