A troubled young Quebec City man who incited hate against Arabs by writing unapologetically “cruel and racist” rantings on social media hours after six people were shot dead and five wounded at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017 was sentenced to 60 days in prison.
The 20-year old arborist, who pled guilty, blamed his drug-induced intoxicated state for his online racist comments. He testified that he consumed cocaine, ketamine and MDMA at a rave. He also admitted during trial that he was “a bit racist” but was willing to make a public apology and make a donation in exchange for an absolute discharge.
Court of Quebec Judge Mario Tremblay would have none of it. The comments were heinous, issued at a time when victims, the Arab community and society were coping with grief, and were made repeatedly, held Judge Tremblay.
“Considering the context in which the comments were made and its contents, the sentence must be sufficiently severe to have a denunciation effect,” said Judge Tremblay in R. c. Huot 2018 QCCQ 4650. “The accused has no excuse. He made these comments repeatedly” during three days.
But Judge Tremblay made it plain that the accused was not sentenced because he still holds racist thoughts. Rather his deeply held personal views “wipe out the possibility” that his excuses are sincere and he failed to demonstrate a genuine awareness and recognition of the harm done to Arab community and society at large, added Judge Tremblay.
Echoing remarks made more than a decade ago in R. c. Presseault, 2007 QCCQ 384 by then Court of Quebec Judge Martin Vauclair, now a Quebec Court of Appeal Justice, Judge Tremblay lamented that he could not impose a stiffer sentence because of “choices made by the legislator.” The maximum sentence for inciting hate is two years imprisonment.
“The consequences associated with such remarks are latent, pernicious and could have an explosive impact on a fragile person susceptible of committing an illegal act,” concluded Judge Tremblay.
The arborist, the third person to be charged for inciting hate crimes following the Quebec City mosque shooting, will serve his sentence intermittently, on weekends.