HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia government will launch an independent review of the RCMP’s original investigation into the Rehtaeh Parsons case, Premier Darrell Dexter said Monday following a week of public pressure and international attention on the teen’s death.
But Dexter said the review won’t proceed until the Mounties conclude their current criminal investigation into the alleged sexual assault of the 17-year-old girl.
“While there is an ongoing investigation, one has to be cognizant of the fact that there are certain legal requirements that have to be observed,” said Dexter.
“The important thing is that it will be comprehensive and it will be fully independent.”
The RCMP announced Friday that it was reopening its investigation into the alleged sexual assault after receiving new and credible information from a source who was willing to work with them. Prior to that, the RCMP said they concluded in their initial investigation that there was insufficient evidence to lay charges in the case after consulting the province’s Public Prosecution Service.
Dexter said provincial officials are still finalizing details on the review’s scope as well as who will lead it. He said the role of the Public Prosecution Service will also be re-examined, but it wasn’t clear whether it would be part of the independent review of the RCMP or subject to a separate review.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jaime Baillie said he didn’t see why the government has to wait for the results of the RCMP’s latest investigation before going ahead with an external review.
“I want the investigators to do their job and I want someone separate from them to do the review,” Baillie said. “That to me means we can have them all at the same time.”
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said an external review was required and would provide more comfort to the public.
However, McNeil also said he would have to be convinced of the need to wait for the police investigation before looking at the initial investigation.
“They are really, in many ways, two separate situations,” he said.
Dexter said there will also be an independent review of how the Halifax Regional School Board handled allegations that Rehtaeh was bullied after the sexual assault. That will proceed while the police continue their investigation, he said.
Last week, Education Minister Ramona Jennex said she asked the Halifax Regional School Board to review its response to Rehtaeh’s case, but on Monday she said the independent review will take that over.
The premier’s announcement came a week after Justice Minister Ross Landry said he had no reason to believe police did not follow proper procedures in the case.
Dexter has also appointed Marilyn More, the minister responsible for the status of women, to oversee the province’s response to the girl’s death. More is working with the ministers of justice, education, health and community services to assess support services for people who face sexual violence.
Rehtaeh’s family says she killed herself after months of bullying that stemmed from a sexual assault by four boys in November 2011. The family says a photograph of the incident was also passed around among students at her school.