REGINA — People who have had intimate images shared without their permission will be able to sue for compensation in Saskatchewan.
The provincial government said Wednesday that it plans to change its Privacy Act so that those victims can seek redress through small claims court.
“We want to have some protection for people whose intimate images have been used for revenge porn or sexting without the consent of the person who was in those images,” said Justice Minister Don Morgan.
The government said it has proven difficult to rely on the Criminal Code to deter cyberbullying through unauthorized sharing of intimate images because the burden of proof is so high.
Morgan said the legislative changes will define what an intimate image is and include a prohibition on circulating the image without consent. The amendments will also put a reverse onus on the defendant to prove that they had consent from the person in the picture to release the images, he said.
Victims would not have to wait for charges to be laid, he said.
“It’s not a criminal proceeding, it’s a civil proceeding, so they do not have to wait for a criminal conviction,” Morgan explained.
“This is a remedy that’s made available to the victim. The Crown may well pursue a criminal charge, so you could have one, the other or both.”
The measure was in the throne speech delivered Wednesday which details the government’s plan for the new session of the legislature.
The outline includes new organ donation measures whereby all deaths or imminent deaths in hospital critical-care units are referred to an organ donation group.
The government also plans to introduce legislation so that Saskatchewan Government Insurance can offer coverage to ride-hailing companies such as Uber. Premier Brad Wall said he wants to encourage municipalities to allow ride-booking services to reduce impaired driving.
“I do think we just need more options for Saskatchewan people. Obviously almost every major North America city is comfortable with respect to the safety that’s provided by the various ride-sharing platforms,” Wall said.
Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of impaired driving in Canada. Statistics Canada says there were 683 police-reported impaired driving cases per 100,000 population in Saskatchewan in 2011. The Canadian average was 262.
Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said he thinks ride hailing services might help lower drunk driving rates, especially in rural communities where there may not be taxi service for people to use after going to the local bar.
“I think actually it would. I think it’s an interesting concept. We’d sure like to look at it,” said Orb.
The government also plans to introduce legislation so that non-Catholic parents can continue to send their children to separate schools by invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian charter.
A court ruling in April found that public funding of non-Catholic students in the Catholic school system is unconstitutional.
It prompted concern from parents that their children might have to switch schools and be educated in different communities in rural Saskatchewan. Wall said at the time that there could be greatly overpopulated public schools and empty or near-empty separate schools.
The province is appealing the decision, but Wall said the government will move sooner.
“We are indicating pretty clearly that in a proactive way we’re going to protect school choice in the province notwithstanding what happens through the court process,” he said.
Interim NDP Leader Nicole Sarauer said it could take years for the appeal to be heard and, potentially, a Supreme Court challenge.
Sarauer questioned why the government was rushing the legislation.
“We need to let that process first work its way through first, before we consider using the notwithstanding clause,” she said.
The government is also backtracking on a tax cut that was made in July. It says it will raise the corporate tax rate back to 12 per cent from 11.5 per cent.
The tax was lowered so that Saskatchewan’s rate matched other western provinces, but Wall has said that’s no longer necessary because British Columbia has increased its corporate rate.
Legislation that allows up to 49 per cent of a Crown corporation to be sold without it being considered privatization will also be repealed.
The throne speech was the last for Wall, who is retiring when his successor is chosen in January.
Sarauer suggested that’s why the government is making some of the changes outlined in the speech.
“This is clearly a throne speech that’s more about serving the premier’s legacy and protecting the premier’s legacy than it is about serving Saskatchewan people,” she said.
Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press