Once again, I’m astounded that Canadian politicians would politicize such tragic events as that of 17-year-old Rehtach Parsons. Allegedly, her suicide was driven by repeated bullying stemming from an apparent sexual assault by several young boys in 2011. Allegedly, pictures were taken during the incident and subsequently posted on the Internet. This in turn led to her becoming a victim of bullying at school and elsewhere in her Nova Scotia community. Following an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of the alleged sexual assault, the prosecution determined that there was insufficient evidence to lay charges against the attackers. Needless-to-say, while this case is indeed sadly another symptomatic example of cyber and other forms of bullying leading to a tragic ending, we need once more to take a hard look at surrounding causes. We need to look at possible prevention and assistance elements in such cases. However, once again we have politicians who are singling out one unfortunate case to promote some kind of a political agenda. Prime Minister Stephen Harper should have stopped his media comments at his words of condolences for the family and friends of Rehtach Parsons. Recognizing it for its tragic circumstances. Instead, he continued on to frame certain alleged events in the context of criminal acts, stating that the very word “bullying” cannot be used in cases where a criminal act has taken place. Yet, we have in place a justice system that is based on evidence and the principle that persons are innocent until proven guilty. The system is driven by adherence to the Canadian Criminal Code, and is meant to be impartial and without undue political interference. Yes there was a public outcry in this case and even the threat of vigilante actions both from within and outside the aggrieved community. Interestingly, the investigation into the original assault has since been reopened by the RCMP, apparently based on new-founded information. My point however is simple. On the one hand, the justice system has to be allowed to function independent of any outside pressures, political or otherwise. On the other hand, the whole matter of “bullying” in this country has to be approached in a much broader social context in order to develop good proactive prevention strategies and effective assistance programs and campaigns. Let’s not confuse the two. The suicide rate among young people in Canada is far too high as it is. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. According to Statistics Canada, 25 people in Canada aged 10 to 14 committed suicide in 2008. Bullying may be one contributing factor, but not the only one. However tragic each youth suicide is, each is one too many. Let’s not play political games when real solutions need to be continuously examined.
Let’s Not Play Politics With Tragic Suicides Like that of Rehtach Parsonson April 14, 2013