Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City teen admits to racist attack

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A Winnipeg teen has admitted he tried to burn the hair of a Jewish student in a racially motivated attack that happened inside their high school.

The 17-year-old -- who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act -- will be sentenced on June 27. He recently pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with a weapon (a lighter) for the November 2011 incident that made headlines across the country.

A pre-sentence report has been ordered by the judge to study all aspects of the teen's background, including the factors involved in attacking the 15-year-old girl at Oak Park High School.

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

"There was definitely some racial comments made and some physical aggression occurred," Lawrence Lussier, superintendent of Pembina Trails School Division, told the Free Press at the time of the student's arrest.

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.

"What you did should have been applauded. But s-happens," she wrote, drawing an immediate response from some of his other Facebook friends.

While two people publicly supported her views, two others responded negatively. One called the boy a "skinhead," while another insisted what he did should "not be applauded."

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.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 A3

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