Teen pleads guilty to arson in Israeli flag burning at West Island school
A 16-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to one count of arson for setting fire to Israeli flags that were ripped down outside a Jewish elementary school in a West Island suburb in late April.
He was sentenced to 12 months of probation with monitoring and several conditions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, according to the Crown prosecutor's office.
The flags had been installed on the fences of the Hebrew Foundation School in Dollard-des-Ormeaux to celebrate Israel's Independence Day.
A video was later posted on social media of someone ripping down and then setting the flags on fire with the caption, "I am not afraid of any Yehudis, and I do not care about any 'promises.'" Yehudi means 'Jew' in Hebrew. It was the only post on the account at the time.
The conditions the adolescent must abide by include:
- participating in any program determined by a youth worker for a maximum of 17 hours
- prohibited from making references on social media to the state of Israel, the school and the charges against him
- not to be within 200 metres of the school
- make a $250 donation to Just Peace Advocates
- write a letter of apology to the school
'DID NOT CONSIDER HATEFUL MOTIVATION'
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) does not think the sentencing went far enough, saying in a statement it "did not sufficiently consider the hateful motivation behind his actions," or the scope of the incident's impact on the community.
In an interview, the CIJA's Quebec vice president provided some examples of how the court could have responded.
"I would have liked to have seen something in the sentencing that said he will have to go through some kind of training or session with Jewish community experts on antisemitism to understand the antisemitism that was clear to so many in his actions and it's something CIJA can do," said Eta Yudin.
She also would have liked for one of the other conditions to be broadened to require the youth to be prohibited from targeting the Jewish community online, not just Israel and the particular school.
"And perhaps staying away from Jewish community institutions until he's gone through this process of understanding and education," Yudin added.
Yudin reiterated that CIJA has asked for Quebec to have special prosecutors trained to deal with hate crimes.
Ideally, she said, they would learn to decode hate-specific vocabulary used in such acts and would be made aware of the history and data associated with such crimes against all groups of people who are targeted.
The hope is that it would lead to sentences, agreements and bail conditions that "reflect the hateful nature of the act," she said.