A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada has sent a message to all victims of cyberbullying– the Canadian courts can help you!
In two earlier postings, I discussed “The Facebook bullying case”, found here and here. To recap, an anonymous cyberbully (or bullies) created a fake Facebook page, which contained derogatory and defamatory content about a 15 year girl. The girl brought a defamation action against the cyberbullies and sought an order from the Nova Scotia courts that would assist in identifying the anonymous cyberbullies. She also sought an order that would prohibit the publication of her identity. The reason for the publication ban was clear – if the plaintiff’s identity was made public by the Courts and the media, it might lead to further bullying, harassment, and psychological harm to the young girl. The Nova Scotia courts granted the plaintiff an order seeking to identify her anonymous bullies, but refused to grant the publication ban, relying on the “open court” doctrine. The plaintiff appealed and her case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I am happy to report that the Supreme Court corrected this wrong and granted the plaintiff’s request to shield her identity. In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the importance of protecting our youth from cyberbullies and online defamation. By so doing, the Court has hopefully enabled other victims to come forward and use the civil courts to track down their tormentors, without the fear of having their identity revealed to the public.
Ironically, the decision was released a few weeks before Amanda Todd tragically took her life. It was too late for Amanda, but it is not too late for the rest of us.
Cyberbullying is a harmful practice that must be stopped. And it is not limited to our young (although they are certainly more vulnerable to it). Many adults are victims of cyberbullying and cyberlibel. If Amanda Todd’s tragic story has taught us anything, it is that we must fight cyberbullies using all available means, including our civil courts.
Maanit Zemel, Associate
Miller Thomson LLP
- The new privacy tort – Another victory for victims of cyberbullying - February 16, 2016
- Canadian cyberbullying laws – Where are they now? - January 18, 2016
- My website allows users to post comments – can I be liable for defamation? - November 18, 2015