Court of appeal, Burdi George

** Unedited **

Indexed as:
R. v. Burdi

Her Majesty the Queen, (respondent), and
George Burdi, (appellant)

[1997] O.J. No. 554
No. C21788/C21820

Ontario Court of Appeal
Toronto, Ontario
Finlayson, Abella and Goudge JJ.A.
Heard: February 13, 1997.
Judgment: February 14, 1997.
(5 pp.)

Peter Connelly, for the appellant.
Brian McNeely, for the respondent.

The following judgment was delivered by

[para1] THE COURT (endorsement):– The appellant, George
Burdi, was convicted of assault causing bodily harm and
sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment as a result of a violent
confrontation which occurred in Ottawa in May, 1993. Burdi
was the leader of a white supremacist group called “Church of
the Creator” and the lead singer of a band called “Ra Ho Wa
(Racial Holy War).” After a band concert on May 29, which was
picketed by anti-racist protesters, Burdi and the leader of
the Neo-Nazi Heritage Front, Wolfgang Droege, led their
supporters on a march to Parliament Hill and eventually to the
front of the Chateau Laurier Hotel. As the white supremacists
marched, they chanted “sieg heils”, made racist remarks, and
gave Nazi salutes. The appellant Burdi directed the group and
gave media interviews.

[para2] At Parliament Hill, Burdi and Droege passionately
addressed their followers with the express purpose of trying
to raise the emotional pitch of the evening. Burdi then led
the white supremacists to the Chateau Laurier. Once there, he
led his followers on an angry charge across the street to
attack the anti-racist demonstrators.

[para3] One of the victims of that charge was the young
female complainant, who was struck on the head while running
from Burdi’s supporters. When she fell, she was kicked
several times on her right side. She saw Burdi kick her in
the face and utter “This is the cunt that started the whole
thing.” As a result of the assault, the complainant suffered
a broken nose, temporarily lost consciousness, and had memory
problems for weeks.

[para4] The appellant’s main submission is that the trial
judge erred in his instruction to the jury relating to s. 21
of the Criminal Code in two ways:

(a) by appearing to charge the jury as if s. 21(2)
rather than s. 21(1) applied; and

(b) by “mixing” s. 21(1) and (2).

[para5] Any ambiguities in the charge were, in our view,
fully clarified on the recharge. In the recharge, the trial
judge made it clear to the jury that liability was to be
decided under s. 21(1) and not under s. 21(2). He also
instructed them that the issue was not “common intention”.
Any potential confusion arising from the “mixing” of sections
was adequately clarified when the trial judge told the jury
that the following were the key questions to be answered:

“Was there an aid given to the actual offence? Did the
accused first of all commit, or did he simply assist or
abet, that is, encourage the matter to go forward?”

[para6] In any event, there was no prejudice to the
appellant arising out of the trial judge’s instruction with
respect to s. 21. Given the overwhelming nature of the
evidence, which could easily have supported a conviction under
either s. 21(1) or s. 21(2), the verdict would likely have
been the same. The appellant knew from the outset that the
Crown’s theory was that he was either the assailant or a party
to the offence. Looked at as a whole, if the appellant was
not the actual assailant, he was clearly a leader of the

[para7] The appellant also impugned the charge on the
basis that the instruction on self-defence was inadequate. In
the absence of any evidence from the appellant that could
support a claim of self-defence, and given the preponderance
of evidence to the contrary, we see no reason for the trial
judge to have said any more than he did on the issue of

[para8] The appellant did not strenuously advance his
submission on “identification” and conceded that if the s.
21(1) issue was determinative, identification was not

[para9] Accordingly, the appeal from conviction is

[para10] The appellant also appealed his 12 month
sentence. We can see nothing unreasonable about the sentence
imposed. This was a brutal assault committed in the name of
racist ideology. The purpose of the white supremacist
organization of which the appellant was a leader, was to use
violence and hatred for racist ends. The incident on May 29
was a planned and deliberate outgrowth of his malevolent
strategy and deserves the strongest possible censure. The
march through Ottawa streets was designed by Burdi to incite
his Neo-Nazi followers to a frenzy of hatred. In this he
succeeded, and the resulting attack against the anti-racist
demonstrators was an inevitable outcome of his deplorable

[para11] The assault on the complainant was severe,
cowardly, and caused serious injuries, for which Burdi
expressed neither remorse nor regret. The appellant’s aim in
life was to promote hatred, violence, and racism, and it was
appropriate for the trial judge to take this into account. It
was not merely the brutality of the assault or the assailant
which made the sentence fit, but also the unconscionable
racist context in which it took place.

[para12] Accordingly, leave to appeal sentence is allowed,
but the appeal from sentence is dismissed.


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