HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Canada is looking further into the case of a teenage girl who hanged herself after an alleged rape and months of bullying, after a photo said to be of the assault was shared online and no charges were filed against four teenage boys being investigated.
The death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons on Sunday has provoked an outcry across North America, and Nova Scotia's justice minister said Thursday he has appointed four government departments to look into her case.
The government came under criticism after Justice Minister Ross Landry initially ruled out the possibility of reviewing how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police handled allegations that Parsons was sexually assaulted in November 2011. Police concluded there were no grounds to charge the four teenage boys after a year-long investigation.
Landry later changed course, saying he has asked senior officials for options to review how the Mounties and the Public Prosecution Service concluded they could not file charges.
A group reported to be the cyber-activist hackers Anonymous said it would avenge the teen's death. In a public statement released online Thursday morning, the group criticized officials involved in the investigation of the alleged rape and bullying and said it was in the process of confirming the identities of the accused rapists.
"Our demands are simple: We want the (Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to take immediate legal action against the individuals in question. We encourage you to act fast. If we were able to locate these boys within 2 hours, it will not be long before someone else finds them," the statement said.
Leah Parsons said her daughter hanged herself last week. Parsons said one boy took a photo of the alleged assault and her daughter was subjected to bullying after it went viral.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter told the province's legislature that he wanted a timely response in order to satisfy the public's concerns.
A vigil for the teen was planned in Halifax for Thursday night. Her father posted a message Thursday on his website saying his daughter struggled to recover after being publicly humiliated.
Glen Canning's post, entitled "Rehtaeh Parsons was my daughter," says his daughter "wasn't bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police."
He also addressed questions to Nova Scotia's justice minister.
"They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation," Canning wrote. "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?"
Dexter, the province's premier, said the teen's family wanted him to publicly denounce violence as a means of addressing bullying.
"The family has asked today that I implore Nova Scotians not to take matters into their own hands," said Dexter.
Dexter also said he has appointed Marilyn More, the minister responsible for the status of women, to work with the ministers of justice, education, health and community services to assess support services for people who face sexual violence.
"I will do everything in my power to create a community that is better equipped to prevent these situations, rather than a community that struggles to find a way to deal with them," Dexter said.