A youth court judge in Montreal on Wednesday found a 13-year-old Sikh boy guilty of assault after he was accused of threatening a schoolmate with a hairpin in 2008.
The boy was given an absolute discharge because it is time for everyone involved to move on, said Judge Gilles Ouellet.
'It just goes to show everything that the community has been saying from the outset: kirpan is never used as a weapon; it will never be used in a threatening measure.' —Ishan Singh, a close friend of the family
He said the case would have never ended up in court if the boys were of the same cultural background. The discharge means the boy will not have a criminal record.
The boy was acquitted on two other charges of assault with his hairpin and kirpan — the ceremonial Sikh dagger. The hairpin is used to tuck loose strands of hair in a turban.
Ouellet said in his ruling there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit the teen on two of the three charges.
Crown prosecutor Sylvie Lemieux said she was disappointed with the absolute discharge.
"Especially when the children had to come and testify in court," she said in French, referring to the boys who originally accused their Sikh schoolmate.
Schoolyard tussle at root of case
The charges stem from a quarrel among school boys at Cavelier-de-LaSalle High School in Montreal's LaSalle borough last September.
The boy, whose identity is protected by the court because of his age, was charged with three counts of assault after his schoolmates accused him of using his kirpan and long hairpin to threaten them.
The incident was allegedly sparked when the boy told two brothers at the school to stop following him during a lunch break.
In his testimony, the boy denied he ever committed any assault.
Ruling a victory for Sikh community
Members of Montreal's Sikh community who attended the court hearing said it's a victory, and the acquittal on assault charges relating to the kirpan prove it is not a dangerous weapon.
"It just goes to show everything that the community has been saying from the outset: kirpan is never used as a weapon; it will never be used in a threatening measure," said Ishan Singh, a close friend of the family.
"Quebec is allergic to the kirpan and that issue had a very peculiar reaction, but on a whole Quebec is very welcoming to minorities," said Julius Grey, the boy's lawyer.
Grey is familiar with the issue of kirpans in schools. He fought, and won, another legal battle in 2006 involving a Montreal boy who was banned from carrying the ceremonial dagger at his school.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the school board was wrong to bar the boy from carrying the religious symbol.