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New N.S. cyberbullying law won’t be ready until next year: minister

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A landmark cyberbullying law that was ruled unconstitutional and struck down nearly 10 months ago won't be replaced until at least next spring, says Nova Scotia's justice minister.

Diana Whalen said Thursday that provincial government officials are still consulting with experts and want to ensure the new law can withstand a court challenge.

Whalen said it's important to take the time to do it right, noting the original law was passed in only three weeks with all-party support.

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"What we want to make sure is that we don't bring something in, in great haste that is going to be challenged again," said Whalen. "I'm not committing to a timeline, but we couldn't do it by this fall – it wouldn't be before the spring at the earliest."

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia struck down the CyberSafety Act last December, saying it infringed on charter rights involving freedom of expression.

The law was passed in May 2013 in response to a public outcry over the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, who attempted suicide and was taken off life support.

The teen's family alleged she had been sexually assaulted in November 2011 and was repeatedly bullied online after a digital photo of the alleged assault was shared among students at school.

Whalen said getting new legislation that works is a priority, especially in light of a recent online revenge porn incident involving some women in Pictou County.

"I also had the choice to not replace it and just go with some federal acts that have come into place in the meantime," she said. "But I believe we should take action, that there should be stronger protections. It's just how do we balance that against the right to freedom of speech."

Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay is one of the experts the province has consulted. The former chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying has spoken about the urgency of getting a new law in place.

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"It's important to do it well, however there's also in my view a pressing need for that kind of act to be used," MacKay said in an interview.

"It does seem to me there's been a fair amount of passage of time and I guess what I would really urge is that this be seen as fairly high priority legislation."

16:46ET 22-09-16

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