04.12.2013 07:12 AM

Harper, and the Internet, on Rehtaeh (updated twice)


“I think we’ve got to stop using just the term bullying to describe some of these things. Bullying to me has a kind of connotation … of kids misbehaving. What we are dealing with in some of these circumstances is simply criminal activity. It is youth criminal activity, it is violent criminal activity, it is sexual criminal activity and it is often internet criminal activity.”

Harper, here, gets it. It is disgusting that Chris Selley, Parker Donham, Dan Gardner and their ilk have seemingly dismissed Rehtaeh’s case as one of just “bullying” – when, in fact, it’s a case of rape.  Their implied indifference to her fate – and their preoccupation with defending a provincial “justice” system that utterly failed her and her family – sickens.

The response of the Dexter regime, the RCMP, the school board, the school, and the Crown, has also been sickening. Their response, until late Tuesday, had been a collective shrug. They should all be fired; ultimately, I suspect they all will be over this case.

I wrote what I did because, in the Steubenville outrage, social media played a key role in forcing the authorities to bring those young rapists to justice. If the authorities in Nova Scotia don’t care what happened to the victim of a gang rape, as in Steubenville, then we need to use people power to change their minds.

Online activism is effective because it harnesses the power of the people, and helps to address injustice. What happened to Rehteah was a terrible injustice. And it’s incumbent on all of us – every single one of us – to raise our voices in protest, and work to bring wrongdoers to justice. If Anonymous (like Crimestoppers and the like) can help achieve that, so be it.

Mewling about ‘vigilantism’ is what the powerful frequently do when they are caught making a decision that is unjust. To them, I continue to say: too bad. People wouldn’t be upset if the Nova Scotia legal authorities had made the right decisions from the start.

It’s the Internet age. People aren’t content to just let things lie anymore. If a terrible wrong is done – and a terrible wrong has been done to Rehtaeh Parsons and her family – the people will use the Internet to speak up.

That isn’t vigilantism – that’s democracy.

UPDATE:  Now read this.  Oh, and look: the authorities made arrests.

UPDATED AGAIN:  Anonymous issues another report, here. If you thought they sound more sensible and restrained than their puny band of detractors, you’d be right.


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    Bill MacLeod says:

    Well said. Well said by Steven Harper, and certainly, well said by you. Stay on it…

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    Peter says:

    it’s a case of rape.

    I’m not baiting. Can you please tell us what, other than her mother’s statement, you are relying on?

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    Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    For once I agree with Steven Harper and, as is often the case, I agree with you Warren. What happened to Rehtaeh is a criminal violation of the worst kind and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Unfortunately, Dexter et al will probably “committee” and “commission” it forever, until everyone starts to forget and moves on to something else. We must not let this happen. Procrastination and indifference must not win out over justice for Rehtaeh and others who have been raped and subsequently humiliated to the point of despair.

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      Elizabeth says:

      This happened to girls before the social media era, but would never have been made public. We heard rumours of it in our high school in Nova Scotia, but of course nothing was ever done. Back then it was called “gang-banging”, but that’s changed to gang rape – although I think the term “sexual battery” is probably the best I’ve heard so far. Thank the powers for social media, but I think the police need to be right on top of the victim’s social media once a rape has been reported, if it’s reported. That’s when the damage becomes intolerable, when you’re abandoned by your so-called friends, and they turn on you like rattlesnakes. Apologies to rattlesnakes, who are useful members of the ecosystem.

      As for the term “bullying”, maybe it has lost it’s meaning; it has changed meanings over the decades. Sexual/emotional/psychological battery might be better.

      Online Etymological Dictionary
      bully (n.)
      1530s, originally “sweetheart,” applied to either sex, from Dutch boel “lover; brother,” probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder “brother” (cf. Middle High German buole “brother,” source of German Buhle “lover;” see brother (n.)).

