Legal definitions for bullying, cyberbullying ensures consistency

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HALIFAX – Students, parents and schools know what bullying and cyberbullying look like, but defining them in law will help ensure these serious issues are addressed consistently across the province.

The province has put new regulations in effect to adopt the common definitions for bullying and cyberbullying proposed by the Nova Scotia Task Force.

"Bullying behaviour has grown from students teasing each other on the playground to targeting someone with an unrelenting stream of intimidating messages and actions through cyberbullying," Education Minister Ramona Jennex said in a news release on Friday. "By adopting common definitions for bullying and cyberbullying, we are ensuring all those involved in anti-bullying work have the same understanding."

Common definitions make it easier to ensure consistency in reporting of bullying or cyberbullying across the province. Consistent reporting will provide better data to help determine appropriate responses and program needs.

These new regulations support the province's commitment to address the serious issue of bullying and cyberbullying with students, families, schools and communities as part of Kids and Learning First, the province's plan to help every child succeed.

The legislative framework to support this change was put in place in spring 2012. The province has adopted the task force's definitions with only minor changes to fit regulatory and legal standards.

The new definitions are:

-- Bullying: Bullying means behaviour, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way.

-- Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying means bullying by electronic means that occurs through the use of technology, including computers or other electronic devices, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites or e-mail.

These definitions are comprehensive and provide the appropriate background needed to help determine if a severely disruptive behaviour is bullying or cyberbullying.

The new definition for bullying also includes the role of bystanders. Nova Scotia is the first Canadian jurisdiction to include bystanders, who encourage or in any way assist in the bullying behaviour.

"It is important to anchor the changes in response to bullying and cyberbullying in the law, and these regulations have the full force of law," said Wayne MacKay, chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. "The task force recommended a consistent definition of cyberbullying and bullying that must be followed by all within the education system. I am pleased that the definitions adopted are the ones proposed by the task force report."

The province continues to work on several fronts to address bullying and cyberbullying, taking a measured, comprehensive approach to deal with these complex issues. This includes hiring an anti-bullying coordinator, introducing legislative changes, launching a public awareness campaign and developing a provincial action plan which will be released shortly.

For the full regulations, visit .

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Annette
    February 18, 2014 - 08:10

    I have been and continue to be the target of bullying after entering a professional relationship that has no policies, systems, or controls in place for cash handling, and asset management. The cashier that is working for the organization is friends with5 of the board members, yet, her cash never balances. I gave up even addressing the issues because somehow it would get turned around to be my fault that it all happened. I have been threatened by the previous vice-chair, and a member recorded the next vice-chair stating that he wanted to put oxycontin in my coffee because I was trying to implement policies. This man also told the cashier during the same conversation to make sure her cash was over. It appears that there is no accountability and anything I try to do to ensure it is met with threats, intimidation, abuse, and manipulation. Not only am I prepared to take a stand against bullying, but, I am ready to take a stand against these not-for-profit organizations who are using the hard-earned tax dollars of Nova Scotia for personal gain.

  • Colin
    February 19, 2013 - 02:46

    Bullying is everywhere. But what is discerning is the fact that it exists in many not-for-profit organizations even though those organization's mission might include the health and well-being of community. Tighter controls and greater consequences are required throughout the province, and, just as importantly, in the workplace. In the workplace not only is an individual's personal reputation at risk, but, professional as well. Stop and remember that there is nothing innocent about bullying- and the damage can be life-long.

  • Brandin Arsenault, OUB
    February 08, 2013 - 20:48

    I am very happy that there has finally been exact definitions established in the Province of Nova Scotia. However, I am extremely unhappy with the fact that Cyberbullying is the new focus. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people who are doing whatever they can to bring attention to the problem we are facing in our schools and society today, but there seems to be much more then neccesary attention on the cyberbullying aspect, forgetting the fact that bullying happens everyday, on a day to day basis, physically, verbally, emotionally and also by social alientating some individuals. Not only is it happening in our schools though, it is happening in the workplace for a lot of individuals, whether by fellow co-workers or students they masy be working with within or outside of the schools. We have all of these things such as the Cyberbullying Task Force, the CTF Report, working on Cyberbullying Laws, there is things in the works of having individuals internet disconnected if they are cyberbullying, the Unlike Cyberbullying Campaign and plenty more. Heck, we have 75 odd some "solutions" to "cyberbullying". But stop for a minute, and think. How many things, based from our Government, are about this bullying issue: face-to-face. None. Or if there is one or two, I don't know about them. The OUB team and myself are doing the best we can to educate and help youth and adults across the province, and the questions we get always seem to come back to Cyberbullying, such as "Do you support this?" or "Do you support that?". All of these projects are focused on the cyberbullying issue, which yes, is a big problem, but, physical, verbal, emotional and every other face-to-face bullying is a very large problem to, that is being ignored and is having nothing done about it. Brandin Arsenault Founding President Operation Unfriend Bullying

  • PJ
    February 08, 2013 - 15:03

    I agree with having definitions for all these items. What I find amazing is we (the tax payer) pays so much to the legal and government teams to regurgitate information that has already been spelt out in law many times across Canada and the rest of the world. By Nova Scotia spelling out their own set of laws we again put more money into the lawyers pockets for no real reason. I loved the comment that there has been information on by-standers added - as this is only true in Nova Scotia, it becomes a point of law that can be challenged and it will cost the tax payer many more dollars should this ever be applied. Why do we not minimize the costs to the tax payer? These invisible people pay massively year after year for service they either do not need, or that could easily be provided at a significantly reduced cost. The best example I heard was in Truro where the local authority was arguing with the provincial authority, both parties represented by lawyers, all lawyers being paid heavily for their part. At no point did either party see they were not doing their jobs correctly and burning up the tax payers money to settle something they were paid to resolve in the first place! You got me on my soapbox. Fundamentally I agree we need laws, but we also need to apply common sense. The best thing Nova Scotia could do is move to a system that applies more common sense e.g. if the RCMP seize a murder weapon but do not have the correct paperwork the item is inadmissible in court- WHY? You admit the evidence, uncover the truth and seek justice. If the paperwork was not correct you can discipline the officer but by no stretch of the imaginations should it not be allowed as evidence.

    • Joanna
      February 11, 2013 - 20:05

      Laws have to be revisited and changed to keep them current. As society changes, so should the laws. I personally don't see that as being a "waste" of my tax dollars. I will not, however, argue the fact that more common sense is required. . .everywhere.

  • Me
    February 08, 2013 - 13:46

    Frankly I'm tired of this whole "cyberbullying" thing being over-hyped when nothing is being done about real-life bullying. When I was in school, just a few years ago? Used to get shoved up against walls and such. "Oh, ignore it." Or that they couldn't do anything when it was done outside school property and now suddenly they can by means of it being online. Why don't they say the same thing when it's done online? There's plenty of privacy options on pretty much any online service. Why is bullying suddenly such a huge deal when it's transmitted via electronic means? Frankly I'm sick of the anti-cyberbullying hypocrites.