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‘We never provoked them’: Parents of missing N.S. toddler take legal action over online harassment

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WATCH: It’s been nearly 1- months since three-year-old Dylan Ehaler disappeared. He’s never been found, and since then his parents say they’ve endured relentless online harassment that’s pushed them to take a legal actions against their alleged attackers. Alexa MacLean has more. – Mar 2, 2021

Ten months after the disappearance of three-year-old Dylan Ehler from Truro, N.S., cyber bullying has pushed his parents to take legal action against their alleged attackers.

Jason Ehler and Ashley Brown, Dylan’s parents, appeared in court on Tuesday morning to officially begin the civil action process.

“We never provoked them, we didn’t ask for any of this. They just started swarming us,” said Jason Ehler outside of a courtroom at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Truro.

Within hours of three-year-old Dylan going missing on May 6, his parents say they were met with an onslaught of online bullying and harassment.

Read more: Parents of missing Nova Scotia toddler secure legal assistance to end online harassment

Dylan Ehler was last seen at his grandmother’s home on Elizabeth Street in Truro, N.S., on May 6. The family says Dylan was playing in the backyard and his grandmother turned her back to put a dog on the leash and Dylan vanished.

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He is presumed to have fallen into the nearby Lepper Brook and drowned.

Dylan Ehler is seen at his home in Truro. Submitted by Jason Ehler

Truro police and first responders spent a week searching the waterway, utilizing help from the Truro Fire Department’s ground search and rescue team, Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office, a police canine unit, a helicopter, aerial drones, a thermal imaging camera, along with a dive team with underwater cameras and mannequin tracker.

Dylan’s body has never been recovered and the lack of definitive answers still gives his family hope. Truro police have said they do not suspect foul-play in Dylan’s disappearance.

Since his disappearance, however, many have joined in on theorizing what had happened to Dylan through social media, particularly Facebook.

“Think of hundreds of people talking bad about you, saying you killed your son, or you had something to do with it,” Jason Ehler said.

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Click to play video: 'Truro, N.S. police say search for missing 3-year-old has moved into ‘recovery’ phase' Truro, N.S. police say search for missing 3-year-old has moved into ‘recovery’ phase
Truro, N.S. police say search for missing 3-year-old has moved into ‘recovery’ phase – May 8, 2020

In November, Ehler and Dylan’s mother Ashley Brown, secured legal assistance to try to end the online harassment. Under Nova Scotia’s Intimate Images and Cyber-Protection Act, civil action can be brought to court against alleged harassers.

Lawyer Allison Harris says she took on the case pro-bono.

“People like Jason and Ashley deserve to have a voice against cyberbullying like this. They’ve gone through enough with their son being missing,” Harris said on Tuesday.

“There are two Facebook groups in particular that we’re trying to get shut down.”

Lawyer Allison Harris is seen with Jason Ehler and Ashley Brown at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Truro. Alexa MacLean / Global News

One of the defendants in the case, Tom Hurley, claims he had nothing to do with the attacks and his group was first started to help the family with searches and fundraising.

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“I think a sorry should be good on both sides,” Hurley said outside of the courtroom.

“I’m sorry that the family is going through that. Our intentions were to try to help them find Dylan and it was going good, from the beginning and then something turned, somewhere.”

According to court documents, Hurley avoided being served in relation to this case.

“The respondent (Tom Hurley) … has refused to identify himself and has physically avoided accepting service through an of our efforts,” read the documents, dated Feb. 22.

The second respondent in the case was April Diane Moulton, who participated in Tuesday’s hearing by telephone for the first procedural step in the matter.

Read more: Dylan Ehler’s parents continue to search despite rumours, empty leads and false ransom notes

The next court appearance for the cyberbullying matter is April 6. Harris said she is hopeful dates for the hearing will be set.

Harris said she is seeking punitive damages for her clients as a form of punishment. She would not disclosed how much.

In the meantime, Dylan’s parents say they want the harassment to end.

“I hope they stop and think how this could affect somebody’s family,” said Ashley Brown

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“When they go through their own tragedy do they want something like this to be happening to them?”

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