TORONTO, Sept. 27, 2012 /CNW/ - UNICEF Canada applauds the Supreme Court
of Canada's decision granting the appeal in part of a 15-year-old girl,
known as A.B., in the landmark cyberbullying case A.B. v. Bragg Communications Incorporated et al. The case involved the alleged violation of A.B.'s identity, privacy
and reputation on a fake Facebook page, and her request to shield both
her identity and the degrading content from the public while pursuing
A.B. appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada when both the Nova
Scotia Supreme Court and the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal denied her
request to protect her identity. UNICEF Canada intervened in the case
to assert that A.B.'s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child were not taken into account by the lower courts.
In its unanimous decision the Supreme Court recognized the particular
vulnerabilities and rights of children, "Since common sense and the
evidence show that young victims of sexualized bullying are
particularly vulnerable to the harms of revictimization upon
publication, and since the right to protection will disappear for most
children without the further protection of anonymity, the girl's
anonymous legal pursuit of the identity of her cyberbully should be
"Today's decision underscores the shared commitment of government, the
courts and other responsibility-holders to protect the best interests
and rights of children who are pursuing justice when they are
victimized, in this case involving cyberbullying or harassment," said
Marv Bernstein, UNICEF Canada's Chief Advocacy Advisor. "By recognizing
their legal rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,
the courts are fulfilling their role in protecting the most vulnerable
population in line with Canada's legal human rights obligations."
Canada is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which grants children the right to special protection in court
processes in recognition of their vulnerability. UNICEF argued that the
'open court' principle must be balanced with consideration of
children's rights and the child's best interests. In cases of
cyberbullying or harassment, disclosing the child's identity and
harmful online content can re-victimize children and subject them to
physical or emotional distress. The Supreme Court agreed with this
argument, "The critical importance of the open court principle and a
free press has been tenaciously embedded in the jurisprudence. In this
case, however, there are interests that are sufficiently compelling to
justify restricting such access: privacy and the protection of children
"UNICEF Canada intervened in this case to ensure that the harm to
children from online bullying, abuse or harassment is recognized as
having severe and long-lasting impacts, rather than simply as a mild
embarrassment," said Mr. Bernstein. "The invasion of privacy and
reputational damage compounds the harms already experienced by young
victims, which in the case of bullying can include depression, a sense
of fear and despair and disrupted home and school lives, sometimes
resulting in self-destructive and even suicidal actions. There is a
role for the courts and everyone in society to recognize these serious
risks and to mitigate them, rather than to exacerbate them."
The invasion of privacy can also have other negative repercussions, such
as deterring children wishing to pursue legal action. Limiting a
child's ability to seek justice is a violation of his or her rights.
Canada is one of the most connected countries in the world, with 94% of
young people stating they have access to the internet at home. Of
Canadian children and young people who say they have been bullied, 27%
say they were bullied over the internet. The Courts need to continue to
adapt to the changing digital environment to protect children. Children
also need a National Children's Commissioner to advocate for their
rights and well-being at a national level.
"Today's Supreme Court decision is an important step in protecting
children from cyberbullying. It ensures that they can feel safe to
seek justice without fear of revictimization," said Mr. Bernstein.
"While curbing cyberbullying requires that children be taught the
skills needed to ensure their safety online and to understand the
significant and long term impact that cyberbullying can have on their
peers, this decision is critical to bringing justice for those children
who are victims of this type of harassment."
For background information on cyberbullying and to read UNICEF's report Child Safety Online: global challenges and strategies, connect to www.unicef.ca/onlinesafety.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian
organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families,
doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children
with healthcare and immunization, clean water, and food security,
education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children
regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are
active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our
determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too
far to go to help a child survive.
For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.
SOURCE: UNICEF Canada
For further information:
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:
UNICEF Canada (Office)
416 482-4444 ext. 8890 (Cell) 416 434-2877