Newfoundland and Labrador will target 'revenge porn' with new law - 660 NEWS
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Newfoundland and Labrador will target 'revenge porn' with new law

Last Updated Apr 16, 2018 at 3:00 pm MDT

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons (right) is shown at a news conference in St.John's on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Newfoundland and Labrador is planning legislation that would let victims of so-called revenge porn seek compensation in civil court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland and Labrador is joining a growing list of provinces targeting so-called revenge porn with new legislation aimed at those who threaten or actually share intimate images without consent.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said Monday the goal is to deter harassment that can be devastating.

“We’re not talking about something that’s just humiliating or embarrassing,” he said in an interview. “This can alter a person’s life.

“We’ve seen people take their lives from this.”

Parsons said the legislation, to be introduced by this fall, will allow victims to sue in civil court and give judges leeway to order the removal of internet images.

“It’s going on so often now, across multiple age brackets, but obviously I have a big concern when it comes to youth.”

Parsons said the Criminal Code was updated in 2015 to outlaw distribution of intimate images without consent, but civil law has lagged.

The new legislation would also allow judges to award damages so that offenders would literally pay for their actions.

“The threat of doing this, even the threat, is enough that it can ruin a person’s life,” Parsons said. “It’s not something I dealt with 10 years ago but seeing it now, it’s something new and it’s something we have to combat.”

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia have so far taken similar action, he added.

Bridget Clarke, who works with the Safe Harbour Outreach Project in St. John’s, said the impacts of unwanted image sharing are vast.

“They range from emotional, social, financial, psychological — and all these damages in many ways are immeasurable … In some people, we have seen that they’ve died by suicide because of how all this unfolded.”

Clarke stressed that consenting adults have the right to do as they want with their own bodies, including taking pictures.

“But with everything, consent is mandatory,” she said. “The threat or the action to share intimate or nude photos of someone without their consent is ultimately about power and it’s about control.

“Women feel they aren’t able to leave relationships because they have the threat of this looming.”

Whether it’s called revenge porn, cyberbullying or something else, Clarke said it’s a form of sexual violence.

“And we know sexual violence is prevalent in all of our communities.”

Jane Bailey, a law professor at the University of Ottawa specializing in technology-assisted violence against women and girls, said the legislation is a good step — especially if it infers harm done by revenge porn and eases the burden of proof on complainants. Still, lawsuits are expensive and slow when time is of the essence, she said in an interview.

“For a lot of people who are victimized by this behaviour, one of their major priorities is a quick remedy — which civil litigation doesn’t necessarily give you.”

Bailey would like to see more support offered through administrative bodies that can swiftly connect victims with internet providers to remove non-consensual images.

In Manitoba, for example, residents can file a report with Cybertip.ca.

Australia has an eSafety Commissioner’s office that handles reports of image-based abuse.

“It’s real, tangible, technical support,” Bailey said. “The sooner the content is removed from the place it’s originally posted, the better the chance you have that it’s not going to get replicated on numerous sites. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to remove.”

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.

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