A high school student grabbed a Jewish female classmate, held a lighter to her hair and said out loud, “let’s burn the Jew,” but a Canadian judge concluded that the incident was “not racially motivated.”
The incident between two 15 year old Winnipeg, Canada high school students took place in 2011.
The lawyer for the defendant claimed, essentially, it was the girl’s fault her hair caught on fire.
He said his client grabbed the girl, lit the lighter and made the comments, but her hair caught fire when she pulled away. He also said that referring to the girl as “the Jew” was simply the way people interacted at the school, and the defendant was not the only one who called her that. He referred to his client as “a jerk and a bully,” but said the incident was “impulsive and unplanned.”
The defendant’s therapist claimed the incident was an “impulsive teenage action.”
Winnipeg’s Provincial Court Judge Robert Finlayson, before whom the trial was held, agreed with the defense. While he called the act “totally vulgar and inappropriate,” Finlayson said he was satisfied it was not racially motivated.
Given the judge was unwilling to classify saying “let’s burn the Jew” and then actually grabbing a Jew and burning her hair as anti-Semitic, perhaps he should be praised for also stating that the school culture in which this kind of incident was commonplace was was “unhealthy and dark and there’s no place for it in society.”
The victim claimed the incident “changed her world upside down.” She needed therapy to deal with her fears. She also believes that the people in the school blamed her for making a big deal of the incident.
The now-17 year old defendant was not given any prison time. Instead, the court ordered him to serve 18 months of supervised probation. He also has to seek out counseling, write a letter of apology to the victim and perform 75 hours of community service work, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. In an earlier stage of the prosecution, the defendant pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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