      Meaning deteriorated 17c. through “fine fellow” and “blusterer” to “harasser of the weak” (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between “lover” and “ruffian” may be in “protector of a prostitute,” which was one sense of bully (though not specifically attested until 1706). The expression meaning “worthy, jolly, admirable” (especially in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.

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    bigcitylib says:

    Anon summarizes what they have found here: http://pastebin.com/a8GtD7eg

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    Ted H says:

    In the words of the old English/Applachian folk song “The Cuckoo”

    “Oh the graveyard, it will rot you, it will turn you into dust
    And there’s not one man in twenty, that a young girl can trust”

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    Pipes says:

    Got this today:

    “Trigger warning: this email contains information about sexual assault that may be upsetting to survivors.

    “My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police… For the love of God do something.”-Glen Canning, Rehtaeh’s father

    Bob –

    As I’m writing this, 84,347 of you have already done something important. You signed my petition demanding an independent review asking how on earth the police couldn’t find the evidence they needed to charge those who raped Rehtaeh and who distributed photos of her rape on Facebook.

    Rehtaeh’s tragic story of rape and blame is too common. By demanding perpetrators and authorities be held responsible is how we can change this — how we can change the legal system and culture that allows this to happen.

    Please share my petition by forwarding this email to your family and friends and asking them to sign at Change.org/Rehtaeh.

    Tell them that the pressure is working.

    On Tuesday, Minister Landry told reporters he would not order a review of the investigation. Hours after launching the petition we had a few thousand signatures and Minister Landry backtracked saying he was looking into all the options. By Wednesday afternoon we had nearly 20,000 signatures and Premier Darrell Dexter said “We need to have a broad-based comprehensive review.”

    I am glad the Minister and Premier have agreed to ‘consider options for a review,’ but that’s not a commitment and the review can’t be done by the people who messed it up in the first place.

    How many signatures will it take for them to commit to the independent review? Please forward this email and ask your friends and family to sign at Change.org/Rehtaeh.

    Thank you,

    Sherri Bain,

    A friend of the Parsons family”

    This is a tangible activity that people can do. Comments and opinions on Warren’s website are nice, but do something about it. Sign the petition

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    Tracey says:

    If it wasn’t for public outrage no arrests or justice would be brought.

    I worry about what message this brings. What of other victims out there cowering fighting to be heard. Do they feel they can only be heard if they kill themselves?

    The picture alone was enough to arrest someone.

    I wonder if one of those boys is related to someone who is powerful.

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      Cath says:

      Other victims and their families are often caught up in a black hole of bureaucratic BS. It starts with the administrations of schools and school boards and creeps through all others we trust to act.

      “bullying” sugar-coats actual crimes. Harper’s right about that in his statement. It also does something else. It makes it easier for authorities to ignore and for them to act. Why? Because in our schools there’s an in-house program to deal with bullying, pacify the parents and community and passes the buck right back to the parents.

      Been around this merry-go-round a few times. The London Anti-Bullying Coalition was put in place by parents who had lost children (they died) because they were bullied while those with the power to act deflected, trivialized, circled wagons, stalled, blamed the victim. It’s a pattern parents and kids caught up in the vortex know only too well. They usually give up because they tire, get sick, lose faith. Link to London Anti-Bullying Coalition here in case anyone needs it. Also more resources at this site. http://www.londonabc.ca/

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        ray says:

        those with the power to act trivialize, circle wagons, stall and blame the victim because we pay them to. it’s as simple as that. until the day comes when we take back the power of payment to those who don’t do what we want them to do when we want them to then nothing will change. if they believed for a moment that their next paycheck depended on acting responsibly then things would change. that ‘s action they understand. Stamping our feet, suffering from frustration and signing online petitions is the talk. Money is the walk.

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    billg says:

    “bullying” , “sex workers”, “johns”….
    We attatch soft names to violence so its easier for us to talk about as we turn our heads and do nothing about it.
    I think we’re watching the inter-web at its finest right now.
    You were right, most of the commentors on this board had it right, and, Mr Harper has it right.

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    que sera sera says:

    Somehow, the same picture that was used against the Rehteah Parsons – to deny her legal rights, her human rights, and her rights to privacy – cannot be used against the “boys” who took the picture, posed for the picture, and circulated the picture.

    Somehow, the same vigilante “society” that viciously hounded a child to death, based on a photo, is now repeatedly and publicly admonished to ensure protections for “the boys” that were denied to Rehteah.

    Do you need any more of an indication of how girls/women/females are treated as a sub-class of Canadian citizens in this patriarchal country governed by patriarchal institutions and their lethally impotent servants?

    Barbara Amiel and Professor Tom Flanagan – and their ignorant chorus – spoke long & loud & quite tellingly, from public platforms thoughtfully provided to them by the institutionalized patriarchy, about their understanding of the role of females & children and the inalienable rights of males in Canada.

    Is this the Canada you want for our children?

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      GPAlta says:

      Very well said.

      I agree 100% that the community was full of anti-Rehtaeh vigilantes right up until the time of her death, and they are implicated in her death. I couldn’t put it in to words, but I agree completely with your analysis, and I agree that we have to do better for our children.

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      deb s says:

      how well you phrase it…thank you…as its been bugging me why the rights of the boys have been more important than the rights of this poor dead girl, and now her family.
      This victimizing the victim over and over again with cyberbullying, lack of justice and the final nail…that seems to be …oh she was drunk…she deserved what she got:(
      Why shouldnt turn about be fair play…and these boys subjected to the same level of harassment. The justice system is more aligned with the Barbara Amiel version of how society should be…with girls always being the victim and their own perpatrator of the crime:(
      thanks to WK and thanks to anonymous for making this an issue and allowing this tragedy some justice…may the boys go to jail, may the bureacrats lose their jobs, and may the fanily find some measure of peace in the process.
      …and I never thought I would see the day where I was proud of Harpers words on any matter.

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    dave says:

    I caught Harper on tv, and (reluctantly) I agreed with him completely. I have long thought that terms like ‘scrapping’ and ‘bullying’ cover up what it is. There are definitions in our Crim Code. If any of these actions happen ot adults, we get Crim Code protection; but, somehow, kids, who are much more vulnerable (especially to other kids), it is considered a part of ‘growingup’ to be attacked with threats, stalking, assault, battery, conspiracy, and so on.

    I asked here the other day whether or not our Crim Code sanctions against aiding and abetting suicide could be interpreted in a way that included the behaviours (threats, insults, slander,…) that contribute to a suicide happening.
    As WK mentioned above to someone else, guess I’ll have to do my own research.

    Meanwhile, glad Harper said it clearly. Bit of leadership there!

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    George says:

    What is wrong with young men today? To read about Rehtaeh, and then Audrie Pott sickens me beyond belief. When I was 15 (only 23 years ago…my how time flies), I was at plenty of parties where everyone was drinking….and people passed out – but NOBODY – I mean NOBODY – even thought about trying to have sex with passed out females – if anything, they would get tucked in bed or put on a couch, and we would take care to make sure they didn’t roll over (nobody wanted another John Bonham/Jimi Hendrix situation). Something is very, very wrong with our society – and I say this as someone who is socially liberal. The impact of pop culture, the glorification of violence, the objectification of women, and the easy availability of pornography as well as the development of the “look at me” social media culture is really doing number on our youth – not to mention absentee parents, lack of discipline etc and so on. /rant off – just really pissed off to read this stuff. Warren, glad you have been using your reach to extend exposure of these situations and call for justice. The thought that went through my mind when I heard they didn’t press charges because of a lack of likelihood of conviction, I thought “so what?”…everybody needs to know what these vile monsters did, just so that anyone else considering such activity understands there will be consequences.

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      ray says:

      George, I think you answered your own question and very well.

