Suspect turns himself in to Montreal police in connection with assaults on two Hasidic men

The suspect in assaults on two Hasidic men in Montreal this winter turned himself in on April 20, a day after police released a photo of his face and video of the alleged incident.

The minor is accused of attacking the two men the evening of Jan. 20 on the street in Outremont, home of a large Hasidic community which has experienced discord between residents for many years.

The Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) is investigating the matter as a hate crime.

The SPVM released surveillance camera footage showing the suspect’s face and 21 seconds of one of the alleged assaults in an attempt to get the public’s help in identifying him. At the time, the police described him as having white skin and around 18 years old.

As it was possible he was a minor, the police were limiting the footage release to six days. The images have been removed from social media since his surrender.

In a press release, the SPVM said that the youth appeared in court on April 20   and was released with conditions until his next court date on May 5.

According to police, the same suspect was involved in both incidents on Jan. 20, which occurred less than an hour apart.

The first incident happened around 9:50 p.m. near the corner of Van Horne and Bloomfield avenues. The suspect verbally assailed a man, “pushing him violently and throwing him to the ground,” the SPVM said in a press release.

The suspect then ran off and joined a group of people around his age on Van Horne.

The brief video footage of the second alleged assault shows a person walking on the sidewalk before jumping over a snowbank and pushing someone with both hands. The SPVM said the victim received a “violent kick in the lower back” and fell to the ground in the middle of the street. He then got up and put his hat back on before walking away.

This latter incident happened around 10:25 p.m., near the corner of Bernard and Outremont avenues. The suspect fled on Wiseman Avenue to join a group of young people.

SPVM spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said the evidence indicates that the incident was unprovoked, which led investigators to pursue the matter as hate-motivated.

B’nai Brith Canada applauded the police for their determination in finding the alleged perpetrator, and expressed concern about the prevalence of antisemitism in Montreal. Earlier in the month, the historic Bagg Street Shul in the neighbouring Plateau Mont-Royal borough was vandalized with swastika graffiti.

“Hasidic Jews are a significant part of Montreal’s Jewish community and deserve to live free from the threat of hate and violence,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights.

“We expect the judicial system to ensure the perpetrator is charged under existing hate crime laws. Violence against religious minorities, including those who are visibly Jewish, is never acceptable.”

As the person arrested is a minor, Rotrand reiterated his call for greater Holocaust education in Quebec schools. At present, the Holocaust is briefly referred to in an optional senior high school history course.

The alleged assaults were denounced as “despicable” by Outremont borough councillor Mindy Pollak, a member of the Hasidic community.

B’nai Brith’s annual audit of antisemitic documented 722 antisemitic incidents in Quebec in 2022, seven of them violent. 

Meanwhile, the second man accused in an antisemitic incident in Côte St. Luc two years ago has been sentenced.

Charges of inciting hatred against an identifiable group and possession of a dangerous weapon were stayed against Jawad Jawad, 22, after he pleaded guilty in February to uttering threats. The weapon was reportedly a knife.

After signing a peace bond on April 20, Jawad, a Montreal resident, was given a conditional discharge and put on probation for one year by Quebec Court Judge Pierre Dupras.

He is not to come near or have any contact with the Jewish community or make any reference to it on the internet, or with the person who filed the complaint against him.

Jawad was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

Even with the plea bargain, Jawad’s sentence is stiffer than that handed down in December to the second man charged in the incident that occurred in May 2021 when the pair drove through Côte St. Luc, which has a majority Jewish population, yelling antisemitic slurs and threats at passersby.

Aymane Boushaba, 21, also a Montreal resident, was acquitted of uttering threats and possessing a dangerous weapon after agreeing to a peace bond in Quebec Court. However, for the following six months he was forbidden to come within 200 meters of the Jewish community or the home of the person who filed the complaint against him.

The two Montreal men were stopped by police at the intersection Kildare Road and Westminster Avenue soon after several people in Côte St. Luc reported witnessing them verbally harass Jews as they drove by.

The incident occurred during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 when the Jewish community was on high alert for possible repercussions locally.

Boushaba and Jawad posted a widely viewed video on social media taken as they drove through Côte St. Luc, which one described as “where the Jews live.”

Following Jawad’s sentencing, Federation CJA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) issued a joint statement.

“Though we are disappointed by the reduced charges, the probation terms agreed upon reflect the severity of the individual’s actions and include stringent protections for our community,” said CIJA Quebec vice-president Eta Yudin.

“Today, Judge Dupras made clear that the court recognized the severity of the defendant’s action and that those who seek to foment or act on hate and antisemitism must face serious consequences.

“Though a plea deal led to the hate charge being dropped, the hateful intent behind the defendant’s actions certainly was not forgotten.”

Federation chief executive office Yair Szlak added, “Perpetrators of hate must know that promoting antisemitism or any form of hatred will never be OK. Today, the justice system sent a clear message that there are real consequences to hate.

“Both of the accused have now been held responsible for their despicable actions.”