Dr. Dawg

Cyber-bullying and the NDP

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The other day there was a bit of a Twitterstorm about the failure in committee of Hedy Fry’s private member’s bill on cyberbullying. It all emanated from this press release, in which Fry lashed out at the NDP for joining with the Conservatives to sink the bill.

The latter seemed incomprehensible to me. I joined with others in angrily questioning how this could have happened. After all, the NDP has been all over this subject for some time: its own efforts in this respect were crushed by the Harper Conservatives.

So what happened?

Courtesy of my fine MP, Paul Dewar (NDP international affairs critic in the House), I was sent the unedited proceedings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for Monday, February 25. The online, edited proceedings are now available.

These are worth the read. The level of debate was actually quite high. Expert witnesses were not impressed with the Bill, which simply sought to criminalize cyberbullying.

For example, Shaheen Shariff (Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University) observed:

The norms and perceptions of harm by digital natives have changed. These kids, as young as eight, are on facebook, even though it’s illegal to be on facebook under age 13. There is a higher tolerance for insults, jokes, and pranks. There’s less consideration of impact on others. There’s less recognition of boundaries between public and private spaces online. There’s less awareness of legal risks, which is where I would argue for improved education on legal literacy.

…Do we really want big stick sanctions?

The NDP approach calls for a preventative strategy. The Fry Bill focussed solely on the Criminal Code.

There were technical problems with the Bill that could have been overcome by re-drafting. But to add other essential elements to it would have been outside the scope of the Bill, and hence out of order. There was little left to be done at the end of the debate but to put Fry’s effort to sleep.

So this post is a mea culpa of sorts. I’m a bit long in the tooth to give a single Liberal press release a relatively uncritical reception, but I must have been half-asleep.

However, a word of advice, if I may be so bold, to the NDP caucus communications folks. You need to get ahead of this sort of thing to head off the inevitable knee-jerk reactions. Not that this is much of an excuse in my own case. Lesson learned, with apologies.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 8, 2013 2:12 PM.

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