While the cyberbullying provisions are being generally applauded, the opposition and others are critical of other parts of the bill that have no relation to the problem of cyberbullying.
Bill C-13 was introduced in the House of Commons yesterday. Called the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, the proposed legislation makes posting or transmitting intimate pictures of another person without their consent, a specific crime.
The crime of voyeurism is expanded to include publishing, distributing, transmitting, selling or making available an intimate image of another person without that person's consent or while being reckless as to whether consent is given. An image is defined as either a photograph or a video recording.
Under the bill, an intimate image is one where the person is nude or their anus or genitals are exposed and in the case of a female, where her breasts are shown. The image must be taken under circumstances that indicate the person recorded or photographed has a reasonable expectation of privacy, both that the time the image was made and when it was transmitted.
There is an exception to the general rule when the image is taken and disseminated "in the public good," provided the distribution of the image does not exceed what is necessary to serve the public good.
Anyone convicted of cyberbullying faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison. In addition to any other sentence, anyone who is convicted of or who receives a discharge for cyberbullying, can be prohibited or restricted in their use of the Internet or other digital network for a period of time the court decides is appropriate.
Under the bill, in cases of "revenge porn," spouses can be compelled to testify against each other.
The court can also order the offending image removed from the Internet and require the offender to pay for the cost of such removal or to reimburse the person who did pay to have the image removed.
At a press conference prior to the bill's introduction, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said, "Our government is committed to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation. We have an obligation to help put an end to harmful online harassment and exploitation. Cyberbullying goes far beyond schoolyard bullying and, in some cases, can cross the line into criminal activity." The Justice Minister added that lives can be destroyed by the click of a mouse and this demands a strong response from the government.
Critics point out Bill C-13 goes far beyond cyberbullying. One section of the bill provides penalties for selling or possessing a device that allows a person to receive telecommunication services without paying for them. Another section provides a maximum 10-year jail term for anyone who hacks into someone else's computer to erase data.
The bill also expands the power of judges to order computers seized when it is suspected they have been used in a crime.
Michael Vonn, of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said, "We are deeply concerned that this is, in fact, a Trojan horse under the banner of cyberbullying."
Bill C-13 has passed first reading and it is expected the parts of the bill that do not deal with cyberbullying will contested.