The Montreal man whose online threat to kill Jewish schoolchildren struck fear in the community was found not criminally responsible for the charges against him due to mental illness.
On June 14, a Quebec Court judge dropped two counts of uttering threats and one count of inciting hatred against Robert Gosselin, who was ordered to abide by a number of conditions.
Gosselin, who had been free on a $500 bond since his arrest in October, must be followed by a doctor and take his medication, and may not use social media or possess firearms, which were part of his initial bail conditions.
He must also continue to stay away from, and not communicate with, Jewish schools and synagogues, an additional condition imposed in January at the request of the prosecution and at the urging of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
In April, Gosselin, who has no criminal record, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after his lawyer described his recent mental crisis. The following month, the defence filed the medical report with its recommendation that Gosselin not be held criminally responsible. The Crown subsequently accepted that recommendation.
Gosselin never entered a plea, but admitted to the facts of the charges against him.
CIJA accepted the court’s verdict, describing the conditions set for Gosselin as strict enough to “bring our community some comfort.”
In a statement, Brenda Gewurz, the chair of CIJA-Quebec, said:
“The Jewish community accepts the court’s verdict and feels a degree of reassurance at the strict release conditions, which take into account the concerns that we expressed to the prosecutor during Mr. Gosselin’s hearings, namely that he be ordered to stay away from Jewish institutions.
“The recent attacks in Pittsburgh and Christchurch have cruelly reminded us that online hate often translates into real-world violence.”
Gosselin posted a series of violent and offensive anti-Semitic comments on Le Journal de Montréal’s Facebook page on Oct. 24 and was arrested the following day. His words were particularly distressing as they came just three days before the murder of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Most disturbingly, Gosselin made an explicit threat against Jewish schoolgirls. He wrote in French that he would “eliminate Jews by killing a whole Jewish girls’ school. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise!”
He also wrote: “A good Jew serves as firewood” and “There is not one more anti-Zionist than me! And I will surely kill!”
In its audit of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 2018, B’nai Brith Canada stated that “the lax bail conditions for Gosselin caused much distress in the Jewish community. (B’nai Brith) regularly heard from Montrealers who were afraid to visit Jewish institutions, synagogues, schools or go about their lives out of fear that Gosselin would make good on his threats.”
Earlier this month, a 49-year-old Terrebonne, Que., man got 30 days in prison after being found guilty of posting anti-Muslim content online. The judge imposed a sentence even more severe than what the Crown asked for, saying he wanted to send a message to the public.
The accused, Pierre Dion, posted two videos in January, on the second anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, in which he praised the killer and expressed his wish to “get Muslims out of the country.” The prosecution had sought a sentence of community service.