By Melanie Patten - The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — The mother of Rehtaeh Parsons said she has some solace after hearing that two people were arrested Thursday in the case of her daughter, the 17-year-old Halifax girl who died following a suicide attempt in what her family says stemmed from cyberbullying after an alleged sexual assault.
“We’re just hopeful there’s charges laid and others to arrest, hoping that they’re finally willing to tell their side of the story,” Leah Parsons said in an interview. “A sense of relief came over me that at least they’re going to be questioned.”
The RCMP and Halifax police said they arrested two males at their homes in Halifax at around 8 a.m. and took them into custody where they were being questioned. The Mounties did not release further information on the males arrested, including their ages and what they were arrested for.
“Due to the sensitive nature around this investigation, the investigators do want to ensure that no court process is affected, that there is going to be some privacy concerns around identity, ages and that,” said RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae.
“The investigators have been working on this for the past several months directly in relation to the Rehtaeh Parsons’ investigation. Their job was to look at everything and to proceed with an investigation and here we are today with the arrest of two males at their respective residences and we’ll basically see how today goes. We have a 24-hour window to either release or lay charges.”
Rehtaeh was taken off life-support in April after she attempted suicide in her home. Her family says she was tormented for months after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.
“I feel that the investigation wasn’t handled properly from the beginning and I’ve never seen the file, so I don’t really know why or how that happened,” Leah Parsons said. “I’m just glad that it was reopened and I’m really happy that they have two people to question.”
The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with province’s Public Prosecution Service, they concluded there weren’t enough grounds to lay charges.
A week after Rehtaeh’s death, police reopened their investigation, saying they received new information from someone who was willing to work with investigators.
Rehtaeh’s death sparked national outrage and prompted the Nova Scotia government to launch reviews of the original police investigation into the case and the school board’s handling of the matter.
The review of the original investigation is ongoing.
An independent review released in June concluded the Halifax Regional School Board could have done a better job, but it was hindered by the fact that Rehtaeh was often absent from class. The report also said the Parsons family faced challenges when they turned to Nova Scotia’s mental health system for help.
The arrests come a day after a new law took effect in the province that allows people to sue if they or their children are being cyberbullied. Victims can also seek a protection order that could place restrictions on or help identify the cyberbully. Justice Minister Ross Landry introduced the legislation weeks after Rehtaeh’s death.