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Social Issues
Vigils Being Held To Honour The Memory Of Rehtaeh Parsons
April 11, 2013
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A vigil was held tonight in Halifax to honour the memory of Rehtaeh Parsons, who died in hospital Sunday after she tried to commit suicide.

She was taken off life-support, three days after she tried to take her own life. She was 17.

As you probably know, Rehtaeh's mother Leah Parsons says her daughter was raped by four boys when she was 15.

Then, she was bullied and harassed for months after a photo of the alleged attack was circulated online. No one has been charged.

On the Facebook page for tonight's vigil, it says Rehtaeh's family wants the event "to focus not on anger but on healing and hope."

It says the family has asked people to "gather in the hope of supporting, respecting and loving each other in the spirit of Rehtaeh," and to stand together against violence and bullying.

This evening, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is "sickened" by the alleged events that led to Rehtaeh's death.

"Obviously our hearts here go out to the family. I think everybody who has heard this story, seen this story, were shocked, were saddened. I can just tell you, you know Laureen and I, as a parent of a teenaged daughter, you're just sickened seeing a story like this," Harper told reporters at an event in Calgary.

"I think we've got to stop using just the term bullying to describe some of these things. Bullying to me has a kind of connotation ... of kids misbehaving," the Prime Minister said.

"What we are dealing with in some of these circumstances is simply criminal activity. It is youth criminal activity, it is violent criminal activity, it is sexual criminal activity and it is often internet criminal activity."

vigils-being-held-to-honour-the-memory-of-Rehtaeh-Parsons-feature3.jpg Another vigil is planned for tomorrow night in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

It's being organized by Gay MacKay, whose daughter goes to Cole Harbour High - the same school Rehtaeh went to.

MacKay told CBC News her daughter "doesn't want to go to school anymore. She knows who these people are who pushed her to die."

"I just want her mother to see that there are people who may not know her directly, but there are people that love her and support her mother. I want to show that support because I'm sorry, 17 years old and she's not coming back," MacKay said.

Rehtaeh's father Glen Canning wrote about his daughter in a blog on his website, saying he tried his best to save his daughter's life.


"I asked her repeatedly what I could do, was I doing enough, what did she want from me?," Canning wrote. "She said she just wanted me to be her dad.

"I don't want her life to be defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it."

"She died struggling to live, much as she spent the last 18 months," he wrote. "We went to counselling together. Sometimes I was the driver, sometimes the father, sometimes the counsellor."

Canning also made special note of donating Rehtaeh's organs. "I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting."

"She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful."

Canning also raised questions about how the case has been handled.

"How is it possible for someone to leave a digital trail like that, yet the RCMP don't have evidence of a crime? What were they looking for if photos and bragging weren't enough?," he wrote.

vigils-being-held-to-honour-the-memory-of-Rehtaeh-Parsons-feature4.jpg He said Rehtaeh was let down by people she thought she could trust, including teachers and police.

"My daughter wasn't bullied to death, she was disappointed to death," Canning wrote. "For the love of god do something."

Canning said his blog is the only statement he'll make because he's too devastated, writing "I feel like I'm dead inside."

Rehtaeh's funeral will be held in Halifax on Saturday.

Her death has angered many people in the community and across the country. It has been covered by media around the world and sparked widespread calls for justice.

In fact, yesterday, the words 'Nova Scotia' and a hashtag #opJustice4Rehtaeh were both trending on Twitter worldwide.

That anger has prompted the RCMP to warn people not to take matters into their own hands. They've also asked anyone with information about the case to come forward.

Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh's mother, has also asked for people to stay calm.

"I want the justice system to go after those boys for sending those pictures, she was 15 years old," Parsons said. "I don't want people to go after those boys. People are threatening to do that."

"I think they need to be accountable for what that they did," she said. "I don't want them to be physically harmed."

"I don't want more bullying. Rehtaeh wouldn't want more bullying. I don't think that's justice."


There is an online petition calling for an inquiry into the police investigation. As of this writing, it has more than 95,000 signatures.

The petition, which was started by a friend of Rehtaeh's family, reads in part:

"Everyone knows about the photos. Everyone knows she was 15 when those photos were taken. Everyone saw her being bullied and shamed at school. How can police say they didn't have the evidence they needed to pursue charges? Do we not have laws that cover this kind of abuse, from photo-sharing to cyberbullying?"

Police conducted a year long investigation after Rehtaeh's family reported the alleged rape, but no one has been charged.

Crown prosecutors in Nova Scotia say they've reviewed all the files they gave to police last October and there's not enough evidence to lay charges.

They say there isn't a reasonable chance of conviction on either sexual assault or child pornography charges.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says four government departments are looking into Rehtaeh's death, promising a timely and thorough response.

vigils-being-held-to-honour-the-memory-of-Rehtaeh-Parsons-feature7.jpg "I will do everything in my power to create a community that is equipped to prevent these situations, rather than a community that struggles to find a way to deal with them," said Dexter.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said he's given his department the go-ahead to review the case, and present him with options by the end of the week.

Landry also said he's considering new laws regarding sexual assault allegations and distribution of child pornography.

The hacker group Anonymous has said it would avenge the death of Parsons, saying it has identified four boys connected to the case.

"What we have learned is certainly appalling, but it wasn't the act of rape that shocked us. It was the behavior of the adults in Rehtaeh's life that we found most disturbing," Anonymous wrote in a statement this morning entitled 'Operation Justice For Rehtaeh'.

"At this time we can honestly say we're confident we know the identities of the people involved in Rehtaeh's rape. It would probably take us a lot longer to come up with a list of the people responsible for her death," the group said.

vigils-being-held-to-honour-the-memory-of-Rehtaeh-Parsons-feature8.jpg "We're talking about the school teachers, administrators, the police and prosecutors, those who should have been role models in the late Rehtaeh's life," read the statement.

"We point our fingers at the Cole Harbour school system. It is truly disturbing that this level of bullying could happen in one of your schools without you noticing.

"We do not approve of vigilante justice as the media claims," the statement said.

"That would mean we approve of violent actions against these rapists at the hands of an unruly mob. What we want is justice. And [t]hat's your job. So do it" - meaning the RCMP.

Anonymous also suggests that Landry's decision to look into the case is "purely an act of public relations damage-control."

The group is calling for people to hold a peaceful protest outside police headquarters in Halifax on Sunday to demand justice.

Anonymous has also said it plans to release the names of the alleged rapists if police and prosecutors don't take action.

But based on a tweet this afternoon, it seems the group will hold off on that for now.

Meantime, CBS News is reporting Anonymous has communicated with more than one of the boys allegedly involved in the attack.

CBS says it has an email from a spokesperson for Anonymous that says, "Some of us have had contact with the boys in question. And yeah, they're still not denying anything,"

"One of them post (sic) on Facebook a day ago that yes, she was drunk and throwing up when he had sex with her, but she wanted him to."

The RCMP says there is a lot of misinformation on both traditional and social media.

Last year, Anonymous followed a trail of email accounts and login names to find a man who allegedly bullied and harassed 15-year-old B.C. teen Amanda Todd.


Todd committed suicide last fall after being blackmailed for nude photos and bullied online and at school for more than a year. Before she died, Amanda posted a video describing how she was tormented and struggling with depression.

Her mother Carol Todd sent a letter to Rehtaeh's mother.

"I wrote to her that in my deepest of hearts that I am so sorry for what her and her family are going through, that I for one truly understand what she is going through and that I give her as much strength as I have," Todd said.

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