A Quebec judge has handed down a curious ruling is dismissing a 13-year-old Sikh boy who was charged with brandishing his ceremonial dagger or Kirpan and a large pin in school. Youth court judge Gilles Ouellet ruled that, while there was evidence to convict the boy, “If the three boys had the same nationality, and the same faith, this case would not have ended up before the court.” What exactly does that mean?
It is unclear why Quellet would consider this a relevant consideration. There probably was religious based animus between these kids, but the question is whether one responded in a criminal way. Obviously, if this were three Sikhs, the animus would probably not have existed. This is like saying in a racially charged incident, “if the three boys had the same race, this case would not have ended up before the court.”
Quellet acquitted of the boy of assault with his kirpan while finding him guilty of using his long hairpin in the assault that occurred last September 11th. The alleged victim said that the accused boy (and a friend) were upset because the defendant accused the victim of following him. He claimed that the defendant threatened them with a large hairpin used by Sihks in their hair and poked them with his Karpan.
On 2006, the Canadian Supreme Court overruled a Montreal school board’s ban of the ceremonial daggers as an infringement on the right to freedom of religion.
While finding that the Court did believe that the teenager committed assault with the pin, but wanted the families to move on.
I do not like these schoolyards incidents ending up as criminal matters. However, if the court believes that a crime was committed, the way to deal with the mitigating factors would be on sentencing. It can be a bit problematic when court engage in a type of judicial form of jury nullification — finding a crime but unilaterally excusing it. This is a controversy that reflects the struggle of court to deal with cultural differences in criminal cases. For years, I have been participating in programs that discuss how judges can address such cultural differences.
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