Report provides validation for family of Rehtaeh Parsons
Published Friday, October 9, 2015 8:34PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, October 9, 2015 8:54PM ADT
The review into the Rehtaeh Parsons case details mistakes that were made by police and prosecutors, some of which might have been prevented had earlier recommendations on cyberbullying been acted upon more quickly.
It has been made clear that Parsons' complaint of sexual assault and cyberbullying was mishandled. Now there are calls to make it right.
“Simply making the report doesn't guarantee it happens. You need to have a number of people holding them to account and seeing what's actually done,” said Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay.
Five months after her case was closed without charges, Parsons died following a suicide attempt. A week later, the investigation was reopened and two teens were taken to court.
Former Ontario deputy attorney general Murray Segal concluded prosecutors should have pursued child pornography charges from the start.
“I am beyond being frustrated now. Now you want to look to the report and say, this is what it says and please let's make sure the next family that turns to our system for help gets it,” said Rehtaeh’s father Glenn Canning.
Wayne MacKay headed a provincial taskforce on bullying and cyberbullying. He was recommending stronger school policies even before the Parsons case came to light.
“Rehtaeh paid the ultimate price to give a huge gift to the rest of us, which is a system which is far more responsive to issues of cyberbullying,” said MacKay.
While the report outlines 17 recommendations, the case has already influenced changes to the way police, prosecutors and schools handle sensitive cases.
The province even created a cyberbullying investigation unit, CyberSCAN, which to date has investigated more than 700 complaints.
“I think that we've learned there is a need for it, and I think there is the ability to protect people, educate people and to respond to their complaints,” said Roger Merrick, head of the CyberSCAN unit.
Officials in the justice department say they'll read the report, consider the recommendations and make necessary changes.
“This actually gives us validation that yes, we know there were mistakes made. We've been saying that all along,” said Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother.
Rehtaeh’s family says they will continue to push for improvements.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl