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No Charges for Sikh Teen Who Lied About Attack
By JONATHAN WOODWARD
The Globe and Mail, Jun. 9, 2005
Apologetic youth must face community and may yet be assigned punishment as part of restorative justice program
The 17-year-old Sikh who fabricated a story that he was attacked by five Caucasian men won't be charged, a spokesman for the Richmond R.C.M.P. said yesterday.
Instead, the young man will meet with his parents, the R.C.M.P. and Sikh community members to talk about the problem and possible punishments within the restorative justice program.
'This incident is not as much about criminality as it is culture,' Corporal Peter Thiessen said.
'This is a time for calm and understanding . . . not criminal charges.'
The teenager could have faced a charge of mischief after saying that he was attacked by five men who held an Exacto knife to his throat, pulled off his turban and cut off his hair, a sacred symbol in Sikh culture.
But the youth later said he just wanted to have shorter hair and made up the story as an excuse for his parents.
'I did not realize that it [would] become an issue at such a large scale,' the youth said in a statement on Saturday.
'My sincere apologies to my family, friends, the R.C.M.P. and overall community - whose feelings I have hurt in this whole ordeal.'
The allegations set off a firestorm in the Sikh community, first with leaders demanding justice, and then insisting the teenager face charges for embarrassing his community.
'He's a grown-up,' said Balwant Singh Gill, a Sikh community leader.
'He should have the courage to speak to his parents and not put this community on the spot.
'He should apologize, and he should get some help, but he needs some punishment to learn a lesson. He put everyone through hell.'
The restorative justice program can still result in a punishment in the form of community service, counselling, or a fine, R.C.M.P. Superintendent Ward Clapham said.
'[The resolution] is decided on by not only the offender but by everyone,' he said, adding that 95 per cent of young people who go through the program don't reoffend.
Nav Sanghera of Virsa, an Indo-Canadian anti-violence group, said the police decision was sufficient to send a message to the teenager.
'It couldn't have been constructive to lay charges on the boy,' she said.
What's more important is to encourage traditional parents to bridge generational gaps between themselves and their increasingly secular children, she said.
The police decision is similar to a 1998 incident in Surrey in which an 18-year-old man falsely said he was attacked by skinheads.
He was not charged and met with his community in a similar program.