On February 21, 2010, in Hants County, Nova Scotia, an inter-racial couple awoke around midnight to find a huge cross burning on their front lawn.

In a CBC interview after the incident, Shayne Howe admitted he was frightened for his family. “I just seen a big cross out there, and it was on fire and it had the rope around the neck, and it was hanging down, and it was on fire. It was about seven feet tall…By the time I got outside, there was nobody around. All we heard was, ‘Die, n—-r, die.’ I was scared for my kids and my life. I don’t know what is going to happen next. If it’s a joke, then I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to take it.”

Nathan and Justin Rehberg were eventually charged with the incident.

Speaking to the press, his uncle defended Justin Rehberg stating, he did not approve of his nephew’s actions, adding it was likely the foolishness of youth.

“I’m not saying it should have been done because it shouldn’t have been, but everyone makes mistakes when they’re young,” he said outside of the courthouse. “I’ve done foolish things that I’m not crazy about, but that’s life,” he said.  

On Monday January 11, 2011, Nathan Rehberg was sentenced to four months in jail for inciting hatred and to six months in jail for criminal harassment. The sentences are to be served concurrently, and with credit for time already spent in custody, he will spend two more months in jail.

Nathan’s brother — Justin Rehberg — who also participated in the burning of the cross on the lawn has been sentenced to two months in jail for criminal harassment and inciting racial hatred. He will be on probation for thirty months and is barred from owning firearms for ten years.

Nathan Rehberg and his brother Justin Rehberg were convicted separately in November, 2010.

The Canadian Jewish Congress issued a statement applauding the sentence: “We commend the Nova Scotia courts for sending a strong message that reflects Canadian society’s revulsion against hate-motivated crimes. This has been a precedent-setting case, the first time in Canada that cross-burning has been recognized for what it is — a hate crime. The sentence is duly appropriate.”

I have to agree. Racism cannot just be laughed off as a foolish mistake of youth and must be taken seriously. If in the Rehbergs’ minds this was some kind of sick joke, then no one is laughing.

Racism isn’t funny.

Krystalline Kraus

krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto, Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly...