Dalhousie Law Journal


cyberbullying, teen suicides, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, criminal law, non-consensual distribution, images, state surveillance


Cyberbullying has come to the fore in federal parliamentary debate largely in the last two years in tandem with high profile media reporting of several teen suicides. The government responded with the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act that incorporates, among other things, criminal law responses to nonconsensual distribution of intimate images and gender-based hate propagation, but only at the expense of expanded state surveillance. However, a review of the parliamentary debates reveals a richer array of approaches in which the efficacy of criminal law responses was contested. This article reports on the diversity of viewpoints that emerged within the debates, first contextualizing them within the conceptual complexity of the term "cyberbullying" and the media focus on suicide cases. It suggests that "cyberbullying" has become less a problem and more a political juggernaut for transporting a broad range of issues, as well as ideologies, onto the public agenda. The conceptual elasticity of the term has to some extent facilitated co-optation of tragic suicide cases as a guise for pushing a tough on crime agenda, while obscuring underlying relational and systemic issues repeatedly identified by many claimsmakers within the debates.

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