WINNIPEG — A 15 year-old Jewish Winnipeg girl has come forward alleging she was assaulted at her school because of her religion.
The story came to light last Saturday, in a report in the Winnipeg Free Press, which said the incident occurred on Nov. 18 in a Winnipeg high school between the girl and a male student peer with suspected neo-Nazi ties.
The girl reported the attack to a school guidance counsellor three days later.
According to the report, the girl’s attacker, who is reportedly also 15, allegedly first accosted her with antisemitic remarks in the school hallway before taking out a lighter and singeing her hair.
Under the terms of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the victim and her attacker cannot be named. Winnipeg police arrested the boy, who was scheduled to be formally charged this past Monday with assault with a weapon.
Administration staff at Oak Park High School, where the attack allegedly took place, told the Free Press that the male student was immediately suspended from the school and also that he was withdrawn from the school by his legal guardian.
In a CBC News report, Winnipeg Police Const. Robert Carver said the city was also considering laying other charges.
“A girl being confronted by individuals and having her hair lit would be horrific,” Carver told the CBC. “I think when you add that there were racist overtones in the confrontation, it’s got to be a very significant incident. Certainly the Department of Justice has to review any further charges if they were looking at elements related to hate crime charges under the Criminal Code.”
Shelley Faintuch, associate director of local partner services for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in a statement that CIJA was “pleased” the school had suspended the boy and said her organization would be speaking with school staff to help educate their student body on how to prevent these kinds of attacks.
“This is a shocking act of violence that must not be tolerated. The allegation that the attack may have been motivated by antisemitism makes it of special concern to the Jewish community, but in actual fact, an attack like this affects all communities. We know Winnipeg to be a multicultural and diverse city where acts of violence such as this are rare,” Faintuch said.
Alan Yusim, midwest regional director for B’nai Brith Canada, told the Free Press that the incident “tears at the fabric of the community.”
“I think there should be zero tolerance for any hate-motivated activity in our schools,” Yusim said. “It’s unfortunate these things happen, but they’re out there, and they must be dealt with effectively because everybody’s a victim when that sort of an incident occurs.”