But they also acknowledged that not everyone will be satisfied with the outcome of a case that has sparked an international outpouring of anger.
One 18-year-old man faces two counts of distributing child pornography, while another 18-year-old man faces charges of making and distributing child pornography. Both accused are due in youth court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next Thursday.
“I can tell you that we hope that today’s arrests help the entire community to heal,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Chief Supt Roland Wells said.
“A young girl has died in what is a tragic set of circumstances. We all need to reflect on how we as a community can come together in Rehtaeh’s memory and see what we can do to work together to support our youth.”
Police said they would not release the identities of the accused, as they were minors at the time of the alleged offences.
Rehtaeh was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in April in what her family says was prompted by months of bullying after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in Nov 2011 was passed around her school.
Earlier on Thursday, Rehtaeh’s parents said news that two people were arrested brought them some solace, though the girl’s father expressed disappointment that his daughter never saw justice served in her short life. “She’s dead now. She’s gone,” Glen Canning said.
“It’s sad and in a way it’s a bit of relief that there may be some sense of justice done in this case.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who earlier this year met with Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, said he hoped the girl’s family would be given a degree of comfort with the progress in the case.
“This is a terrible tragedy that had touched not only the families but many other Canadians who have become familiar with what has transpired and the kind of risk this presents to all of our children.
“I just want to say how pleased we are that progress is being made. I hope it provides some measure of comfort to family members.”
Halifax police chief Jean- Michel Blais said he could not fathom the pain Rehtaeh’s death has had on her loved ones.
“A young girl, who could easily have been my own daughter, experienced what appears to be the harsh nature of a world of people wanting to do harm and using social media to do it.
“I cannot begin to imagine the impact Rehtaeh’s death has had on her family and friends, nor do I expect today’s charges will bring them all the answers they seek.”
Police said there were no plans to lay charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault. Chief Blais said he recognises the child pornography charges may not fulfil the expectations some had for the case.
“There has been much mis-information and misunderstanding in the public realm about this matter,” he said. “What some people may believe occurred and what can be substantiated in a police investigation through verified evidence and what can finally be proved in court are often very different things. We, as police officers, cannot act on innuendo or speculation. We do not cultivate facts. We verify them.”
Cpl Wells said conjecture and rumours made about the case online only worked to hinder the progress of investigators. “Some of the things that were put forward through social media has diverted our resources in the incorrect direction,” he said. “It has been very difficult to deal with.”
The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with the province’s Public Prosecution Service, concluded there weren’t enough grounds to lay charges.
“I feel that the investigation wasn’t handled properly from the beginning and I’ve never seen the file, so I don’t really know why or how that happened,” Leah Parsons said on Thursday. “I’m just glad that it was reopened.”
Rehtaeh’s father Glen Canning said Rehtaeh “had no sense of justice right up until the day she died”. “I do believe if this case was taken seriously, she would have felt value as a human being.”
The charges came days after a law took effect in the province that allows people to sue if they or their children are being cyber-bullied. Victims can also seek a protection order that could help identify the cyberbully.