A funeral is being held in Halifax today for Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide after allegedly being sexually assaulted by four boys in 2011.
A photograph of the alleged incident was later shared on the internet.
Karen Smith, the executive director of Edmonton’s Sexual Assault Centre, said she was pleased to hear Harper speak out about Rehtaeh’s death.
In his statement on Thursday, Harper said that the alleged events leading to Rehtaeh’s suicide went well beyond bullying.
"He said it was violence — [and] I totally agree with the prime minister on that," said Smith on Friday.
Smith is hopeful that Harper's comments will draw additional public attention to youth sexual assault, which she calls a systemic problem.
"We so need to have all of our systems open up and listen to what’s happening to our kids and how can we protect them," she said. "How can we make those who are committing a crime — a violent crime — how can we hold them accountable for this? Because right now it looks like they could just slip away."
"I’m hoping that we as a country... will say this is not right. We’ve got to do something and we’ve got to do it now before we lose any other kids."
Police in Nova Scotia have re-opened Parsons’ case but have not yet laid charges.