Time to get beyond talking

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Public pressure has persuaded Nova Scotia’s Justice Department to review the handling of a case of a girl allegedly sexually assaulted, then taunted about it, and who ultimately took her own life.

The change of heart was a sudden turnaround. Justice Minister Ross Landry held firm at first, saying he accepted the police investigation and the Crown’s position that it saw small chance of a conviction for sexual assault – or for child pornography, since a photo was circulated online afterward.

But Landry changed his position later Tuesday, saying his department would review the police and Crown’s handling of the case for the girl’s mother – who claimed the justice system failed her daughter. That came after an outcry over the tragedy.

Police and the Crown, in explaining the lack of charges, said the alleged assault leaned toward the ‘he said-she said’ category.

What many found difficult, on top of that, was that child pornography charges wouldn’t even be pursued. The girl was 15 at the time, and they could determine the source of the online photo.

That certainly suggests a lack of teeth in current laws.

Also disturbing is the continued harassment the victim underwent afterward, what her mother said ultimately led to her suicide.

Again, we enter this dark realm of cyberbullying, the vitriol that occurs online. If the Crown wasn’t confident about charges relating directly to this case before, a followup review likely won’t change that. But let’s at least seriously face that other insidious crime.

There’s plenty of general will to find solutions to tackle cyberbullying, but with such a foothold on the Internet, no one can agree how to proceed. Some urge caution, lest we “bully the bullies,” and say education and counselling is key.

That only accomplishes so much though. Like any other antisocial behaviour that causes injury or death, the only way to treat threats and bullying online is as a crime. Enough talk, entering this in the Criminal Code is long overdue.

Organizations: Justice Department

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Allison Smith
    April 19, 2013 - 16:56

    Trashing the police or the government isn't helping. All it's doing is deflecting from the real issue, which is that rape and bullying exists, and it's preventable. We should be talking about what a tragedy this is, and how we as a community can stop it from happening again. More solutions, less blaming.

  • Allison Smith
    April 19, 2013 - 16:40

    Before you jump to blame the Premier or the Justice Minister... pointing fingers isn't going to bring Rehtaeh Parsons back, or erase the pain she suffered. It feels like people are using the government as a scapegoat for their anger over a very painful incident. What we should be doing is bringing forward ideas to the Department of Education on how to stop this kind of bullying/stalking from happening in schools, or to the Department of Health on educating parents and kids about the mental and physical trauma of bullying, how to prevent being bullied or becoming a bully.

  • Johnny smoke
    April 14, 2013 - 17:38

    I observed the disgusting sight of the premier of this province in attendance at the young Parson's lady funeral. To think that the head of a government who would tolerate in his cabinet the likes of justice minister Landry is beyond the pale. I have heard that desperate politicians will kiss babies in order to get votes. This is the first time that I ever witnessed a sitting premier kissing the rear of a member of his cabinet. The premier should be kicking not kissing this incompetent minister, that is if the premier is up to the job.

  • Me
    April 14, 2013 - 17:21

    Ha, seriously? They don't even do a goddamn thing about real-life bullying. They should keep the hell out of "cyber"bullying until they have any clue what they're doing.

  • James Baillie
    April 13, 2013 - 15:02

    Well if you are looking for Minister Landry he is hiding out in Ottawa, and for all intents and purposes he should stay there. What we need here in justice is a leader not a follower. The premier knows it, lets us observe what he does. If he follows his usual course it will be nothing as usual,

    • big red
      April 14, 2013 - 18:52

      I observed the premier crashing the funeral of the unfortunate young lady who had to bear the humility of being not only ostracized by her peers, but also being shunned by the justice system that she turned to for redress.It only took Mr. Dexter a very short time to find a camera and a microphone to blather his remorse at the turn of events. I could not determine if his expression of remorse was aimed at the family of the deceased or if it was because it brought outrage toward the Department of Justice, which of course falls under his area of responsibility. As stated elsewhere there is not a hope in Haiti that the justice minister can remain in charge of his department, it is incumbent upon the premier to seek out and remove all of the persons involved in this miscarriage of justice. Severe and utter harm has been done to this province by the lack of proper response by the authorities. If you were a tourists would you even consider visiting a jurisdiction where the crime of rape is not prosecuted to the highest extent of the law? Mr. Dexter's government can run all of the feel good adds that they want, nothing is going to overcome the stigma of lawlessness that is the result of this complete and utter dereliction of duty..