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      Austin So says:

      It is the internet.

      The internet is the great “normalizer”, where fringe behavior and attitudes – because it is so publicly displayed and so publicly accessible – becomes considered “normal” and equally weighted. Examples of rape, pedophilia and violence become so available that kids and adults with no guidance and self-control consume it and believe it to be “okay” because they have realevidence that other people are doing it.

      Most of us growing up during the formative years of the web understand that. But kids are inundated with so much bullshit, and find so much bullshit, that it requires far more parental input and guidance to ensure that they understand that not all information and behaviors are equal.

      I think about my daughter now, and thinking about drinking underage when I was young, the level of danger that such previously innocuous things have become are terrifying.

      The previous article that Warren linked to is all the more poignant as really the onus is on us to ensure that such behaviors are immediately and irrevocably dealt with.

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        smelter rat says:

        Bullshit. It is not the internet. It is people using the internet.

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      Jamie says:

      Well said George. I am socially Liberal as well, but I have a 4 year old daughter now. The world has changed. I was 15 26 years ago. The internet didn’t exist then. The only pornography I saw as a child were discarded Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Naked ladies in other words. Who knows how my thinking and development would have been shaped by instant, constant, free access to the even the most extreme and hard core pornographic images. Who knows how my development would have been shaped by an internet full of “fail” videos of people harming themselves, violent practical jokes being played, school yard fights, vicious beatings. It’s ugly out there and that’s the “culture” young folks are immersed in.

      Violent, highly sexualized, the total objectification of women, the celebration of humiliation and degradation: the culture of today’s teenage male.

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    Mulletaur says:

    Leviticus 19:16.

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    Dana says:

    Now Anonymous is saying they have a ‘confession’.

    In this upside down Canada of ours I find myself wondering if they found it on an RCMP computer.

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    dave says:

    From descriptions of what the some of the assualted kids think they experienced in these stories, I’m wondering if substances like ketamine are being used.

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    po'd says:

    Global News reports;

    “Students at Cole Harbour District High School passed four names along to Global News on Wednesday alleging they were the boys who were involved in the 2011 incident.

    ..contacted one of the boys who was named by students at his family home in a small Dartmouth-area community.

    Attempts were also made to contact the three other boys who were named by community members. Neither the boys nor their parents could be reached on Thursday.

    Global News offered the named boys and their family anonymity for interviews.”


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    Jamie says:

    The reason that anonymous is so successful in these particular cases is because they bring the right kind of pressure to bear on the perpetrators and until now silent witnesses. The RCMP will not “solve” this case. Anonymous will force confessions and force reluctant witnesses to come forward with the massive power that social media and the internet can now bring to bear.

    It’s the ultimate form of justice that the perps who used the internet to destroy a life are being flushed out like rats by the very same mechanism.

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    karen says:

    Nova Scotia needs new blood. We’re going back instead of forward. In everything.

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      Wayne says:

      I thought they had a “progressive” gov’t? By definition, doesn’t “progress” mean to move forward?

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    Clive Wasermann says:

    Jackals and Vultures

    ‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. – Leviticus 20:2–5

    Enlightened social scientists and philosophers have long understood that crime does not occur in a social vacuum. That is, with rare exception, time and social preconditions eventually coalesce to precipitate criminal acts. From ancient times the relationship between physical hunger and crime has been understood. In modern times, the notion that mental degeneration or illness removes the mens rea (guilty mind) part of a criminal act. In our modern time, societies have tried to limit certain crime priming behaviors; for example, driving automobiles while under the influence of alcohol – the realization being that intoxication predisposes one to criminal negligence.

    So, when any crime occurs, especially those of a heinous and tragic nature, society should ask: what are the preconditions that led to this? And, the further back, the widest angle view one can get at first, the better. In the Canadian context, what are labeled Conservatives, tend to point to the moral relativism of Liberals and Marxists as the root cause of crime. There is truth here. Even the most extreme forms of misogynistic crime are now soft-pedaled under the hubris of multiculturalism. A shocking example is female genital mutilation (most often, the hacking off of the clitoris), which is in fact a form of ritualized rape. I say this directly to Justin Trudeau: it is barbaric. It is a crime.

