NEWS

Rehtaeh Parsons Posters Could Incite Vigilantism, RCMP Warns

04/18/2013 11:31 EDT | Updated 06/18/2013 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - The RCMP say they're concerned posters that have appeared on Halifax streets in support of four boys accused of sexually assaulting Rehtaeh Parsons could incite vigilante behaviour against the teens.

The brightly coloured posters bear the words "Speak the Truth" in large, bold print and urge people to support the boys, though it does not identify them.

"There's two sides to every story," the posters read. "Listen before you JUDGE."

RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said Thursday the posters don't break any laws but police have received a number of complaints from residents about the flyers.

He also said a Facebook page created in support of the four boys was recently taken down by its administrator after the Mounties raised concerns that the identities of the boys could be made public and interfere with an ongoing police investigation into the matter.

"We're not there to police the Internet, per se, or to stop people from expressing their opinions as long as it's done in an open, frank and truthful discussion," MacRae said.

"When it's done in a potentially harmful way or not based on all the facts, a certain segment of the population may act based on that information alone and that's dangerous."

Rehtaeh's cousin, Angella Parsons, said she believes posters that were put on display near the family's home amount to harassment.

"I was outraged to think that people would be so callous, they would not respect a family who is grieving right now," she said in an interview.

The family alleges Rehtaeh was sexually assaulted by four boys at a home in November 2011 and bullied for months before she hanged herself on April 4. She was taken off life-support three days later.

On a Facebook page dedicated to Rehtaeh, the girl's family wrote that the posters are "disrespectful" and are an attempt to paint the 17-year-old in a negative light after her death.

Hundreds of people also took to the page to express their anger over the posters.

"People are cruel and heartless. Praying justice will be served for Rehtaeh," wrote one user.

Another user called on people to tear down the posters.

"I will walk my neighbourhood tonight and if I see any posters they will be removed!!! I encourage everyone else to do the same."

The RCMP announced Friday their investigation into the alleged sexual assault was being reopened after receiving what they described as new and credible information. The Mounties had previously said there was insufficient evidence to lay charges in the case.

The headline-grabbing case also spurred the Nova Scotia government to announce an independent review of the RCMP's original investigation once the current case concludes.

Marilyn More, the minister responsible for the status of women, has been appointed to oversee the province's overall response to the girl's death.

More announced Thursday that the government is appointing two education experts from Ontario to produce an independent review of how the Halifax Regional School Board responded to Rehtaeh's case.

"We want the public and all the institutions and agencies involved with this to feel reassured that it's going to be the most objective and thorough process possible," More told reporters.

She said the panel will prepare an interim report by May 10, with a final report expected by June 14. The cost of the report was not known.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version identified Scott MacRae as a sergeant.

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