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Canada rules that flipping the middle finger is a 'God-given' right

A Canadian judge ruled that offending someone is not a crime after two neighbors got into a verbal dispute.
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A Canadian judge ruled that offending someone is not a crime after two neighbors got into a verbal dispute.

The gesture is considered rude, offensive and inappropriate but one thing it is not — at least under Canadian law — is illegal.

A Canadian judge ruled last month that giving someone the finger is protected under the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"It is not a crime to give someone the finger. Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian," Judge Dennis Galiatsatos wrote in the Feb. 24 ruling.

The legality of a raised middle finger was questioned after two neighbors from a Montreal suburb got into a heated exchange in May 2021.

According to court documents, Michael Naccache was outside of his home when Neall Epstein passed by. Naccache accused Epstein of startling him and making vulgar gestures, like a raised middle finger and a throat-slitting motion.

Epstein admitted that he cursed at Naccache and flipped him off but he testified that it was initially Naccache who who started the altercation and called Epstein "crazy" along with other offensive names. Epstein also denied making any physical gestures to suggest that he would threaten his neighbor's life.

Later, Naccache called the police and Epstein was arrested, specifically on the grounds of criminal harassment and uttering death threats against his neighbor. The two men have a history of arguments and this was not the first time that the police were involved.

The judge ruled that nearby surveillance footage did not corroborate Naccache's accusation and ultimately dismissed Epstein's charges.

During his decision, Galiatsatos also said that "offending someone is not a crime."

"The complainants are free to clutch their pearls in the face of such an insult. However, the police department and the 9-1-1 dispatching service have more important priorities to address," he wrote.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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