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Death of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons draws comparisons to Amanda Todd case

Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh Parsons is shown in a handout photo from the Facebook tribute page "Angel Rehtaeh.". Facebook

A grieving mother’s questions about the RCMP’s handling of her daughter’s allegations of sexual assault, an incident the girl’s mother says led to the teenager’s suicide, will not be reviewed by Nova Scotia’s Justice Department.

Leah Parsons spoke out Tuesday about the case of her 17-year-old daughter, Rehtaeh, who was pulled off life-support Sunday night after she hanged herself last week.

Parsons said she is dissatisfied that the RCMP concluded there were no grounds to charge four boys over allegations they sexually assaulted Rehtaeh about 18 months ago.

But Justice Minister Ross Landry said he has no plans to order a review of the RCMP handling of the case because he has no reason to doubt the integrity of their investigation.

“In regards to the issue of second-guessing the police at every case, no, I’m not going to do that,” Landry said.

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“I have no evidence or no information before me at this time to say that the RCMP did not follow appropriate procedures and policies.”

Landry said he has yet to hear of any formal complaint from Parsons about the RCMP investigation, though he added she was open to file one.

Online reaction to the teen’s death has drawn comparisons to the Amanda Todd case in Metro Vancouver. Leah Parsons wrote a lengthy post on a memorial Facebook page that accuses the justice system of “failing” her daughter after she was allegedly “raped by four young boys” and “one of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community…”

The Facebook post has been shared more than 6,000 times since it appeared online Monday.

After Rehtaeh’s story first surfaced in the Tuesday edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Parsons told several news outlets that she believes the justice system failed her child.

She said her daughter’s life took a turn when she was 15, after she was sexually assaulted by four boys at a home in November 2011. She said one of the boys took a photo of the alleged assault, and her daughter was subjected to bullying afterward as a result.

“They told the story that Rehtaeh had sex with them all,” Parsons told News 95.7.

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“So everybody turned against Rehtaeh and she was a ‘slut’ and she was the one that they targeted.”

Parsons could not be reached for further comment.

The police launched a year-long investigation into the allegation but did not lay charges, Parsons said.

RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said the Mounties and Halifax Regional Police launched a joint investigation in November 2011 into a report of a sexual assault and an inappropriate photo. He declined to name the alleged victim or talk specifically about the case, citing privacy concerns.

“That investigation was completed and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges,” MacRae said Tuesday.

He also confirmed police were investigating a “sudden death involving a young person” but declined to name the youth involved.

The Facebook page has been set up in tribute to Rehtaeh’s life, featuring dozens of photos of the smiling, bespectacled brunette, often with a dog by her side.

One photo shows a young Rehtaeh nuzzling a dolphin. Another shows her playing on a sandy beach as a youngster. A more recent snap captures Rehtaeh playfully sticking her pierced tongue out at the camera.

Hundreds of comments were posted on the page demanding someone be held accountable for Rehtaeh’s death.

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“What is wrong with our society when a girl/woman is victimized and SHE is shunned!!” said one post.

Another user said young people must be protected from bullying to prevent similar tragedies.

“Clearly the justice system failed her, society failed her, the school system failed her, the mental health system failed her,” said another.

-with files from the Vancouver Sun