Today would have been Rehtaeh Parsons’ 19th birthday, so I’m going to celebrate by breaking the publication ban again.
Despite overwhelming public support to publish her name without restriction, Nova Scotia’s Attorney General, Lena Metlege Diab has refused to apply a power available to her.
It’s in Section 6 of the Public Prosecutions Act, which allows the Attorney General to order that there will be no prosecution of people who publish Rehtaeh Parsons’ name in connection with the court case against two boys who took and distributed a degrading picture of her while she was vomiting out a window.
It’s a simple way around a statutory publication ban that a judge had no choice but to impose.
On two occasions, Metlege Diab has punted the decision to Martin Herschorn, the Director of Public Prosecutions. He has said in letters to Glen Canning and Nancy Rubin, a lawyer representing four media outlets that challenged to ban, that to use this power would be “unprecedented for this Service, and inappropriate in this context.”
When Herschorn uses the word “unprecedented” it implies that there has to have been a case like this in the past for them to be able to act, but that is not so. All that is required is the legal authority and it is there in black and white in Section 6 of the Public Prosecutions Act. Furthermore, it is not Herschorn’s power to exercise, it is Metlege Diab’s.
As for Herschorn’s repeated use of the word “inappropriate,” well, in the oft-quoted words of film character Inigo Montoya “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
It is perfectly appropriate. There is no better time to use this power than now. It is perfectly suited for this case and if another similar case came along, it should be used then, too.
Right now, there is a chill. The media are reluctant to use Rehtaeh Parsons’ name and important discussions are not happening because of this ban. Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is failing the public by refusing to act.
In announcing a decision that The Chronicle Herald and many others would not face prosecution, Metlege Diab would be applauded.
If she can’t see the wisdom in using this power, she should at least see the popularity and, like any good politician, she should follow the votes.
Note: There is a petition circulating. To sign it, click here. If you’d like to let Metlege Diab know your thoughts on this, please sign it. You can also send her a message on Twitter at @LenaDiabMLA or send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.