canada judge middle finger
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Quebec Judge Dennis Galiatsatos upbraided the complainant who accused his neighbor of making threats and harassing him just because he “flipped the bird.”
Gesture may not be civil or polite but 'it is not a crime' and is protected under Canada's constitution, judgment says

Giving your neighbour the middle finger may not be polite but is protected as part of a person's right to freedom of expression under the Canadian constitution, a judge has ruled.

In a 26-page decision, Dennis Galiatsatos dismissed a case against a man accused of harassing his neighbour in a Montreal suburb.

"To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger," he said in a ruling dated 24 February. "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, had been arrested by police in May 2021 for uttering death threats and "criminal harassment" against his neighbour in Beaconsfield, Quebec.

In his decision, Galiatsatos launched a stinging rebuke of the neighbour and complainant, Michael Naccache, whose grievances, he said, were "nothing more than mundane, petty neighbourhood trivialities".

"It is deplorable that the complainants have weaponised the criminal justice system in an attempt to exert revenge on an innocent man for some perceived slights that are, at best, trivial peeves," Galiatsatos wrote.

Naccache had previously accused Epstein of assaulting his parents in March 2021, a claim the judge dismissed outright.

The focus of the case happened later that year, however. In May, Epstein testified his neighbour held up a handheld drill and said: "You fucking crazy neighbour; you dipshit," adding: "You're fucking dead."

In response, Epstein told him to "fuck off" and proceeded to give Naccache the finger as he walked away, court documents showed. Video evidence, taken from CCTV footage, "clearly shows that Epstein is looking in the complainant's direction and giving him the finger, sometimes with both hands".

Later that day, Epstein returned home to find police officers waiting for him. They arrested him for uttering death threats.

Galiatsatos's view, however, was that "being told to 'fuck off' should not prompt a call to 911".

The judge said: "The complainants are free to clutch their pearls in the face of such an insult. However, the police department and the 911 dispatching service have more important priorities to address." he said.

The middle finger gesture, Galiatsatos ruled, "may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly ... Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability."

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," he said, "the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have windows."