Canadian Forces Member Arrested in Rehtaeh Parsons Wikipedia Complaint

After repeated edits to the Wikipedia page on Rehtaeh Parsons' suicide, an unnamed member of the Canadian Forces has been arrested near Halifax, where the Parsons family lives.

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Feb 26 2015, 10:34pm

Rehtaeh Parsons. Photo via Facebook

Military police made an arrest on Tuesday, months after someone using a Department of National Defence IP address vandalized the Rehtaeh Parsons' Suicide Wikipedia page and made comments on her father's blog suggesting his daughter wasn't raped.

Military police arrested a Canadian Forces member at the Shearwater base in Halifax, interviewed him, and released him on unspecified conditions, military public affairs officer Yves Desbiens told VICE over the phone Thursday.

An October 6 complaint about inappropriate online comments prompted a military police investigation, which led to a search warrant and an arrest, Desbiens said. He wasn't able to say who was arrested or who made the complaint, citing privacy concerns.

Glen Canning, Parsons' father, posted Thursday that on October 3, 2014, someone using a DND IP address commented on the blog Canning uses to share his daughter's story: "Buyer's remorse? Caught in the act, simply doing what she loved and was embarrassed that more people would find out what kind of person she was turning out to be?"

Canning, who was previously in the military, filed a report with military police in Halifax on October 6. He also suggested in his recent post that someone close to his daughter's case was responsible.

On January 29, someone using a DND IP address altered a direct quote from Canning on his daughter's Wikipedia page. The original quote said: "The two boys involved in taking and posing for the photograph stated Rehtaeh was throwing up when they had sex with her. That is not called consensual sex. That is called rape."

The DND user changed Canning's quote to say he didn't think she was raped: "The two boys involved in taking and posing for the photograph stated Rehtaeh was throwing up after they had sex with her. That is called consensual sex."

When she was 15, Parsons told police she was raped at a small gathering by several boys after they had been drinking. One of the boys snapped a photo of another boy grinning and flashing a thumbs-up as he penetrated Rehtaeh, who was vomiting at the time. One of the boys sent the photo to two girls and it quickly spread among her peers, who slut-shamed and harassed her.

When she was 17, Parsons locked herself in a bathroom and tried to commit suicide. Her parents took her off life support three days later.

Messages left for Canning were not immediately returned Thursday.

When he spoke to VICE earlier this month, Canning said it was "disgusting" for the DND user to change his direct quote to say what happened to his daughter was consensual. "I've never said anything like that at all," he said.

Canning said the online abuse was an ongoing pattern. "It's a low blow, but I'm not surprised," he said of the Wikipedia edits. "I'm getting used to that shit."

Parsons' father said he would consider legal action against the DND user who altered his direct quote.

Wikipedia mods have repeatedly flagged DND IP users' edits over the past six years, citing "unconstructive" edits that constitute "vandalizing" a number of its pages.

Canadian Forces members, presumably including the one who was arrested, have to follow a directive on acceptable internet use and an ethics code.

The DND's internet rules prohibit any online action that is contrary to the Canadian Criminal Code or "has or could reasonably have caused harm to others." Consequences could include revocation of access to DND computers, charges, civil liability, disciplinary action, and job termination.

If charges are laid in this case, the Department of National Defence will notify the public, military public affairs officer Desbiens said Thursday. He said the department takes any allegations of inappropriate conduct seriously.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter.

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