The mother of Nadia Kajouji, an 18-year-old student at Carleton University in Ottawa who killed herself after being coaxed to do so in an internet chat room, was on Parliament Hill yesterday calling on MPs to vote for a motion that clarifies that it is a criminal offense to encourage people online to kill themselves.

Kajouji, a seriously depressed young woman from Brampton, Ontario, jumped into the freezing Rideau River in early March 2008. It was later revealed that she had been in conversation in an internet chat group with William Melchert-Dinkel, a 46-year-old health care worker from Minnesota who had been posing as a teenage girl. The man had allegedly urged Kajouji to hang herself in front of a webcam so others could watch and promised he would die with her.

Standing beside a picture of her deceased daughter, Deborah Chevalier told a news conference, "The fact is our existing laws already make this a crime, but the sad reality is that as long as there are predators who believe the Internet is some kind of exclusive sanctuary and as long as there are police officers who believe, for some unwritten reason, that the Internet is not governed by our existing laws, this clarification is very much needed."

Kajouji’s brother Marc told media that his sister’s suicide could have been prevented, and believed that the internet conversations were the decisive factor in her death. “It just shows you the kind of world that's out there on the internet. That conversation wouldn't have taken place in person,” he said.

Chevalier was in Ottawa in support of Conservative MP Harold Albrecht's private member’s motion that would make it a criminal offense to use the internet to counsel a person to commit suicide.

Bill M-388, tabled in the House of Commons on May 26th by Albrecht, proposes that the government should ensure that counseling, aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide is a Criminal Code offence “regardless of the means used to counsel or aid or abet including via telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system.”

Albrecht told the news conference on Monday that he hopes MPs from all parties will vote in favor. The legislation is scheduled for debate in the House of Commons in September.

"While the Internet is deemed as a haven for free speech, it is important to protect individuals like Nadia from committing suicide at the encouragement of a predator," said Albrecht, Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga.

"Stories like this make it necessary to clarify our laws in order to remove any doubt surrounding the issue of counseling to commit suicide."

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told that the RCMP should consider extraditing William Melchert-Dinkel, the Minnesota nurse who allegedly counseled Nadia Kajouji to commit suicide.

"Canadian law (Section 241) states that it is a crime to Aid, Abet and Counsel suicide, whether suicide occurs or not. In this case Kajouji was counseled via the internet to commit suicide and there appears to be enough evidence to charge Melchert-Dinkel," Schadenberg said.

"Due to the severity of the crime and the need to punish internet suicide predators, it would be reasonable for the RCMP to ask for Melchert-Dinkel to be extradited to face trial in Canada based on the suicide death of Nadia Kajouji."

A mitigating factor in the case for extradition is that Melchert-Dinkel has admitted to US police that he coaxed at least five different people to commit suicide using the internet.

“Suicide predators take advantage of chat-rooms or internet sites to encourage suicide. The twisted thinking of a suicide predator can only be stopped by the law ensuring that suicide predators can be convicted of assisted suicide,” Schadenberg concluded. "Internet Suicide Predators can only be stopped by convicting them for their crime."

Contact: Thaddeus M. Baklinski
Publish Date: June 16, 2009
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