As an intended ode to victims of cyber-bullying, The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act (Bill C-13) came into force on March 10, 2015. However, this legislation gives police the discretion to search Canadians' personal information and stored data with what should be deemed as an alarming new set of powers to search. The new section of the Criminal Code reads:
162.1 (1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty
(a) of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The new provision is clearly intended to address a particular mode of cyber-bullying: that being the public sharing of "intimate images." Anyone with a decent-sized heart and any speck of gumption in their soul would surely support the intention of Bill C-13. We no longer live in a world where only certain families in the neighbourhood have dial-up Internet access, and the majority of individuals don't look through their library's card catalogue to find a book. People Google, images are shared at lightning speed, and with one click you can publicly transmit anything you want to the rest of the world. It's been an obvious and almost inevitable outcome of this tech-savvy, share-everything, world we now live in that images are being posted without the subject's consent, possibly affecting their reputation, well-being, marriage, or career. But despite the well-intentioned nature of Bill C-13, this is not a time to bow our heads in support. The police have now been given titanic latitude in searching our personal property and data, and to make an arrest.
The new Section 162.1(1) includes recklessness as sufficient to prove knowledge or intent. This casts a wide net and gives the police the power to arrest and search any individual who they think may meet that criterion. For most adults, this legislation is not a threat to our personal livelihood: most adults aren't running home at night and posting "intimate images" of people they know for fun, without due care or regard. But young people do. Young people are constantly sharing and re-sharing images, often thoughtlessly, on all kinds of social media and public forums...