Ottawa teen responsible for racist graffiti offers up apology
An Ottawa teen gave a brief apology today to the people he had offended, after spray-painting hateful messages on their buildings. The young man will be sentenced Thursday morning for the crimes he's committed. He is a man of few words and initially told the judge he had nothing to say to the people, some of them victims who had gathered in the courtroom to watch his sentencing.
But, after a little nudging, he simply said he's sorry.
It was what some had called a "week of terror" in Ottawa. Two synagogues, a mosque, a Jewish prayer house and a church were all targeted over a period of 6 days last November with hateful, racist slurs aimed at specific minorities.
“It’s upsetting,” said one man outside the Machzikei Hadas Synagogue November 17th of last year, “People do crazy things.”
The crime spree stopped when a young man, just shy of his 18 birthday was arrested, armed with a hammer, a BB gun and a knife. He pleaded guilty to several charges and has spent the last 281 days in custody.
This wasn't the teen's first run in with the law. Just before the attacks on the religious institutions, he had been convicted of robbing an elderly woman with a knife. And then in June while in custody, he attacked a Muslim youth who had been praying, raising questions among some about just how much progress this young man had made.
The Crown is asking that the teen be sentenced to another year in custody with no credit for time served.
"How much jail time needs to be imposed before he realizes there are consequences to his actions?" Crown Attorney Moiz Karimjee asked.
The teen's lawyer is seeking his release and two years' probation. When coaxed by the judge, the teen told court,
“I am sorry for the people in the community I’ve affected."
One of those affected was Parkdale United Church, where Reverend Anthony Bailey is pastor,
“He's not a person given to a lot of words,” Reverend Bailey said outside court today, “but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that that was something sincere.”
Reverend Bailey and the Crown had tried to get the youth to agree to take part in collaborative justice, where the two parties meet face to face. The teen told court today he will now agree to that.
“We're not naive but hopeful and optimistic,” says Zaya Kuyena who heads up the Collaborative Justice Program for Parkdale United Church, “that through the necessary interventions and support systems put in place, it's not just helpful for him but for other parties involved to find closure.”
The judge also asked the teen what his career goals are, whether he wants to pursue college, seeming to test the waters for a willingness to change. He will be sentenced on Thursday.