Saskatchewan has introduced legislation that gives new legal options for people who have had intimate images shared and distributed without their consent — usually online.
It’s being dubbed the “Revenge Porn” Bill and was introduced Tuesday afternoon by Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan.
The intent is to send a strong message to those who may use intimate pictures as a way to exact revenge. Minister Morgan says the Government of Saskatchewan stands with the victims.
“With the rise of the use of social media, there is more of this,” Morgan said, “And sadly it affects very young people. So this Bill gives people a direct tool to take immediate action against them.”
Morgan says it also allows the victim to sue going through Small Claims Court, or in the Court of Queen’s Bench. So the person does not necessarily have to hire a lawyer.
“Saskatchewan is the only province that has the Reverse Onus,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that it will have a deterrent effect, so that there will be less of this type of abuse taking place.”
Reverse Onus requires the person — who circulated the image — to provide reasonable proof there was indeed consent.
Morgan says finding intimate images of oneself online can ruin lives.
“And when an image is involved,” said Morgan. “What do they tell their parents? What do they tell their other classmates? You know, they’ve been bullied or harassed into posting the image or given the image in the first place. And I think it puts that person in a terrible situation.”
Shannon Lea is the founder of the No Touchy Campaign in Saskatchewan.
She says when the government gets involved on this level, it shows just how big of a problem illegal distribution of intimate images has become.
“It’s really scary to think that at any moment, even if you’re with someone who you know and trust, they could do something like that and distribute it,” Lea said. “Or if you break up with someone and they may distribute pictures without your consent.”
The No Touchy Campaign’s aim is to raise public awareness of the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in Canada and Lea says a Bill like this is long overdue.
“I think when the government gets involved on this level, it shows just how big of a problem this is,” Lea said. “And it’s not just with adults either. To be able to do something about it, instead of just sit back and continue to be victimized.”
Similar legislation was passed in Manitoba in 2015 and Alberta in 2017, to permit a person whose intimate image was distributed without consent to sue the person who distributed the image for damages.
Nova Scotia recently introduced new legislation in October 2017.