Halifax police lay child pornography charges in Rehtaeh Parsons case

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By Haley Ryan - Metro Halifax

HALIFAX - Two young men are facing child pornography charges in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, nearly two years after her parents allege the teen was gang-raped at a party and a photo of the incident was shared via social media.

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

On Thursday evening, Halifax police held a news conference to announce the charges.

“A young girl…experienced the harsh nature of a world of people wanting to do harm and using social media to do it,” said Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

“We hope that today’s arrests help the community to heal,” added Halifax RCMP Chief Supt. Roland Wells.

The young men, both 18, were arrested around 8 a.m. Thursday. One faces two counts of distributing child pornography, and the other charges of making and distributing child pornography.

Blais said no sexual assault charges will be laid because the Crown advised there was “insufficient evidence” to bring any to court.

Glen Canning, Rehtaeh’s father, said it was a “bittersweet” moment when he learned of the arrests.

“I just feel a little bit winded,” Canning said.

“On one hand I would want to be very happy and very grateful…on the other hand, it’s a bit of a bittersweet moment because Rehtaeh’s dead now, and it doesn’t really make much of a difference to her,” he said.

Rehtaeh, 17, took her own life in April after nearly two years of bullying following an alleged rape at a party when she was 15.

Shortly after the alleged rape, a photo of the incident was sent around her school and a few others.

“It was hard…to watch my beautiful, loving, intelligent daughter just completely shatter and fall apart right in front of my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it,” Canning said.

A week after Rehtaeh’s death, amid public outrage, Halifax police re-opened the investigation, citing “new and credible” information.

Blais said new investigators from the special enforcement team were used, “to ensure we had a different set of eyes.”

Wells said it’s up to the justice review of the original case to determine whether charges should have been laid earlier.

“We are in a constant state of learning to do things better,” Wells said.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said he’s pleased the public came forward with information to help reopen the case.

“I look forward to how this all unfolds,” Landry said Thursday night. “I respect… that due process and justice will be followed.”

Landry said he’ll make a statement next week regarding when the review of the original case will begin.

The two teens charged Thursday have been released from custody, and will appear in Halifax youth court on Aug. 15. They cannot be named because the charges stem from when they were youths.

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

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