News Views: Sheriffs of shame

Nathan Kotylak was caught on camera holding a flame to a shirt stuffed in the gas tank of a Vancouver police car.

Another online image shows him crouched with an open, extended hand next to a fire in a plastic garbage can.

On Friday, he turned himself into police and made a public apology for his actions during the Stanley Cup riot last week.

He is 17 years old, but waived the protection afforded to him under the Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act.

He’s also a member of the Canadian water polo junior development program, a Meadowridge School graduate who received a partial scholarship to the University of Calgary, and the son of a  Maple Ridge surgeon and nurse.

All of the above made him the target of those seeking retribution, mostly through social media groups and blogs; he has been relentlessly ridiculed; some posted his cell phone number and home address online. The Kotylak family, fearing their safety, has fled the home, for now.

For some, that is justice. Others, like those on Facebook who want him banned from ever competing in the Olympics, want more – like jail time.

We’ve gone from mob violence to mob justice, egged on by the VPD, Premier Christy Clark and media to assist in identifying those who took part.

Identifying someone to police is one thing, making threats is another, as is publishing comments on a public forum about the alleged guilt of a minor, of anyone.

Innocent or not, laws exist in this country to protect those who may not be mature enough to know better, and to ensure a fair trial for all.

That seems forgotten in the case of Nathan Kotylak, in the age of the internet.

It is for a judge or jury to decide his fate, not just anyone staring at a picture or watching a video clip, or reporting on such an incident.

Kotylak has already been suspended from the junior national water polo team, and missed his graduation ceremony. The infamous pictures of him will forever be attached to the riot.

No doubt those who took part in the violence and mayhem should be held accountable.

But virtual vigilantism only perpetuates the ugliness that fueled the riot.


– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News