Rehtaeh Parsons Case: Nova Scotia Tories Promise To Launch Judicial Inquiry

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A Nova Scotia Tory government would launch a judicial inquiry to examine the justice system's failures in the Rehtaeh Parsons case, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said Saturday. (AP/CP)
A Nova Scotia Tory government would launch a judicial inquiry to examine the justice system's failures in the Rehtaeh Parsons case, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said Saturday. (AP/CP)

HALIFAX - The father of Rehtaeh Parsons is pressuring Nova Scotia's political parties to launch a judicial inquiry into his daughter's death, saying a review already underway into the handling of her case will not go far enough.

Glen Canning's plea on Saturday came with a promise from Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie. He vowed that he would launch such an inquiry within his first 100 days in government if elected next month.

Rehtaeh was taken off life-support after a suicide attempt in April that her family says was brought on by months of bullying.

"This is a an issue that can't be handled with kid gloves," said Canning, who made the comments at his home with Baillie and Rehtaeh's mother Leah Parsons at his side. "My fear is that they're going to produce a stack of paper and say, 'look, we did a lot,' and then someone is going to lose their child.

"You have to be a little more forceful on this kind of an issue because this issue is deadly."

Last month, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter appointed former Ontario deputy attorney general Murray Segal to conduct an independent review of the handling of the case by police and the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service.

But Canning said a public inquiry would go further and have the ability to subpoena records and witnesses in order to find out what happened.

"In Rehtaeh's case we have a lot of unanswered questions and I don't feel confident whatsoever that the current reviews that are taking place are going to answer these questions. They just don't have the power to do that," said Canning.

"We are really hoping that the other parties in Nova Scotia will be on board with this."

Baillie said the 17-year-old girl's death was tragic and the subsequent police investigation has left too many questions unresolved.

"A full judicial review is the best way that we can honour the memory of Rehtaeh Parsons, to thank her family for the courage that they have shown since her passing, and to assure all Nova Scotia families that we are going to do all it takes to prevent these horrible things from happening in the future," Baillie said.

Dexter said a judicial inquiry is not out of the question. He said if Segal feels he did not receive all the information necessary for the review, then an NDP government would consider "whatever was required in order to make sure that no stone was left unturned."

"It could be a judicial inquiry, it could be bringing in the appropriate legislation to empower him to have powers of subpoena," said Dexter from the Halifax suburb of Dartmouth.

"There are a range of options that would be available."

Liberal justice critic Michel Samson said his party would consider launching a judicial inquiry if elected on Oct. 8, but not until after the court process plays out for two teen men arrested last month in Rehtaeh's case.

"The last thing we would want is to see those who are facing charges somehow have their case be prejudiced by an inquiry interfering," said Samson from Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

Canning added that he reached out to the Tories because he was compelled by the material regarding cyberbullying in the party's election platform. He said he also contacted the Liberals, but never heard back.

Samson said no elected official in the Liberal party was made aware that Canning had reached out.

"It came as a complete surprise to me," said Samson. "I'm at a loss as to why he would have concluded that we were not interested."

Rehtaeh's family says she was tormented after a digital photograph of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.

The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with the 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 after receiving what they said was new and credible information in the case from someone willing to co-operate with them.

Police have charged one man with two counts of distributing child pornography, while another man faces charges of distributing and making child pornography.

The names of the accused in the case can't be released because they were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences and are charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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