An aggrieved neighbor brought the defendant to court over the one-fingered salute, which the judge ruled is a “God-given right”
A Montreal judge has ruled that giving someone the finger is the “God-given right” of every Canadian. The gesture landed a man in court, with his neighbor accusing him of criminal harassment.
“To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger,” Judge Dennis Galiatsatos wrote in his decision last month. “Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian. It may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly. Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability.”
Neall Epstein, a teacher, was arrested last summer after his neighbor reported him for criminal harassment and uttering death threats. During the case, the court discovered that the neighbor, Michael Naccache, had an ongoing dispute with Epstein at the time of the alleged offense.
Naccache took issue with children playing on the sidewalk in the two men’s suburban street, and would “drive dangerously” near the kids in response, the court heard. When Nacache’s mother and father drove aggressively toward a child on a scooter last March, an angry Epstein told the man to slow down. Naccache responded by accusing Epstein of “assaulting” his parents, a case that was thrown out of court.
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Naccache made a further series of complaints about Epstein to police, over incidents that Galiatsatos described as “trivial peeves.” Getting nowhere with the cops, Naccache threatened Epstein with a power drill in May calling him a “dips**t” and telling him “you’re f**king dead.”
Epstein told Naccache to “f**k off” and gave him the finger, with the entire encounter captured on the eight CCTV cameras Naccache had installed around his house to monitor the neighborhood outside.
The following day, Epstein returned home to find police officers waiting for him. Despite the fact that Naccache had brandished a drill at him, he had been reported for harassment and making death threats.
Galiatsatos dismissed the case, arguing that Naccache had brought the entire situation on himself. “Offending someone is not a crime,” he wrote. “Citizens are to be thicker-skinned, especially when they behave in ways that are highly likely to trigger such profanity.”
The judge concluded that if he could, he would have physically thrown the case file out of his court. “Alas,” he wrote, “the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have windows.”