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Lawrence Lussier


There has not been a school wide assembly but incident has been discussed in several classes extensivey, Superintendant says

Two Grade 10 students at Oak Park High School in Charleswood are now facing assault and hate charges as a result of threatening a Jewish teen at the school with a lighter and singing her hair.
According to a report by Myron Love in the Canadian Jewish News, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Jason Michalyshen said police are recommending to the Crown that both 15-year-old boys be charged with assault with a weapon and with public incitement of hatred.
“We expect the Crown to officially lay the charges within a couple of weeks,” Michalyshen told the Canadian Jewish News “Both boys were holding lighters. While the second boy may not have used his lighter on the girl, he didn’t try to stop his friend.”
According to Love’s report, Michalyshen said the first boy to be arrested was released from custody after promising to appear in court, while the second boy has been spoken to.
The incident which occurred on November 18 came to light when the girl told a school counsellor what happened a few days later, and police were contacted.
In an interview with the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Lawrence Sussier, the Superintendent of Pembina Trails School Division noted that the student who was first arrested for allegedly singing the Jewish teen’s hair “was new to our school since September of this year,” and following the incident his gaurdian [who is not a parent] pulled him out of the school.”
Further, according to Sussier there are two other students who were suspended for a “related incidents” involving “anti-Semitic statements.” Sussier clarified that in these last two “related incidents students did not target the same female teen whose hair was singed allegedly. The two related incidents involve antismetic statements/comments made on social media.
“I am not able to give more particulars about these other students and these related incidents since the students are minors under our care,” Sussier said.
Sussier also confirmed that Oak park school “has been receiving calls from Jewish parents with children in the school who have been concerned about this matter.”
Following the initial incident, one of the 15 year old boy’s  friends, a young woman, posted her support for him on his Facebook page.
“What you did should have been applauded. But s-happens,” she wrote, drawing an immediate response from some of his other Facebook friends.
While two people supported her views, two others responded negatively. One called the boy a “skinhead,” while another insisted what he did should “not be applauded.”
Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver told the National Post that the age of the accused in this case is “particularly unusual” and called the allegations around the case “disturbing.”
“I have been doing policing for upwards of a couple of decades and don’t think I’ve ever seen an incident like this,” said Carver. “This is very young to be holding such … hardened, racist views, and have a lot of violence associated with it.”
While the police have recommended to the Crown about the possibility of  laying  charges related to hate crimes, it in fact may be easier for police to prosecute this as an assault with a weapon, and bring in the issue of antisemitism as an aggravated factor to be taken account in sentencing..
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.

Sussier also confirmed to the Winnipeg Jewish review an incident at Charelswood Junior High, not in his school division where during a discussion in  a Grade 9 class last year that centred around the Holocaust, another boy, who was German, said to him: “We put you people into the gas chambers.”

According to Lussier when the incident was brought to the attention of the school principal, the boy who made the antisemtic remark was suspended and had to complete an assignment and undergo a thorough amount of sensitivity training.
“Since that time, he has not been re-involved,” Lussier said.
When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review  why no one in the Oak Park School or in the Pembina Trails School Division had notified the B’nai Brith hotline to report this anti-Semitic incident to the Jewish communit
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.