Friday Mar 10, 2023
MONTREAL: Giving your neighbor the finger, while maybe not polite, is protected as part of the bird-flipper’s right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Constitution, a judge recently ruled.
In a 26-page decision, Judge Dennis Galiatsatos of the French-speaking province of Quebec dismissed a case against a man accused of harassing his neighbor in a Montreal suburb.
"To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger," he said in a ruling dated February 24.
"Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian," he added, referring to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The accused, Neall Epstein, a teacher and father of two, had been arrested by police in May 2021 for threatening and flipping off his neighbor in Beaconsfield, Quebec.
The gesture "may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly... Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability," Galiatsatos ruled.
He added that despite common vernacular, "cases aren’t actually thrown out," but that in this matter "the Court is inclined to actually take the file and throw it out the window."
"Alas," Galiatsatos said, "the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have windows."