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Father of Rehtaeh Parsons responds to claims of weaknesses in sex assault case

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

HALIFAX - The father of Rehtaeh Parsons is taking issue with a newspaper report that cites weaknesses in the case against boys her family says sexually assaulted her, writing that the Criminal Code "states pretty clearly that what happened ... is called rape."

Parsons, 17, took her own life earlier this month. Her family alleges she was sexually assaulted by four boys in 2011 and that a digital photograph of the incident was shared around her school.

The case has garnered attention nationally and internationally, with many accusing the education and justice systems of failing the young teen.

Citing information from unidentified sources close to the investigation, a National Post report says Parsons initially told police she had consensual sex with two of four boys at a party in November 2011, but was sexually assaulted by a boy.

It says in a second statement to police about two weeks later, Parsons said she had told the two boys “No” and tried to get them off her.

On his blog, Glen Canning says his daughter was so intoxicated at the time that she was getting sick and didn't remember clearly what had happened.

Canning says he agrees there are two sides to the story, but the fact his daughter was intoxicated changes the interpretation of what happened that night in a suburb of Halifax.

"So in the end all we're left with is the Criminal Code of Canada that states pretty clearly that what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons is called rape," her father writes in his online post. "Even if there was consensual sex before Rehtaeh passed out and got sick once she was in that state consent is no longer there."

The Parsons family has also said that a photograph of Rehtaeh showed her being sexually assaulted at the party. The column by Christie Blatchford says the photo doesn't show a recognizable face and "shows virtually nothing that would stand up in court."

Canning said his daughter endured months of painful bullying after the photo was widely distributed to people at her school.

Canning says he doesn't know why the boys weren't charged but stories about her "spread around her school like a firestorm via social media."

Her family has said she struggled with the online torment, ultimately hanging herself in her mother's bathroom in early April and being taken off life-support days later.

Chris Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service, said she couldn't verify the report's account but explained that prosecutors were approached by police in October 2012 to determine if there were reasonable grounds to lay charges and secure a conviction.

"We had two prosecutors who took a hard look at it, reviewed it thoroughly and did a legal analysis," she said. "They concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction at that point on the evidence as it was then."

RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said Friday that he couldn't comment on the report because of an ongoing investigation and privacy concerns. He also didn't know if the police would try to determine if the information was leaked from the force.

A spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said he wouldn't be able to comment because of the ongoing police investigation.

The outcry over Parsons's death prompted the provincial government to launch reviews of both the RCMP's original investigation into her case and the way the school board handled the matter.

The RCMP recently reopened the case when "new and credible" information came to light, but wouldn't reveal what that information is.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter also recently accompanied members of Parsons's family to Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and push for changes to the Criminal Code to strengthen cyberbullying laws.

But Canning said in his online statement that there are still those who blame his daughter for what happened.

"Her efforts weren't perfect but she did her best," he wrote. "Sorry it wasn't the 100 per cent perfect case that rape victims need in this country in order to get justice, but she tried. And for that I am very proud of her."

Earlier this month, brightly coloured posters appeared on Halifax streets in support of the four boys. They bore the words "Speak the Truth" in large, bold print and urged people to support the boys, though it does not identify them.

"There's two sides to every story," the posters read. "Listen before you JUDGE."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130429/father-rehtaeh-parsons-responds-claims-weaknesses-sex-assaul