Last week I started a petition on Change.org as an impulsive and disgusted reaction to Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry's announcement that he would not re-examine the investigation of the rape and subsequent suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons.
Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate that it would reach over 438,000 signatures from around the world, nor did I expect that it would put me in a position to be speaking about this matter publicly. I certainly did not expect us to reverse the decision of the Minister in less than a week.
I knew Rehtaeh when she was younger and am friends with her mom Leah to this day. I am horrified by what Rehtaeh went through and I cannot imagine how Leah and her family will deal with this loss.
Like everyone, I've seen the constant images and stories of children who had been bullied and sought escape through suicide. I reached a saturation point when I understood how miserably Rehtaeh had been failed.
Her friends and schoolmates failed her by distributing the picture and bullying her; her school failed her by denying knowledge of the incident, and not intervening. But none of those failures had as significant an impact as the failure of our justice system to protect her from all of it, to bring justice and healing while she was alive. None of us can understand how this was possible. It seems as if everyone in the general public could access incriminating evidence, and yet, somehow the police and the public prosecution office claim they could not find the evidence they needed to pursue charges.
Within hours of the petition going up, the Justice Minister said he would "consider options for a review" of Rehtaeh's case. News was spreading fast through social media, and it wasn't long before the group Anonymous had become involved. In two HOURS, Anonymous managed to collect and share enough information with RCMP that they decided to reopen the case.
That was great news. However, there should have been charges months ago, before Rehtaeh committed suicide.
So we kept up the pressure -- we had to. The information Anonymous collected included a confession found online that was not fabricated, meaning it would have been available to the RCMP almost a year and a half ago. It's been reported that months passed before the interviews with the four boys were initiated.
The four boys raped Rehtaeh, but our justice system has blame in her death. If we want real justice, we need to ensure this does not happen again. This is why it was so important that hundreds of thousands of us came together from across the globe to sign the petition and force the government to address our calls for an independent review that could tell us how and why these failures occurred in the first place.
In the end, the 400,000 plus people who signed succeeded in getting the Premier to act -- on Monday he announced an independent review of the original investigation.
For now the government has yet to say who will be reviewing the original investigation. We have won this important measure of justice for Rehtaeh and I am confident that the Premier will keep his word. That said, for now, I am leaving the petition page open where people can continue signing, until the government announces who will be the truly independent experts reviewing this case.
Reopening and reviewing the case are the first step in fixing a very broken system that is meant to protect our children, like Rehtaeh, and start to shift our culture that has accepted rape and bullying for too long. We have much left to do. But in a time of so much tragedy and so many failures, today we can see that real change is possible when we all pull together. It is my hope, upon completion of all reviews, that Nova Scotia will become a leader in protecting children, especially girls, from sexual assault and bullying.
If we can do that, Rehtaeh will not have died in vain and may help save many others from such a tragic ending.