New “Revenge Porn” Law in B.C.

Maggie House- New “Revenge Porn” Law in BC, Published March 16, 2024

BC has a new law to address non-consensual distribution of intimate images: the Intimate Images Protection Act.  It is seemingly robust and inspires optimism that victims in B.C. may now have accessible and immediate recourse under the new law.

B.C.’s new Intimate Images Protection Act (“IIPA”) came into force in January 2024. This law concerns the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (“NCDII”), colloquially known as “revenge porn”. NCDII refers to instances of posting, distributing and otherwise sharing intimate images – photos, videos, deep-fakes, live streams – of someone else without their consent.

This issue does, unfortunately, come up in my family practice – threatening or following through with threats to post or distribute intimate images of an ex-partner is unfortunately common. 

Sharing nude photos of someone without their consent is a criminal offence (Criminal Code of Canada, section 162.1(1)). However, police agencies are generally spotty in their application of the law.  They may or may not be willing to assist you. 

Historically when this issue has come in my family practice the avenue to immediate redress has been to apply under the Family Law Act (“FLA”) for a Protection Order and/or Conduct Order.  Under the FLA, a judge may order a Protection Order be put in place against a family member if “family violence is likely to occur” (FLA s 183(2)). The term “family violence” is broad and encompassing, defined at FLA s 1: 

“family violence” includes, with or without an intent to harm a family member,

(a)physical abuse of a family member, including forced confinement or deprivation of the necessities of life, but not including the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or others from harm,

(b)sexual abuse of a family member,

(c)attempts to physically or sexually abuse a family member,

(d)psychological or emotional abuse of a family member, including

  • (i)intimidation, harassment, coercion or threats, including threats respecting other persons, pets or property,
  • (ii)unreasonable restrictions on, or prevention of, a family member’s financial or personal autonomy,
  • (iii)stalking or following of the family member, and
  • (iv)intentional damage to property, and

(e)in the case of a child, direct or indirect exposure to family violence;

The current trend in the Courtroom is for judges to be exceedingly and prohibitively conservative when it comes to assessing family violence and making orders respecting Protection Orders. So even though it is pretty clear to me that actually or threatening to publicly sexually humiliate an ex-partner constitutes family violence, it is not a guarantee that a family court judge will agree.  

On the other hand, the new IIPA appears to introduce a user-friendly means of efficiently addressing NCDII that provides clear and explicit avenues of redress. 

Under the IIPA (s1), an image or video is “intimate” if it shows you: 

  • Nude or nearly nude; 
  • Engaging in a sexual act or
  • Shows your genitals, anus, or breasts

A person can make a claim under the IIPA if their intimate images have been shared, and even on the mere threat of their images being shared (IIPA s 3). You do not have to prove damages for NCDII to be actionable and, importantly, consent is revocable (IIPA s 4).    

Claims under the IIPA are governed by the Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”), which provides a much more accessible process for laypersons compared to court.  The CRT processes claims and makes the orders they deem appropriate in the circumstances which (per IIPA s 5) may include protection orders for: 

  • the immediate removal of the image
  • destroying or deleting all copies of the images;
  • ensuring the images are unavailable to others;
  • removing the images from all electronic forms; and
  • de-indexing the images from any search engine.  

The CRT also has the authority to order damage awards including compensatory, aggravated and punitive damages up to $5000 against the distributor of the intimate images (IIPA s 6). 

The CTT also has the authority to administer administrative penalties for failure to comply with orders. In the case of the individual who distributed the images, $500 per day and up to $10,000 total maximum, and in the case of an internet intermediary, or other person or organization, $5000 per day up to a maximum of $100,000 (Intimate Images Protection Regulation s 9). 

Overall, the new law appears to provide a robust mechanism of addressing the growing problem of NCDII in a clear, straightforward manner that is accessible to the average person.  In family law, the new process will provide immediate relief to persons victimized by their ex-partners, instead of having to try to convince (often unwilling) police and family court judges to take NCDII seriously.  

Disclaimer – By contacting Portside Law Corporation through email, phone or direct message does not establish an attorney-client relationship. An attorney-client relationship is formed once both parties agree in writing to such a relationship. The information found in this document is of general nature and is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact our office to speak further about any particular legal question you may have.