Montreal Jewish leader apologizes for porn charge
A leading figure in Montreal’s Jewish community says he is ashamed and sorry that he downloaded pornographic images onto his computer.
Bill Surkis, 71, director of Montreal’s Holocaust Memorial Center and a former Quebec regional director of B’nai Brith Canada, says he is not a sex offender.
Surkis pleaded guilty in May to two counts of possessing and accessing child pornography dating back to 2008. A charge of distributing child pornography was dropped.
At his sentencing hearing in Quebec Superior Court in Montreal on Oct. 28, the prosecution and Surkis’ lawyer agreed he should receive a jail term of 45 days, to be served on weekends; perform 240 hours of community work; and be placed on probation for three years. They disagreed on the conditions of his probation.
Surkis’ lawyer rejected the prosecution request that his client be added to the national sex offender registry. He described his client as a “stellar” member of the community and produced reference letters from prominent rabbis.
Surkis, who admitted to downloading nearly nine hours of videos of men engaged in sexual activity with girls because he was curious, told the court, “I destroyed my life and parts of my family’s life,” and “I’m terribly ashamed and broken by what has happened.”
His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 9.
Meanwhile, B’nai Brith Canada issued a statement saying Surkis served “for less than two years some time ago in the capacity of a contract regional worker for B’nai Brith Canada,” and that the charges against him “stem from a period in which [he] had no connection to B’nai Brith Canada.”
“Any attempt to tarnish the reputation of B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Jewry’s leading human rights and social service organization, is unacceptable,” the statement said.