Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Mental health concerns force delay in racially motivated attack

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He tried to burn the hair of a Jewish student in a racially motivated attack that happened inside their high school. Now lingering concerns about the mental health of a Winnipeg teen have forced a delay in his sentencing hearing.

The 17-year-old -- who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – appeared in court Thursday expecting to learn his punishment. But provincial court Judge Tim Preston instead ordered a forensic psychiatric report, saying details contained in a different pre-sentence report had raised some red flags to him.

The assessment is expected to take at least two months, meaning the sentencing likely won’t occur until the fall.

The youth recently pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with a weapon (a lighter) for the November 2011 incident at Oak Park High School that made headlines across the country.

The boy also uttered anti-Semitic slurs toward the 15-year-old and previously had Nazi and skinhead links, according to sources.

There is a rarely used section of the Criminal Code that pertains to hate crimes, where a person could be charged with public incitement of hatred for "communicating statements in any public place" that lead to inciting "hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace."

Senior Manitoba justice officials had considered laying such a charge but ultimately decided against it.

The girl suffered no serious physical injury after the ends of her hair were singed by the lighter. School officials only became aware of the attack when she told a school counsellor three days later. The accused was immediately suspended and eventually withdrew from the Charleswood-area school.

Following the crime, the accused took to his public Facebook page and posted a photo of himself wearing a shirt with a slogan relating he loves "haters." One of the boy's friends, a young woman, posted her support for him on his Facebook page.

The teen's Facebook page was also filled with other vulgarities, including repeated use of a derogatory term for homosexuals.

"I have been doing policing for upwards of a couple of decades and don't think I've ever seen an incident like this," police Const. Rob Carver told the Free Press at the time.

The accused has been free on bail since his arrest.

A recent B'nai Brith study showed incidents of anti-Semitism increased 3.7 per cent across Canada in 2012, and 30 per cent internationally. In Manitoba, the number of reported cases of anti-Semitism dropped to 56 cases in 2012 compared with 78 cases in 2011.


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