A young Syrian refugee with a traumatic past and a hostile attitude toward police has ended up with a criminal record at only 12 years old.
The 12-year-old girl, who recently arrived in Winnipeg with her family, was charged with public mischief and assaulting a police officer after she and her younger sister called 911 60 times between July and August last year. They used different cell phones they found, making false reports that were designated as high-priority and wasted police’s time, court heard. After the final 911 call on Aug. 24, police responded to the family’s home, diverting resources away from investigation of a bomb threat that was happening simultaneously downtown.
When officers arrived, the 12-year-old punched one while he had his back turned, and tried to hit him a second time. She threatened to make false allegations that the police had "touched her," and threatened to kill the officers.
"I am going to work for ISIS. I hate you guys," she told police, according to details shared in court during the girl’s sentencing this week.
She also said in her statement to police that she thought the 911 calls were funny and she would do it again. She spent 21 days in jail at the Manitoba Youth Centre following the charges.
She was sentenced to one year of probation, during which she must complete 75 hours of community service work and write letters of apology to the police officers involved.
The girl spent time in a refugee camp before her family was able to come to Canada and settle in Winnipeg.
"We know that (she) and her family went through some particularly difficult things in Syria," said her defence lawyer, Hillarie Tasche, who said the 12-year-old and her sister are now receiving counselling with help from an Arabic translator.
"(She) has learned more and more that what she did was wrong and also that saying she wanted to work with ISIS was wrong because they were the very people that were trying to hurt her and her family," her lawyer said, adding the girl has had to overcome cultural differences and a very different relationship with people in uniform.
"I hope that she has learned through this process that the police in Canada are there to help us and are not there to hurt us," Tasche said at the hearing, which was translated for the accused.
Provincial court Judge Murray Thompson said the fake 911 calls were "no joke" and explained the consequences of wrongly diverting emergency resources.
"The reason she spent 21 days in jail was because these were very serious charges," he said. "Even though she’s very young and she had a lot of trauma in her young life, and she’s new to this country, she knows that hitting a police officer is wrong."
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