In an effort to stop cyberbullying, the federal government is offering $390,000 to the provinces and territories for projects that help tackle the issue.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay made the announcement in Charlottetown Friday where he said there is a need to involve the education system and the entire community to bring about an understanding of what it means to share material online.
That’s what the funding would be for, he said.
“Pro-active projects that go into the schools, that go into the community, that are really aimed at bringing about greater understanding and greater responsibility of the use of technology,” the minister said.
The public’s attention was drawn to the cyberbullying issue this year after Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons tried to commit suicide because of what her family says was months of bullying. Parsons died in April after she was taken off life support.
Her family says pictures of Parsons allegedly being sexually assaulted were circulated around her school and that drove her to try to take her own life.
Two teens are facing child pornography charges in connection with the case.
The funding announced Friday at the Charlottetown Police Services headquarters amounts to $30,000 per province or territory.
MacKay said the government also plans to bring in legislation in the fall to deal with the non-consensual sharing of intimate pictures.
Even with those measures coming, MacKay said the government also wants to give young people more information so they can make better choices and hopefully deter the behaviour that led to Parsons’s death.
“It’s just not about criminalizing the behaviour. It’s about preventing it.”
Charlottetown police Chief Paul Smith said cyberbullying is a problem in P.E.I. and it is an easy thing to do because of the anonymity that comes with the Internet.
“You’re in the unknown basically,” he said.
City police have several initiative in place that help tackle the issue of cyberbullying, including a youth outreach worker and police officers in Charlottetown’s high schools.
Smith said the police will look at the government’s funding criteria and see if there is anything they can expand on.
“We’ll see if what we have and what we’re looking at and what we’re planning for will be a good fit,” he said.