The Ottawa teen who spent a week vandalizing two synagogues, a private home used as a Jewish prayer and study centre, the Jewish Community Campus, a mosque, and a church whose minister and many congregants are Black, with anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist graffiti during nighttime hours last November was sentenced, August 31, to one year in custody in the youth justice system for his crimes.
The institutions affected included Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Kehillat Beth Israel, the Jewish Community Campus, the home used by the Glebe Minyan, the Ottawa Muslim Association and Parkdale United Church.
In February, he pleaded guilty to a variety of charges including inciting hatred, mischief against religious buildings, threatening conduct, weapon possession, and breaching probation conditions imposed after an earlier conviction.
The teen – who cannot be named – was three weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he was arrested on November 19, 2016 and Ontario Court Justice Peter Griffiths denied the Crown’s request that he be sentenced as an adult, who noted that the teen had begun to make progress in his behaviour while in custody. He was given credit for time served and will thus remain in custody for three more months. The maximum possible sentence as a young offender would have been three years in custody.
During a pre-sentencing hearing on August 28, Crown attorney Moiz Karimjee asked that the teen be sentenced to another year in custody and pointed out that while in custody the teen carved a swastika into a desk, attacked a Muslim youth, and wrote an anti-Semitic slur.
Asked by Griffiths whether he had anything to say at the pre-sentencing hearing, the teen turned to community members in the court and said, “I’m sorry for the people in the community that I’ve affected.”
Following his release, the teen will be on probation for two more years during which he must submit to DNA sampling and will be barred from possessing weapons and going near religious institutions without permission. Any internet access during his probation must be supervised by a youth worker.
Griffiths also ordered the teen to write three essays – one each about a member of Canada’s Jewish, Muslim and Black communities – and to share those essays with the affected communities. The late singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and hockey player P.K. Subban, were offered as examples of Canadians the teen could write about.
Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman was among the Jewish community members who attended the teen’s court hearings, including the sentencing. She said the community hopes the teen will be rehabilitated.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our community members and we are hopeful that the progress in the offender’s behaviour noted by the judge is genuine and continues,” Freedman said following the sentencing.
“These crimes are a sad reminder that, even in a country as diverse and accepting as Canada, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry continue to persist among elements of society. The offender’s racist and anti-Semitic views are abhorrent, and the safest outcome for all is for him to change them. While previous attempts at outreach did not work out, we remain willing to engage with the offender in a sincere manner to work with him on altering his worldview. We are hopeful that through this type of engagement, this individual will successfully change his ways.”