Candles, poems, songs at vigil in Rehtaeh Parsons’ honour

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DARTMOUTH - Rehtaeh Parsons’ mother ended a vigil in honour of what would have been the teen’s 18th birthday with a resigned but encouraging message for the small crowd of supporters.

“Justice isn’t going to come for Rehtaeh in the court system,” said Leah Parsons on Sunday evening. “It is going to come from community support and from all of you great people who support things in our communities to help our children.”

Rehtaeh died in April after she was taken off life support following a suicide attempt. The 17-year-old had allegedly been sexually assaulted at a party two years earlier, and was bullied after a photo of the incident was shared via social media.

Rehtaeh’s birthday is Dec. 9, and friends took to the microphone during the vigil at Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth to share memories of a compassionate, lively young woman who loved animals, nature and her friends.

“Her strength gave me the courage to move forward and overcome my own obstacles and struggles,” said Anneke Wigle. “I am now on a much better path in life and on my way to becoming a social worker. I want to make a difference in the lives of youth like myself and Rehtaeh.”

Members of the All Nations Drum Group performed a smudging ceremony and three songs in Rehtaeh’s honour.

“Her work has just begun and she’s done so much already to bring about change in our society,” said elder Dorene Bernard as the group began the Warrior Song.

RCMP investigated the alleged sexual assault, but didn’t lay any charges. The case was reopened after Rehtaeh’s death, and two teens are facing charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.

HRM poet laureate El Jones attended Sunday’s vigil and decried modern rape culture in two blistering performances, one about the attack on a friend by three “well-dressed men” who plied the young woman with shots before taking her home, raping her, and dumping her naked and unconscious in a stranger’s empty swimming pool.

“If there’s ever any doubt in their minds, I guess they tell themselves it’s fine, we had her consent, I mean we were all drunk, but she knew what we meant,” Jones recited, as the shivering crowd listened in rapt stillness. “It’s not like we’re bad guys, so of course, it wasn’t rape.”

- by Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax

Organizations: All Nations Drum Group

Geographic location: Dartmouth

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Recent comments

  • James Black
    December 09, 2013 - 07:23

    Canadian Politicians must make the laws enforceable and hold anyone who refuses to enforce the law responsible for their lack of actions. Enough is enough! School administrators must be responsible for enforcing the Criminal Code of Canada.