Nova Scotia Party Leaders: Prevention of sexual violence must be a platform priority
We cannot fix what we will not acknowledge. We must “Break the Silence” on sexual violence. It has been four months since Rehtaeh Parsons left us and many of us are still trying to cope with her loss and the details surrounding her tragic case.
We are encouraged that there will be review of police actions in Rehtaeh's case, and we are encouraged that some charges have been laid - but the focus has been on technology and cyber bullying, not sexual violence and consent. To see how hard the government is working to avoid the issue of sexual violence and consent has been devastating.
We are on the doorstep of an election in Nova Scotia. Very soon, all three political parties will be announcing their platforms. We have a growing sex-crimes crisis in Nova Scotia, so in honour of Rehtaeh, it’s my hope you’ll help me take this opportunity to challenge our politicians to make issue of sexual violence and consent a priority in their platforms.
Together, we have forced the government to address this issue before. Days after Rehtaeh’s suicide, Justice Minister Ross Landry announced that the initial investigation of the reported sexual assault by four boys would not be reopened. Days later, I created the petition change.org/Rehtaeh demanding an independent review of police and public prosecution into the case. The response to the Justice for Rehtaeh petition was swift and overwhelming. In six days with over 463 000 signatures, Premier Darrell Dexter announced there would be an independent review. Earlier this month, the scope and name of reviewer for the independent review were announced.
Although there has been progress -- there will be a review -- our community and Rehtaeh’s family and friends, are wondering: why were there no sexual assault charges laid? Why is the focus of the review on cyberbullying and technology? We must remember that this all started because Rehtaeh was sexually assaulted, by four boys, while intoxicated and unable to give consent. We must demand that whoever wins the next election addresses the root cause of Rehtaeh's tragedy -- sexual violence.
I need your help to do that. Please sign my petition and share with your friends and family.
The tragedy of Rehtaeh Parsons, and a growing awareness of the sex-crimes crisis in Nova Scotia, has shaken our province.
As you enter this election we have three requests of your platforms.
1. Please help us ensure the issue of consent is addressed in the independent review of the police and public prosecution service.
2. Acknowledge the overwhelming need for victim services funding and agree to provide long term sustainable funding to existing organizations, and resources to address the lack of service to rural areas.
3. Pledge to invest in prevention.
a. With the exception of a newly announced 'booklet', grades 10-12 students in Nova Scotia have no mandated curriculum to address issues of consent or healthy relationships. This needs to change. Ensure that those most vulnerable to sexual assault are well informed, and able to make informed choices. Education is the key to prevention and curriculum must reflect that. A gender studies 'course' is recommended.
b. Support, with funding, a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence issues like consent.