September 21, 2013 9:42 am
Updated: September 21, 2013 2:42 pm

NS Tories make campaign promise to launch judicial inquiry into Rehtaeh Parsons case

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie waves to supporters as he delivers the party's platform in Halifax on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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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.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie vowed Saturday outside of the home of Glen Canning that he would launch such an inquiry within his first 100 days in government if elected next month.

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

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 in Halifax with Canning and Rehtaeh’s mother Leah Parsons at his side.

Last month, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter named 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.

Canning said that won’t go far enough.

He said a public inquiry would 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.”

Canning said he feels the government has handled the case “with kid gloves.”

“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,” he said.

The NDP did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday, but a press release from the party detailed a number of initiatives they’ve undertaken in relation to Rehtaeh’s case, including passing the Cyber-Safety Act, which allows people to sue or seek a protection order from the courts if they or their children are being cyberbullied.

Liberal politician 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 arrest last month in Rehtaeh’s case.

“We’re open to any such suggestions once we see what the potential terms of reference would be,” said Samson from Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

“The last thing we would want is to see those who are facing charges somehow have their case be prejudiced by an inquiry interfering.”

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 made any contact.

“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.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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