In a touching letter, Rehtaeh Parsons' father Glen Canning has opened up about the tragic loss of his young daughter after she was gang-raped, photographed and bullied as her rape "went viral." He recalls her unique sense of empathy for animals and human beings as he retells stories of his young Rehtaeh, who at only three years old could already feel the pain of a goldfish during the movie Babe: Pig in the City.
"That was the nature of my daughter Rehtaeh. She was like that her whole life. I couldn't go for a walk in Halifax with her without her asking me for change to give to someone in need. She was always looking out for people or animals that needed help. She called Animal Control Services on our neighbors because they left their dog outside too long. Her room and her life was always full of little creatures," he says.
In his letter, which is incredibly difficult to read at times, the beavered father highlights his special relationship with his daughter, saying, "We were a team. We were best pals."
That's why he refuses to see Rehtaeh's name go down in history as a victim. "I had to write something about this. I don't want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it."
He explains that her struggle to hang on to life after her suicide was similar to her struggle in the 18 months she spent being bullied after her rape:
"She died struggling to live, much as she spent the last 18 months. She hung on right to the very end, when the nurses were telling us if she couldn't be declared brain dead soon they couldn't use her as an organ donor. We couldn't wait any longer. She couldn't live any longer. And right at the last moment there was a change in her blood pressure as the last part of her brain gave away. She knew she had to leave. It was time to let go and find peace."
The mourning father finds solace in the fact that his daughter saved the life of many with her organ donation. As he explains, he learned that Rehtaeh had saved a life with her heart: "I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting."
Despite this silver lining, Rehtaeh's father is angry at the blatant injustice that's responsible for his daughter's death. "The worst nightmare of my life has just begun," he says sorrowfully.
He's enraged that his daughter's rapists were set free without any repercussions for their crime. "Why is it they didn't just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation."
Mostly, he's speechless that rape is taken so lightly in our society.
"Why was this treated like a minor incident of bullying rather than a rape? Isn't the production and distribution of child porn a crime in this country? Numerous people were emailed that photo. The police have that information (or at least they told us they did). When someone claims they were raped is it normal to wait months before talking to the accused? [...] The court system in Nova Scotia was just going to rape her all over again with indifference to her suffering and the damage this did to her."
Glen Canning's rage is only matched by his utter devastation at the loss of his precious daughter. He writes, "The life I had with my daughter was a rare thing. It was wonderful, it consumed me. I was defined by it. It made my life rich and beautiful. She was amazing. Yesterday I looked at another wooden box. It will hold her ashes. I hate it."
Let's make sure Rehtaeh Parsons' death is not in vain. Let's make sure it matters. Society failed her once, but let's not let it fail her twice. Demand justice for Rehtaeh. Sign the Change.org petition today.
What will you do to honor Rehteah? Let me know on Twitter @feministabulous and use the #JusticeForRehtaeh hashtag.