Teen gets probation and must apologize for burning Israeli flags

A screenshot of a video posted to social media shows a young man removing flags from the fence of a Jewish school in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux and burning them. (Twitter - image credit)
A screenshot of a video posted to social media shows a young man removing flags from the fence of a Jewish school in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux and burning them. (Twitter - image credit)

The teen who burned Israeli flags taken from a Jewish school in the Montreal West Island suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux in April pleaded guilty on Monday and was sentenced to one year of probation.

The youth, who cannot be named because he is a minor, will also have to participate in a 17-hour court-ordered program, is banned from posting about the state of Israel on social media and must write a letter of apology to the school.

However, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said in a media release that the youth's punishment failed to address the magnitude of the crime.

"While we appreciate the sentence's conditions protecting the Jewish community, the one-year probation does little to deter others from committing hateful acts and nothing to educate the individual about the harm of his actions," said Eta Yudin, CIJA's Quebec vice-president.

On April 26, the teen removed the flags from the fence of the Hebrew Foundation School and then burned them. The events were filmed and posted on social media.

The flags were on display to mark Israel's independence day, and the teen's actions, which took place on the same day many Jewish Montrealers were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the existence of the state of Israel, were perceived as an attempt to intimidate the Jewish community, CIJA said.

Yudin said in an interview she wants the youth to be ordered to undergo some form of sensitivity training, and she hopes the conditions imposed on him, which prevent him from going within 200 metres of the school, are extended to include other Jewish institutions.

She called for prosecutors who work on hate crimes cases to undergo specific training so they fully understand the impact they have on communities.

But Patricia Johnson, a spokesperson for the office of Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions, said in an email that the sole purpose of youth sentencing is rehabilitation.

"With regard to specific sentencing of adolescents, we would like to point out that the principle of general deterrence does not exist (exemplary sentencing to send a message to society)," she said. "Only the principle of specific deterrence (dissuading this youth) applies."