Byline: CBC News
Nova Scotia RCMP have charged two brothers from Hants County with setting a cross ablaze outside the home of their white relative and her black fiance.
Nathan Neil Rehberg, 20, and Justin Chad Rehberg, 19, were due to appear in court Wednesday to face charges of public incitement of hatred, mischief and uttering threats.
They're accused of erecting a two-metre-high cross, with a hanging noose, in front of the home of Michelle Lyon, their father's cousin, and Shayne Howe and yelling racial slurs at the terrified couple and their children, who were inside at the time.
The incident occurred around 1:30 a.m. Sunday in Poplar Grove, a small community northeast of Windsor.
Granville Rehberg, Nathan and Justin's father, said he's "real sick" about what happened early Sunday and equally baffled.
"I don't understand," Rehberg told CBC News. "I got nieces that have black children; I got cousins that are black. My family is not racist. I just don't know what to say."
He said he hasn't spoken to his sons yet and doesn't know what to think.
"They're my kids ... I don't know what's going through their heads," Rehberg said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I haven't talked to them. This is my first time hearing about it. I just want to apologize to the public and to the black community. I'm not racist. I'd just like to apologize to all the black people.
"Why would they put it on their own cousin's lawn?"
Rehberg said that he grew up in Falmouth, a community in Hants County that had black and white residents. He said he has close friends who are black, as do his sons.
RCMP wouldn't comment on the relationship between the suspects and the victims but said the cross-burning was not a random act.
Howe is the only black person in Poplar Grove. He and Lyons and their children have been receiving support from neighbours and strangers alike since their ordeal became public.
More than 1,900 people joined a Facebook site set up in support of the family, with expressions of anger that the family was being terrorized.
Sgt. Brigdit Leger, an RCMP spokeswoman, said the Rehbergs were arrested because of information that came in through tips.
''This incident was very disturbing, and we were very quick to reach out to the public," Leger said. "In this instance, we are very thankful to the public for the tips that we received."