Monday I wrote about a hoax hate crime in Canada which involved an 11-year-old girl who told adults that a man with scissors had tried to cut her hijab as she walked to school. The school district arranged a press conference featuring the girl, her younger brother, and her mother. During the press conference, police said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime. Within hours, the story became international news and everyone from the Mayor of Toronto to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in to condemn the attack and express support for the girl. But Monday police announced the alleged attack never happened. It became clear that the girl had admitted to authorities the whole story was a hoax.
Since Monday there has been a new round of follow-up stories in Canada about the hate hoax. The girl’s family has offered an apology, claiming they simply believed the girl’s account was true. Their public statement reads in part:
When our young daughter told the school that she was attacked by a stranger, the school reacted with compassion and support — as did the police.
When we arrived at the school on Friday, we were informed what happened and assumed it to be true, just like everyone else. We only went public because we were horrified that there was such a perpetrator who may try to harm someone else.
HuffPost Canada wrote a piece headlined “The Girl Who Lied About Hijab Attack Deserves An Apology.” That’s taking it a bit too far in my opinion but I do think that there are adults who are ultimately more to blame. Bottom line: An 11-year-old can’t arrange a press conference at her own school. That happened because adults, including those working in the media, wanted to spread this story far and wide. The HuffPost story actually gets to the core of the problem [emphasis added]:
When did we assign this level of attention to a child’s stories? When race and religion are involved, we seem to lose all perspective. Because the story appeared to be one where hatred was a motivating factor, where a child was attacked for wearing a religious head covering, we felt a kind of national outrage. Did the child know that she was hitting Canada’s sensitive button? We don’t know.
An editorial in the Calgary Sun reaches a similar conclusion [emphasis added]:
Canadians should show compassion and forgiveness toward this child and her parents. This child was victimized by authority figures around her, who assumed the wors[t] and who couldn’t wait to turn her into a poster child for their own agendas.
What were those agendas? CTV News offers some blunt speculation:
Psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay was among those questioning the Toronto District School Board for giving the media access to the girl.
“I’ve been involved in a number of issues where the school board, acting with the best of intentions but being driven by political correctness and virtue-signalling, has made some wrong calls,” he told CTV News Channel on Monday.
Amitay suggests the story may have been pushed forward by an overeager school official who wanted to do the progressive thing, but didn’t take the time to properly vet the girl’s account.
“This was definitely the wrong call,” he said. “And whoever allowed it to go forward should be held accountable in some capacity.”
For the record, the same CTV story includes this denial of responsibility:
The Toronto District School Board says it did not organize a formal press conference for the girl.
“Our motivation for commenting on the issue at the time was out of compassion, care, concern and support,” the TDSB said in a statement on Monday. The school board said it was doing the same as “many elected leaders” at all levels via interviews and on social media.
I honestly am not sure what that means. The press conference took place at the school with the participation of school officials. If they didn’t call it, who did? Are they claiming the family called it? Was the school obligated to agree to that? I don’t think so. There were many moments along the way where an adult could have and should have said ‘Maybe we should let the police handle this first.’ That didn’t happen because an anti-Muslim hate crime targeting a child makes a great story for progressives looking to demonstrate their moral outrage.