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article imageOp-Ed: 14-year-old girl pepper-sprayed after making homophobic comments

By Greta McClain     Sep 13, 2012 in World
Halifax - A 39-year-old Canadian man, tired of having his partner harassed by the same teenager for the last six weeks, pepper-sprayed the 14-year-old girl in the parking lot of the Halifax Shopping Centre.
Christopher Whittle told CBC News the girl has been taunting his partner, who works at the mall, for weeks. He claims the girl began using homophobic slurs after Whittle's partner wore beads from gay pride to work. Whittle said: "This was happening every few days. She was coming and making comments about him being gay, and basically just taunting him for who he was, calling him a faggot, fruit whatever. After so much of this going on, and seeing how this affected him – someone you love being tortured in this way, it does something to you. It really does."
After witnessing one of the verbal attacks, Whittle said he went to his car to get his pepper spray, and sprayed the girl. The Globe and Mail reports that police arrested Whittle hours later and he was charged with assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon. He's scheduled to appear in Provincial court on Oct. 30.
Whittle told CBC News he knows he could face jail time if convicted, but he had to take a stand. He continued by saying: "It's just sad that someone can come into your place of employment or wherever and harass you and turn your whole world upside down for ignorance, basically."
Yahoo News quotes Halifax Const. Brian Palmeter as saying, "They should take other means such as calling police, and allow us to deal with it so they don't find themselves in a position of being charged criminally."
Although law enforcement are treating the incident as a crime, Whittle is receiving praise by some. The Globe and Mail said one individual stated “...and the girl gets away scott free, that’s crap. So much for trying to stop bullies.”
Some of the comments on Yahoo News included:
"Good for you Chris! I have to deal with teenagers daily and most of them are awesome and respectful however, there are those like this little b**** who believe they are beyond reproach."
"There's something wrong with this girl if what Whittle says is true. She's a bully and was harrassing the boyfriend. Does she not have friends that she could be spending time with that would result in more positive behaviour from this judgemental teenager?"
"Good for him! More people have to start standing up for themselves!"
"Pepper spray is a lot less than she deserved."
"Verbally assaulting someone because race .. creed ..culture or sexual orientation is a HATE crime..why is this silly little girl being let off the hook..?"
Other comments criticized Whittle:
"Hardly what I would call "Gay bashing". While inappropriate behaviour from a delinquent, the response and physical attack are unwarranted - I am sure the mall administration could have banned her from the premises - her parents could have been called - the media could have been made aware... instead this guy pepper sprays the kid... if he punched her and then kicked her in the face we would be outraged - I would rather be punched and kicked than peppersprayed - I hope this guy goes to jail"
"I grew up with the adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Worked for me when I was 9 - but I guess for grown a man, when you call him names, it causes him to pull pepper spray out and spray a 14 year old girl."
Although I can see how someone could "snap" after seeing a loved one harassed repeatedly, in Canada all products with a labels containing the words pepper spray, mace, etc, are classified as a restricted weapon, only legal if possessed by Peace Officers and individuals/corporations who have special government permits. Any similar canister with the labels reading "dog spray" and/or "bear spray" may be legally carried by anyone, and can be used to defend oneself against a human if it is a reasonable defense according to Code3 Tactical. Under Canadian law, Whittle should not have had the pepper spray to begin with.
The emotional scars left by bullying can last a lifetime, and have driven some individuals to take their own lives. I agree that there is no place for bullying or the use of derogatory slurs of any kind.
However, neither Whittle nor his partner were under the threat of physical assault. Condoning the use of any type of weapon simply because of insensitive and hurtful comments crosses the line of reasonable behavior.
If I had used pepper spray every time someone used a derogatory word or phrase about me when I was a police officer, I would have been spraying people on a nightly basis.
If communities find it acceptable to use weapons against someone because of their comments, and those comments do not include threats of immediate physical violence, were do we draw the line? Can we pepper spray someone because they called us fat? Can we hit someone with our fists or a stick or bat because someone repeatedly called us ugly or clumsy? Bigotry should not and cannot be tolerated, but responding with violence cannot be tolerated if we want to remain a civil society.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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