The formal legal definition of harassment is listed in Section 264 of Criminal Code of Canada. The basic definition of criminal harassment is threatening the safety of another either directly or indirectly and/or causing fear in the complainant. No matter your intentions, the complainant only needs to have the perception of fear or being harassed in order to file charges against you. To be charged with harassment, it is not a requirement for you to have knowledge your behaviour and/or conduct is being perceived as harassing by the complainant.
There are many different variations of criminal harassment and include stalking and uttering threats. Stalking has become more prevalent in today’s society due to the amount of personal information people share on social media sites and the ease of being able to obtain it. It is easy for someone to learn your likes, dislikes, where you work, socialize, and live all through social media sites. Stalking is not gender specific and it is not unheard of for males to have female stalkers or people to have same-sexed stalkers.
Stalking does not have to involve one person physically following around another person or watching them from a distance from outside their home or place of employment. Stalking could be as simple as monitoring their Facebook page or latest Twitter post and replying to these over the Internet. In addition, if you text, call, or email another person persistently to the point where they feel they are being harassed, it can be viewed as a form of stalking.
In regards to the complainant’s safety, it can involve psychological factors where the person’s freedom from anticipated or actual harm is preventing them from leaving their home, causing them to change their normal routine, or interfering with their state of mind. The Court carefully evaluates the complainant’s mental faculties to determine whether there are any psychological factors involved in harassment cases. In situations where the claim seems far-fetched or unreasonable, the Court makes a determination based upon how another reasonable person facing similar circumstances would behave and react.
Harassment by Uttering Threats
While uttering threats is viewed as a form of harassment, the exact criminal offence is defined under assaults in the Criminal Code of Canada. Threatening another does not need to be face-to-face and can be over the phone, email, text message, Facebook, or other such means. Further, the threat does not need to be made directly to the other person, nor do you have to carry out the threat to be charged. Indirect threats could still result in criminal charges being brought against you when made to a third party. Threats are not limited to the personal safety and well-being of the complainant either. If you threaten to destroy their property or harm an animal in their care, like their cat, you can be charged with uttering threats.