MONTREAL — A Montreal man who was facing charges of inciting hatred online against Jews has been found not criminally responsible due to mental illness but will have to abide by a lengthy list of conditions that include staying off social media.
Robert Gosselin’s case came to an end Friday at the Montreal courthouse after a psychiatric evaluation found the 56-year-old could not be held responsible for the crimes.
Gosselin was charged with two counts of uttering threats and one count of inciting hatred in relation to posts on the Facebook page of the Journal de Montreal newspaper. Among the messages was one that threatened to “eliminate Jews by killing an entire school of Jewish girls.”
He was out on bail following his arrest last October but was under strict conditions that included staying away from Jewish schools and synagogues.
Those conditions will be maintained among others, prosecutor Diane Mulinda said in a phone interview.
The anti-Semitic threats were made just days before the Oct. 27 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, which raised anxiety levels in the Montreal community.
Describing the climate as an unprecedented moment in North American Jewish life, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he’s certain that some members of the community would have preferred incarceration.
“Obviously, we accept the judge’s ruling, and we just hope that the people entrusted with enforcing the conditions do so diligently, and we hope that he abides by them,” Poupko said Friday.
“It’s (the ruling) an opportunity for people to strongly consider some of the more nefarious uses of social media and what to do to crackdown on the dissemination of hate and threats on the internet.”
Mulinda said Gosselin admitted to the facts of the case before a series of conditions were imposed.
“He’s going to be followed by a doctor, he’s going to have to take his medications which he has been doing,” Mulinda said.
He will also be forbidden from possessing weapons, will be followed by a tribunal and will not be permitted to use social media under any circumstances.
Mulinda said the case still sends a message of dissuasion to the community “It’s unacceptable,” she said.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press