Teen in racist graffiti spree sentenced to 3 more months in custody

A teen who went on a racist spray-painting spree has been sentenced to a year in custody, and with credit for the time he has already served, he'll spend another three months in the youth justice system.

Crown satisfied sentence will "send a strong message" about intolerance for hate

Racist graffiti was spray-painted on the doors of the Ottawa Muslim Association on Northwestern Avenue, among other religious buildings. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

A teen who went on a racist spray-painting spree has been sentenced to a year in custody, and with credit for the time he has already served, he'll spend another three months in the youth justice system.

After the three months are up, he'll be on probation for two years.

Between Nov. 13 and Nov. 19, 2016, the teen — who cannot be named because he was a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday at the time — vandalized two synagogues, a Jewish prayer house, a mosque and a church with racist slurs and white supremacist symbols including swastikas.

He pleaded guilty in February to inciting hatred, mischief against religious buildings, threatening conduct, weapon possession and breaching conditions imposed after a previous conviction.

Earlier this month, Ontario Court Justice Peter Griffiths denied a request to have the 18-year-old sentenced as an adult.

The maximum sentence the teen could have received was three years in the youth justice system.

On Thursday, Griffiths underscored again, he felt the young man had shown he was open to change, and should remain in the youth system, telling the teen: "I think you've made a lot of progress — it's important we stay on that path now."

"The safest outcome for our community is that this young man is rehabilitated and alters his world views," said Andrea Freedman, president of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, outside court on Thursday. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Teen told to write 3 essays

At Thursday's sentencing, Griffiths also ordered the teen to compose three 500-word essays on members of Canada's Muslim, Jewish and Black communities, then share the essays with faith communities.

Examples of people the teen could write about include Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, Leonard Cohen and hockey defenceman P.K. Subban, the judge told court.

"One thing about white supremacists," said Griffiths, speaking directly to the teen, "They are uninformed. They use stereotypes," suggesting the teen needed to meet members of the Jewish and Muslim communities to change his views.

Some of the other conditions are aimed at monitoring his internet use. 

The teen must also submit to a DNA order and is barred from possessing weapons and going near religious institutions, including those he vandalized, without permission.

Crown says sentence 'sends a strong message'

After the decision, Crown lawyer Moiz Karimjee said he was "satisfied" with the decision, noting the one-year custody sentence is one of the longest youth sentences ever handed out for the charge of inciting hate.

Karimjee had been asking the judge for a year in custody without credit for time served.

Still, he noted it "should send a strong message to potential offenders — youth or adult — that hate crimes will be prosecuted vigorously and is likely to result in significant jail time."

He also appreciated the judge's creativity in ordering the essays.

"I think that's a great condition," said Karimjee. "It provides an opportunity for this young man to learn of other Canadians from all walks of life who have contributed to Canada."

Old wounds can begin to heal

The youth is also forbidden to have contact with the targets of his attacks, including David Armitage, someone he assaulted at a high school in 2015.

The teen had been convicted of assault in 2016. 

The Armitage family went to police last November during the teen's week of vandalism, recognizing the writing and symbols appearing on religious buildings.

Police began surveillance of the teen and caught him red-handed leading to his arrest overnight on November 19.

David Armitage attended the sentencing Thursday, and said he was relieved to see the process finally come to an end, so he could move on with his own life.

Restorative Justice model still on the table

The judge left the door open for the teen to take part in "restorative justice" opportunities.

Restorative or collaborative justice offers those convicted a chance to repair the harm caused by the crime, including meeting with victims.

Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa said her community remains open to that idea. 
Rev. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United Church says he and his congregants would be interested in restorative justice opportunities should the young adult wish to pursue them as well. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

"The safest outcome for our community is that this young man is rehabilitated and alters his world views," she said outside the courtroom Thursday. 

Rev. Anthony Bailey, whose Parkdale United Church was vandalized with anti-black slurs, said his faith community would also be open to working with the young adult.

Bailey had met with the teen in February.

"He was not willing at that time to do that," said Bailey, "but hopefully we planted a seed."