Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister is imploring everyone from politicians to the police to parents to media to “look in the mirror” after the death of a bullied teenager has provoked an outpouring of concern from across the country.
Ross Landry said Wednesday that he realized that his initial response to the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons was inadequate after the emotional reaction began pouring in from his colleagues, constituents and Canadians from around the nation.
He reversed his position late Tuesday, asking for a review of the case. By Wednesday morning, he had met with Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons. Now he is considering legislation that would prevent the distribution of disturbing graphic images, such as the ones taken on a cellphone of Rehtaeh’s alleged sexual assault in November, 2011.
The 17-year-old teen was persistently bullied online after the photographs were circulated around the teenager’s Cole Harbour high school and community. Despite moving to another community and switching schools, Rehtaeh could not escape the torment. She died Sunday after attempting suicide last week.
The Parsons, who took to social media hours after taking their daughter off life support, have shared their grief in an effort to get the justice for Rehtaeh they believe was denied – both by the police who never laid charges and by a community, they say, that turned its back on the teen.
The Justice Minister told The Globe and Mail that the police are reviewing their policies and “processes.” Mr. Landry said, too, that he has arranged for the Parsons to raise their questions about the investigation directly with the RCMP.
“What happened [Tuesday] is I thought I had reached out to the media about the right thing to do and that I was satisfied with certain information that I had at the time,” he said.
But, he realized that his response – that he wasn’t about to question the police’s initial investigation and would not order a review of the case – was not enough.
“We are talking about human life and a society that needs more love and care in it,” Mr. Landry said Wednesday. “This issue needs a different approach. I’m a firm believer it’s never wrong to do the right thing.”
In his meeting with Ms. Parsons, he said, it was the distribution of the disturbing cellphone pictures that “jumped out.” He wants to look at a legislative approach to dealing with this; but what that is, he is not sure yet.
This is not a problem unique to Nova Scotia, Mr. Landry said, but one that is of concern everywhere.
“The technology, and evolution of technology, is so rapid. And from a government perspective, provincial ministers need to talk and we need to discuss with our federal ministers that ever-changing technology and how we can adapt … to protect our young people and to ensure privacy is respected,” he said. “That is an area that needs to be explored further.”
“I am hoping that I come across that I am listening, that I care,” he said, adding that he wants something positive to come from this so that Rehtaeh’s death is not in vain.