The mother of 15-year-old girl who committed suicide last year after being bullied implored the Nova Scotia government to strengthen its proposed legislation to combat cyberbullying, saying the bill lacks “meat.”
In an emotional appeal before the legislature's law amendments committee, Pam Murchison said the bill doesn't do anything to stop the activities of bullies on the Internet.
Ms. Murchison spoke of her despair over the ongoing problems with bullying since her daughter's death and her sense that nothing is being done.
“Should each of you walk two steps in my shoes you would understand the anger and frustration that I have.”
Ms. Murchison, whose daughter Jenna died in January 2011, said she wanted concrete steps taken that would mean consequences for bullies, whether that be the loss of their Internet use or their computer.
“You just can't shove this away,” the Truro, N.S., woman said after her committee appearance.
“You've got to put some meat in it and you've got to ... stand behind what you are saying.”
The bill requires schools to collect and monitor data before the government comes out with specific measures to deal with bullying, and there's no time frame on when that may happen.
Const. Todd Taylor of Truro police told the committee that while research and tracking are important, officers don't have the tools to address the problem.
Const. Taylor said the bill should at least include a provision to allow police and Internet service companies to develop a protocol through which police can access information during the investigation of bullying cases.
The protocol recommendation was included in a task force report on cyberbullying that was released in March.
“I saw nothing or heard nothing in the bill that addresses the concerns that Nova Scotia families have today,” said Const. Taylor.
The Opposition Liberals have proposed changes to the bill including a provision to require school boards to immediately notify Internet service and cellphone companies in instances where bullying has occurred.
The Progressive Conservatives have tabled their own legislation that would define cyberbullying in law and allow a series of fines to be levied, among other measures. It would also hold parents liable if they are aware that a child is involved in online bullying and they don't try to prevent it.
The province's education minister has said the government wants to study the issue further because it doesn't want to introduce ineffective legislation.
The law amendments committee has agreed to consider the Liberal amendments and the concerns raised by Ms. Murchison and others on Monday.