Jewish groups disappointed by acquittal in a 2022 Israel Day assault in Montreal

A youth who was charged in connection with the assault of a man carrying an Israeli flag following an outdoor Yom ha-Atzmaut celebration in Montreal last year has been acquitted on an apparent technicality.

The accused was 15 years old at the time.

The May 2022 incident on a Westmount street was captured by a private citizen on video that was widely circulated on social media.

Both Federation CJA and B’nai Brith Canada expressed disappointment with the decision, but commended Montreal police for the seriousness with which they handled the matter that led to the arrest of the boy two months later.

In a Jan. 19 statement, the federation and its advocacy agency, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said that a youth court judge earlier that week “highlighted the unacceptable nature of the incident and reaffirmed that those who commit violent and hateful acts should face consequences. The individual was acquitted due to discrepancies concerning the formal identification of the accused during the trial.”

Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, who had vigorously denounced the incident as a hate crime and met with the alleged victim who is Jewish, told The CJN on Jan. 20 that he was not aware a judgment had been made in the case.

He said B’nai Brith might consider an appeal if after reading the decision in its entirety it finds grounds. What is meant by discrepancies regarding the identification of the accused is unclear to Rotrand. It might indicate the defense raised doubts about whether the minor was actually the perpetrator, he said.

Until then, he said B’nai Brith would reserve judgment on the decision.

The federation is urging the Crown to pursue other possible means of bringing the accused to justice.

Spokesperson Glenn Nashen said the federation could not discuss any further details on the judgment because it is in youth court.

The Jewish groups concur that the police acted admirably in their investigation, indicating recognition that antisemitism is a growing problem.

The actual charges against the accused were never made public. A second young person was also seen in the video taking part in the altercation, but police said they would not be looking for any other suspects.

“This antisemitic crime was rightly investigated and brought before the court,” the federation stated. “Accountability and recognition of the rise of antisemitism our community is facing is important. We will continue to work with authorities to ensure antisemitic crimes are taken seriously and appropriately dealt with within the legal system…

“The (police) and Crown understood the severity of this criminal offense; this hateful attack should not go unpunished.”

Rotrand noted that the incident caused “a great deal of angst in the Jewish community, and the decision will leave the impression someone has gotten away with something.”

The incident occurred on May 5 at around 1:15 p.m. at the corner of St. Catherine Street West and Wood Avenue, about 15 blocks from where the annual Israel Day Rally had been held downtown shortly before.

An arrest was made in July.

In June, the police hate crimes unit released part of the amateur video in an appeal to the public for any information on what it termed an “armed assault and robbery following a hate crime.””

Two young males are seen approaching an older man, later described as in his 50s, who was carrying a rolled-up Israeli flag.

He was walking back from the large rally, which had taken place without incident at Place du Canada.

At Ste. Catherine Street and Wood Avenue, two black-clad males accosted the man and ordered him to give them the flag, police stated.

“Faced with the victim’s refusal, the suspects grabbed the flag and rushed at the man, and an altercation ensued. One of the suspects struck the victim’s head with a branch. A citizen wanting to help him was also hit several times in the face. The suspects fled on Wood Street in a blue Infiniti QX56 vehicle.”

Police at the time thought the two males were approximately 18 years old.

Dan Goldstein, the lawyer who took the video with his wife Liat, was looking out his third-floor office window when he saw the altercation begin.

He chased the assailants who ran away on foot, and then helped the victim who he said was bleeding. The couple was disturbed that no passersby, except the young man who intervened and was struck, did anything as the incident unfolded, as could be seen on the video.