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Bullying and the Law

Bullying and the Law

This month mindyourmind is taking a deep dive into bullying: what it is, how to prevent it, etc. But what does the Canadian Criminal Code have to say? Well, as it turns out, a lot. Allow me to save you some time and break it down for you here, so you understand what isn’t OK according to the Canadian government and what your rights are.

First off, what is bullying? According to the RCMP website, from which much of this information is sourced, bullying breaks down into three main categories: Physical (hitting, spitting, breaking stuff, etc.), Verbal (insults, teasing, threats, etc.) and Social (forcibly excluding someone, spreading nasty rumours about them, etc.), plus the newer category of Cyber-bullying, which sits in a class of its own, because of its unique ability to invade the bullied individuals’ personal life in ways that other forms of bullying don’t.

Not all forms of bullying are illegal and some (like social bullying) can be hard to prove. It’s also important to note that the Candian Criminal Code never refers to bullying directly by name. However, some forms of bullying are considered criminal offenses for which charges can be laid, with sentences ranging from school suspension to jail time. These include: 

Criminal Harassment - This refers to repeated threats in the form of calls, texts, messages or verbal threats which cause one to fear for their safety. If someone is threatening you to the point where it’s causing anxiety/panic attacks, and nothing else gets them to stop, it might be time to seek legal action for your own peace of mind.

Child Pornography - If you’re under 18 and someone is sharing nude or intimate photos or videos of you on the internet, it’s not just an invasion of your privacy, it’s child pornography and it’s against the law.

Extortion - If someone threatens to share your information or compromising photos/videos in exchange for doing whatever they ask, this is called extortion. It’s essentially blackmail. If someone tries to do this to you, notify an adult you trust immediately and consider contacting the police if the extortion persists.

Assault - This one is pretty self-explanatory, but often goes unreported. Threats of violence or violent acts of non-consensual force like pushing, hitting or destruction of personal property are forms of assault and they are illegal.

Identity theft/fraud - Another form of cyber-bullying involves creating fake profiles in order to ruin someone’s reputation. This is a form of identity theft for which you could seek criminal charges.

Defamation/Libel - If someone is spreading false information in order to ruin your reputation, either verbally or over social media, this is considered a form of defamation. 

Theft - If a bully uses their power imbalance as a method to take something that belongs to you, such as a phone, laptop, books etc., this is theft and like all theft, it is a criminal offense.

So, what can you do if you’re experiencing one or more of these things or another form of bullying not on this list? The first thing to do is always tell a trusted adult, school administrator or work supervisor. You can use this form to report the bullying and determine if a criminal investigation is warranted. However, if you feel like your life or well-being are in immediate danger due to bullying, you should call 911 and report it immediately. If you’re not sure who to talk to, Kids Help Phone is always a good place to start. In the case of cyber-bullying, it’s usually best not to respond, but it’s important not to delete harmful posts/messages either, as they could be used as evidence in a criminal case.

If you witness bullying or know someone who is being bullied, talk to the bully and tell them to stop if you feel safe doing so. If not, find a trusted adult in charge who can help put a stop to it. If you engage in bullying, stop and think about the repercussions of your actions. Not only are you hurting another human being, you could be charged with a criminal offense and even sent to jail. Think about your actions and consider making positive changes to the way you treat others. Finally, If you’re experiencing bullying, it’s important to know your rights and how to respond appropriately. Bullying is never OK and you don’t have to just take it. Keep checking back on all month for more helpful articles about bullying prevention.

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