    However, ironically, some of the most radical notions of moral relativism exist in parts of the Conservative milieu; recent comments by Tom Flannigan on child pornography illustrate this. Further, the Conservative embrace of unqualified laissez-faireism is itself, fundamentally, one of the most extreme relativistic ideologies – anything goes to make a dollar. Liberals have heartily embraced laissez-faireism as heartily and as uncritically as Conservatives despite their critic of it and them.

    So, if “anything goes,” and we see shocking crimes, society perhaps should ask itself, why do we allow these mind poisoning lifestyle marketing initiatives – propaganda initiatives like “gangsta” rap with all it’s filthy talk of “hos” and “bitches” or “punk” with such deranged song titles as “too drunk too fuck” – just to sell more vodka or beer or cigarettes? Why are we inoculating eleven and twelve year girls against genital warts to toughen them up for the rigours of the sexual revolution – which in reality is indulging the lusts of teenage horndogs and dirty old men? Of course, more tragically why are we allowing young women to be driven mad to the point of self-slaughter? Why are we allowing a generation of young men to be turned into sexual deviants?

    The venal powers-that-be, the slimy public relations counsel, the unjust lawyer, the servile academic and priest that enshrine this sick social environment of course are well insulated from social sanction or retribution or evidently, even critique. Lower level functionaries will suffer some discomfort. The jailhouse will no doubt expand with all the ongoing problems that entails – initially, fresh teenage boys providing sexual meat for the older and more depraved inmates.

    And hence, we continue to appease the insatiably hungry god of our venal lusts with the ongoing sacrifice of our youth.

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      que sera sera says:

      Oh please. What complete & utter crap. Try & keep your chin up, your pecker in your pants, and treat others as you would be treated. Is that so fucking difficult?

      Since Canada failed to investigate or prosecute thousands of child rape & sexual abuse cases stemming from one hundred years of warehoused aboriginal children in the federal government residential school system – that tells all of us all we need to know about the rights of Canadian males to abuse females & children without censure, sanction or jail time. All of which predates the Internet, “gangsta rap”, “hos and bitches” but speaks loudly to the patriarchal world inhabited by the likes of Barbara Amiel, Professor Tom Flanagan, and middle aged serial adulterers & free range fornicating, teenage babysitter banging, deviants like Vic “Free-Moustache-Rides” Toews, now a federal Minister of the Crown. Good grief.

      You thought because it was “only” First Nation kids that your kids wouldn’t also have to take a turn serving the “venal lusts” of your “insatiable” male godhead?

      And as you rightfully moan about the barbarism of clitorectomies, you completely ignore the ritualized slicing off of the ends of boys dicks. Your right to religious freedom ends where another body begins (male or female). Welcome to enshrined human rights that don’t give a damn about which god anyone wishes to shelter bizarre rites disguised as holy ritual & divine decree.

      When you speak of societal obligations and the “sacrifice of our youth”, stop pointing the finger of filth at everything but the servile mythologies of a toxic Judeo-Christian patriarchy.

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        Clive Wasermann says:

        One can only give so many examples in about 500 words – certainly the residential school system is one of the most graphic examples of institutionalized deviancy in Canadian history – but, in the context of these teens, I wanted examples that were organic to their psychology. I completely agree that male genital mutilation is barbaric too and should be criminalized for minors (e.g. Norway) – but again, I was trying to link to some of the key players – to my knowledge this subject has not been brought up by Conservatives or Liberals. The initial quote was general irony – that is, it was the subtle notion (evidently too subtle) that our morality is no different that three thousand years ago – human sacrifice et al. There are other contradictions: “as you rightfully moan” concedes that not everything is “complete and utter crap” – beside, ad hominem attack is a first-year tactic. But my main concern is: are you really saying that this young woman’s death is justified as some kind of retribution? Who cares right? Just another cracker. This is what I call Mein K@mpf psychology. The same mentality of demonization as this dirty little town who said this “slut” deserved what she got. It’s blaming the victim. It’s vicious. And yes, it is a sin against the One living God.

