Candice Malcolm: It's fine to report when a refugee's been charged with a crime

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(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

Are Canadian media outlets trying to cover up possible crimes committed by Syrian refugees in Canada?

A man was arrested last weekend, after several teenage girls reported him to authorities at West Edmonton Mall. During a gathering for families that work at the University of Alberta, the man allegedly “both followed and inappropriately touched at least six teen girls while swimming in the park,” said police spokesperson Scott Pattison.

Soleiman Hajj Soleiman, a refugee from Syria, has been charged with six counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference.

The complainants were all under the age of 16. Young teenage girls, allegedly violated at a Saturday evening gathering with their families. This is disturbing, to say the very least.

What is equally problematic, however, is the way this story was covered in the mainstream media – many of whom were primarily concerned about possible backlash that would come from identifying the alleged perpetrator.

Take, for example, the CBC. In its story about the incident, the CBC interviewed Mohamed Huque, a spokesman for an Islamic Association that works with Syrian refugees.

Huque was very upset. But no, he wasn’t quoted as being upset that a member of his community is an alleged predator. He wasn’t quoted as being upset that girls and young women were said to have been violated and abused. Instead, Huque was quoted as being upset that the man charged was identified as a Syrian refugee.

The CBC article muses about leaving this information out of future stories, to prevent an “unfair” reaction from Canadians.

In a follow-up story, the CBC included a sub-headline that quotes Huque saying the man’s nationality and status are “not relevant to the story.”

But that is not true.

First, when a person commits a crime or is alleged to have committed a crime, they no longer have the right to remain anonymous. Especially when it comes to a potential pedophile. The public has a right to know.

Second, when non-citizens are accused of committing crimes in Canada, their status is almost always included in the story. That’s because committing a serious crime in Canada – including sexual assault – is grounds for deportation.

It’s relevant to the story because it affects the punishment that will be levied if this man is convicted of the crimes he has been charged with.

Third, Canadians have a right to know how the Syrian refugee program is panning out. Are we doing everything we can to ensure that Syrian refugees integrate properly into Canada?

The CBC article, however, suggests we not ask these...(READ MORE)