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.

8 Jan 2018, Seminar, Calgary, Canada

This year, the Labour and Employment Year in Review seminars will be held in Edmonton, Calgary and Yellowknife, with the Yellowknife seminar also being broadcast via webinar for those in the North who are not able to attend in person.

5 Feb 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Please join Teresa Haykowsky and MaryAnne Loney for a 90 minute webinar where they will discuss alternate forms of executive compensation from an employment and tax law perspective.

In association with
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
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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