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        Val Appleton says:

        Nice job @hole – the grieving family just emerges from the funeral service at their town’s Church and you’re attacking their religion. It’s your sick Marxist mythology that’s toxic. Brainwashed, deranged, demented.

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    Massimo Savino says:

    Small digression – The Globe’s Sylvia Stead seems to think altogether much too highly of themselves in this.


    They’ve lost me as a potential subscriber permanently as a result of this, their Wente horseshit, and their ridiculous paywall.

    I’m glad to hear that the Anonymous campaign and your efforts to get them involved were successful, and also that Harper understands the need for a reassessment of this case and the implications for criminal legal reform with it.

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    po'd says:

    Opinion already voiced at the Globe today; on important issues such as this, Bankergate, tax havens etc. , they have been the also ran candidate.

    The hobbled CBC has kicked their can all over the place.

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    Jemery says:

    Yes Mr. Harper put it well! Now I say, “anytime Mr. Harper”! You got a majority now! Okay I’m waiting! Oh and so are all the disappointed conservatives who voted for you! See, you promised “tough-on-crime” many moons ago Mr. Harper! Yeah well you also promised hundreds of other conservative things that you went lame duck on! But yeah you talk a good talk tho buddy PM!

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    Nadine Lumley says:

    @canadiancynic 15h

    So … Stephen Harper is tearfully outraged by the current epidemic of bullying? And he didn’t explode from the irony? That’s just weird.


    @canadiancynic 15h

    Stephen Harper adamant that much bullying should be called “criminal behaviour.” And if anyone knows bullying and criminal behaviour, …


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    patrick says:

    Well, Harper sounds good when connected with this horrific case, but the long term effect of this notion is to criminalize every single act of teasing and disagreement that kids have. Imagine the effects of being able to bring in the police every time kids did not behave as the fine upstanding citizens we expect them to be, especially when they are in the throes of teen angst and melodrama.
    I don`t think our society would be well served with a large swath of ignorant teens (and I mean this in terms of life experience) ending up in juvenile detention with criminal records.
    Of course there`s a threshold of where it’s kids stuff and it`s best to let them learn to deal with it and where it we have to intervene. My objection to Harper, and conservatives in general is that they want to live in a black and white world based on the absolute worst that happens.
    I find that removes thinking and judgement.

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      Warren says:


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        patrick says:

        I’ve reread my post. I don’t know why you think that’s what I wrote or meant.
        Where do I equate what happened to this unfortunate girl to teasing? I did write “horrific case” because that is the only way to describe rape.
        These kids need to be charged under the law our laws with rape.
        We need no laws for that because it is a crime.
        I was wondering about the long term affect of Harper attempting to criminalize kid behaviour, as nasty as it can be as I recall and occasionally suffered.
        I guess you assumed I was referring to this case specifically and I wasn’t since what happened was already a crime..
        If I was I would expect to be publically shamed and humiliated.
        I hope I’ve made things clearer and if I haven’t then just delete my posts because it’s not my intent to be a creepy, brain dead moron. I just can’t explain myself clearly.
        Sorry for the confusion and offense.

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    MCBellecourt says:

    Jesus Christ. Teasing. Not only was she RAPED–or should we say GANG BANGED–She was HARASSED TO DEATH. Small wonder I dread the prospects for my granddaughter as she tries to grow up with idiots like these rapist-apologists around.

    These apologists are no better than the fucking Taliban.

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    Brian mouland says:

    A 17 year old has died and will never come back perhaps the focus should be on her and bullying not on Harper

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