Canadian newspaper editor to be jailed for promoting hatred

Editor of Toronto-based publication sent to one year in jail for promoting hatred against women and Jews.

Elad Benari,

Toronto
Toronto
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The editor of a Toronto-based publication was handed the maximum one-year jail sentence on Thursday for promoting hatred against women and Jews, CityNews reports.

In sentencing James Sears, editor of Your Ward News, Ontario court Judge Richard Blouin said he would have handed down a much stiffer sentence had the law allowed.

“It is impossible, in my view, to conclude that Mr. Sears … should receive a sentence of any less than 18 months in jail,” Blouin said. “Mr. Sears … promoted hate to a vast audience in an era where online exposure to this material inexorably leads to extremism and the potential of mass casualties.”

In one incident in 2015, Your Ward News displayed several images mocking religious Jews (including one with a long nose), with one of them saying, "Here the Holocaust is repeating itself."

The newspaper also claimed that the media are controlled by "Zionist Marxists," and implied that Israel was responsible for not only the September 11 attacks but also the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shootings in France.

Prior to 2016, Your Ward News had been distributed for free by Canada Post to a purported 305,000 homes and businesses in Toronto, despite objections from residents and postal workers.

In 2016, the federal government issued a temporary order banning the publication from using Canada Post following a number of complaints about its discriminatory content. In late 2018, Your Ward News was permanently banned from distribution through Canada Post.

Blouin had found Sears and Your Ward News publisher LeRoy St. Germaine, 77, guilty in January of two hate counts each.

The judge did deny a prosecution probation request to bar Sears from publishing Your Ward News. Such a ban would violate the constitutional right to free expression, Blouin said.

“Mr. Sears should be free to publish whatever he wishes, even if unpopular and objectionable, as long as his words do not offend the Criminal Code,” Blouin said, according to CityNews.

Jewish groups in Canada welcomed the sentence imposed on Sears.

"Today’s sentencing is a moment of justice for the thousands of women and Jewish community members from across the GTA who have been impacted by the toxic hatemongering of Your Ward News,” said Noah Shack, Vice President, GTA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

"Mr. Sears has a long record of promoting grotesque antisemitic conspiracy theories, misogyny, homophobia and racism. I am proud that the Jewish community played a key role in bringing James Sears and Your Ward News to account before the law.”

“Those who promote hatred must be held accountable. What starts with words can often lead to violence. We can preserve freedom of expression while taking action, in rare and exceptional cases, to disrupt those who systematically promote this toxic propaganda," concluded Shack.

Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “This strong sentence was necessary to send a clear message — that repeated and remorseless attempts to spread hate in Canadian society will not be tolerated.”

“The punishment fits the crime, and should help to deter similar hateful publications today and in the future,” added Mostyn.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) President and CEO Avi Benlolo welcomed the ruling as well.

“Finally, after too many years of having a platform to spew his hateful views, justice has been served and Sears will face the consequences for distributing such antisemitic and disturbing content that targeted the Jewish community and women,” Benlolo said.

“This ruling serves as a reminder that hate crimes, including hate speech, will not be taken lightly in this country and committing such acts could result in imprisonment,” he added.




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