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Vigil held for bullied N.S. teen Rehtaeh Parsons
Dozens of people gathered in a Halifax park Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in honour of Rehtaeh Parsons, whose bullying and suicide made national headlines.
Many of those in the crowd were teens who cried, embraced, held hands and wrote inspirational messages in chalk on the pavement.
Some attendees held photos of 17-year-old Rehtaeh, who hanged herself at home and was later taken off life support.
Rehtaeh’s family said the teen endured months of bullying after allegedly being raped. Photos of the incident were allegedly distributed online and Rehtaeh was taunted because of it, her mother said.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage also attended Thursday’s vigil, where native drummers dedicated a song to the teen and others urged youth in the crowd to stay strong and seek help if they’re struggling with bullying or depression.
Rehtaeh’s story reverberated across the country as her family and friends questioned why no one was being held responsible for the alleged sexual assault.
At the vigil, Rehtaeh's cousin Angella Parsons asked the crowd to focus on the positive things about her short life.
"My family asks people not to respond with violence and aggression to this terrible tragedy," she said through tears. "We are coming together in memory of Rehtaeh. ... To celebrate her life. She was a phenomenal young woman."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also addressed Rehtaeh’s tragic death at an event in Calgary, saying he and his wife, Laureen, were shocked.
"I can just tell you Laureen and I, as parents of a teenage daughter, we're just sickened seeing a story like this," he said.
"I think we've got to stop just using just the term bullying to describe some of these things. Bullying to me has a connotation of kind of kids misbehaving. What we are dealing with in some of these circumstances is simply criminal activity," he said.
"It is youth criminal activity. It is violent criminal activity. It is sexual criminal activity and it is often Internet criminal activity."
Marilyn More, Nova Scotia’s minister responsible for the status of women, has been appointed to oversee the government's response to Rehtaeh’s death.
With files from The Canadian Press