Nova Scotia

Rehtaeh Parsons's mom says Const. Heidi Stevenson helped her cope with daughter's death

Const. Heidi Stevenson, one the victims of Nova Scotia's mass shooting, helped Leah Parsons cope with the death of her daughter Rehtaeh, 17, following a suicide attempt in April 2013.

'I'm just one little person whose life she touched. I'm sure there's hundreds'

Heidi Stevenson source of kindness for Rehtaeh Parsons's mother

2 years ago
Duration 2:38
Leah Parsons remembers Const. Heidi Stevenson as a source of kindness in the wake of her daughter Rehtaeh’s death in 2013. Stevenson was among the 22 people killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting over the weekend.

As the names of the victims of Nova Scotia's mass shooting started to be made public, there was one that stood out to Leah Parsons — Const. Heidi Stevenson. 

"I was kind of hoping it wasn't her because she's just a sweet, sweet soul," said Parsons. 

Stevenson was one of the 22 people killed over the weekend during a 13-hour rampage by a gunman through central Nova Scotia. 

But it was another 911 call seven years earlier that brought Stevenson and Parsons together. 

Stevenson was the officer that showed up after Parsons called for help the night her daughter Rehtaeh, 17, attempted suicide on April 4, 2013.

Rehtaeh's family have said she was sexually assaulted at a November 2011 party in Eastern Passage, N.S. A photo of the incident was widely circulated by her peers and led to months of bullying and harassment.

Leah Parsons is Rehtaeh Parsons' mother. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Stevenson listened to Parsons and provided a comforting presence as the mother wondered if her daughter would survive. 

"She just had this soft, compassionate, really understanding face and it's not that she even had to say anything, just that she was holding space for me." 

When Parsons went to the hospital with Rehtaeh that night, Stevenson went too. The constable showed up again the next day and the day after, when Rehtaeh was taken off life support and died.

"Seeing her familiar face, the next day and the next day, and that kindness is just something that doesn't leave you," said Parsons. "She came to it with her heart and I could feel that."

RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was shot and killed by a gunman April 19, 2020, poses for an undated official photo. (RCMP/Reuters)

Stevenson even rode with Parsons to the funeral home. 

"She was a presence that whole time, when we had our memorial walks for Rehtaeh, even the following year she is the police officer that escorted us." 

Parsons feels Stevenson went well beyond what her police duties required in order to support her and her family.

It's surprising praise considering that at the time Parsons had little confidence in police or the justice system, and felt they had failed her daughter after she was sexually assaulted. 

She said Stevenson's actions helped restore her faith in the police. 

Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 years old when she died in 2013 after being taken off life support, three days after attempting to take her own life. (Instagram)

Parsons hopes Stevenson's family knows how many lives she touched, even those who didn't know her that well. 

"I'm sure they're going to see it from all kinds of different places because I'm just one little person whose life she touched. I'm sure there's hundreds," said Parsons. "It won't always be this, it won't always feel this horrible."

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.


With files from The National