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Landry Writes to Ottawa, Dexter Creates Task Force, Anonymous Threatens Action

NDP government attempts damage control over public outrage at Rehtaeh Parson's death

by Miles Howe

Ross Landry: Looking Grey. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Ross Landry: Looking Grey. [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) – As Nova Scotia - and the country - reels from the death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, question period at the Nova Scotia House of Assembly was again focused on where the bureaucratic system failed the teen, and how to proactively move forward from this place of mourning so that this tragedy is never repeated.

Premier Darrell Dexter noted that he would be taking steps to coordinate five of his government's departments towards analyzing, and understanding, how to re-tool support mechanisms for victims of cyber-bullying so that moments of crisis are mitigated. He named Marilyn More, minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act, as the point person for this bureaucratic task force.

“We have identified what I consider to be a gap between the intention of government,” said Dexter. “Which is to provide these services and support young people who find themselves in times of trouble. That is what I think we all want to do...We want some answers. We want a clear set of options to be able to enforce and we want to do it soon.”

While opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly have noted that such a set of options already exists in the form of the MacKay Report, a 2012 government-commissioned study which resulted from the creation of a 'Cyberbullying Taskforce', Dexter noted that in many cases it was not a question of the options not being available, but more so an issue of public education - of both youth and adults – as to the existing crisis-assistance tools in place.

“One of the things that has to be really clear for young people is that there is help available, and they need to seek it out,” noted the premier. “Whether it's through 811 or 211 (telecare and community and social service listings, respectively) or through the Kids Help Phone or through the Mental Health Crisis Line, that there is an umbrella of programs that exist out there today that they are capable of accessing. And we need to get that information into their hands [and] into the hands of their parents.”

Embattled Justice Minister Ross Landry, now the focus of an online demand for justice from hacktivist group Anonymous, noted that he had earlier in the day penned a letter to his federal counterpart, asking for a meeting in the upcoming week. Landry noted that he currently has no specific request for federal Minister of Justice Robert Nicholson for a change to the federal criminal code - as it might pertain to cyber-bullying or otherwise - as he and staff are “still in the dialogue stage.”

“I'm going to try and have a telephone conversation [with minister Nicholson] later today...to discuss the overall issue. We've got to remember that the issue of bullying and cyber-crime: It's not a Nova Scotia issue by itself. It is a national and global issue.

“This is a very complex matter and in fixing one part you have to know what impact it's going to have on another.”

Threats for vigilante-style justice, coming from Anonymous and elsewhere, are being taken seriously by Landry and the local RCMP, who Landry is now “in consultation” with over their earlier decision to not press charges in relation to the alleged rape of Rehtaeh Parsons.

An earlier post by Anonymous noted that the group is already in possession of the names of the four alleged perpetrators of sexual crimes against Parsons, and that while their particular cell of the organization was willing to withhold the information from the public pending Landry and the police taking steps towards “justice”, they could not guarantee the actions of their global and local counterparts.

This post prompted an RCMP release warning against vigilante-style action, and had Landry echoing the line to reporters in the legislature scrum.

“People are writing things online that aren't based in fact,” said Landry. “And we ask people 'If you're going to write something and you have facts or information, if it's relevant to this matter or any other criminal matter, on any issue that should be brought to the police, that that information be brought to the police directly.'

“I caution people. It's great that we can have a system where we have free expression and people can change ideas and notions but I caution that it can be harmful when misinformation and inaccurate accusations are made.”

Whether or not Anonymous or others will make good on their threat to identify the perpetrators, it may not be coincidence that the provincial website was shut down for approximately 10 minutes this morning over a 'denial of service' attack.

There is a vigil for Rehtaeh Parsons scheduled for tonight, Thursday April 11th, at 7pm, in Victoria Park.

Correction, April 11: Rehtaeh Parsons was 17, not 15 as the author originally wrote. Marilyn More is the minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act, not Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. The Halifax Media Co-op regrets these errors.

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