Giving the middle finger is a 'God-given right,' says Quebec judge

Giving the middle finger is a 'God-given right.

7/16/20232 min read

A Canadian judge has ruled that giving the finger is a ‘God-given right’, remaining protected under the right of freedom of expression within the Canadian constitution.

Giving someone the middle finger is a "God-given" right that belongs to all Canadians, a Quebec judge said, as he recently acquitted a Montreal-area man of criminal harassment and uttering threats.

In his ruling, Quebec court Judge Dennis Galiatsatos wrote that not only was Neall Epstein not guilty, the fact that he was arrested and prosecuted at all was a bewildering injustice.

"To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger," the judge wrote in his Feb. 24 ruling. "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."

Police arrested Epstein, a 45-year-old teacher, on May 18, 2021, as he returned home from a walk. Earlier in the day, he had run into a neighbor — Michael Naccache — who lived on the same Beaconsfield, Que., street and with whom he had previous conflicts.

Naccache, 34, swore at Epstein and threatened him while holding a power tool "in a menacing way," the judge found. Epstein replied with two middle fingers and continued walking.

Naccache alleged that Epstein also made a throat-slashing gesture and said he feared Epstein would come back and try to kill him — claims that the judge did not accept.

"On what basis did he fear that Mr. Epstein was a potential murderer? The fact that he went for quiet walks with his kids? The fact that he socialized with the other young parents on the street? If that is the standard, we should all fear that our neighbors are killers-in-waiting," Galiatsatos wrote.

Neighborhood quarrel

The incident was the culmination of interactions between the two men and members of their families. Naccache claimed those interactions amounted to months of harassment, but the judge found them to be innocent behaviour.

"To the complainants, the presence of young families outside is a source of scorn and vivid resentment that ultimately spilled over into a criminal complaint against their neighbor," the judge wrote, describing Epstein as a "caring father of two young daughters who committed no crime whatsoever."

"In the specific circumstances of this case, the Court is inclined to actually take the file and throw it out the window, which is the only way to adequately express my bewilderment with the fact that Mr. Epstein was subjected to an arrest and a fulsome criminal prosecution."