Publisher of anti-Semitic Toronto paper gets house arrest

Jewish groups respond with mixed feelings after publisher of Toronto paper that promoted hatred is sentenced to 12 months of house arrest.

Elad Benari,

Toronto
Toronto
iStock

The publisher of a free Toronto newspaper that promoted hatred against Jews and women was sentenced to 12 months of strict house arrest on Thursday after the judge said his Indigenous status, poor health and expression of regret over the publication’s direction should be taken into account, The Canadian Press reports.

In his decision, Ontario court judge Richard Blouin confined LeRoy St. Germaine to his home, with exceptions for medical appointments and four hours a week to shop for necessities.

The conditional sentence contrasts with the maximum one-year prison term handed down a week ago to James Sears, the editor of Your Ward News, who was released on $500 bail on Tuesday pending an appeal.

Blouin had said he would have given Sears a stiffer sentence had the law allowed.

“Mitigating factors reduce the moral blameworthiness of Mr. St. Germaine, while the gravity of the offence remains high,” Blouin said, according to The Canadian Press. “Although Mr. St. Germaine was aware of the content of Your Ward News as edited by Sears, there is no evidence he created any of it.”

The prosecution had called for a six-month jail sentence for St. Germaine along with probation, which Blouin declined to impose.

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 convicted both St. Germaine, 77, and Sears, 55, in January for promoting hate via the publication, which was said to have had a circulation of 300,000 along with its online presence. The offensive content – articles and images that relentlessly attacked Jews and women in vile terms – was taken down as part of Sears’ bail conditions.

Like Sears, St. Germaine said after the hearing he would appeal both sentence and conviction, saying outside court he had been the victim of a witch-hunt. Those who find his views offensive should “suck it up,” he was quoted as having said.

Jewish groups in Canada responded with mixed feelings to St. Germaine’s sentence.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) said it was pleased that St. Germaine was sentenced for promoting hate, but is disappointed the sentence involves house arrest instead of jail.

“While the court has recognized St. Germaine’s wrongdoing, it is unfortunate that a jail sentence has not been handed in this case despite St. Germaine’s involvement in spreading hate speech that targeted women and the Jewish community,” said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo. “We are further disappointed that despite his one-year prison sentence, James Sears has been released on bail and given the opportunity to appeal his case."

“We are confident that justice will prevail in both cases and St. Germaine and Sears will serve their maximum sentences,” added Benlolo.

The Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada, Michael Mostyn, who has long advocated for the strong sentencing of Sears and St. Germaine, also had mixed feelings Thursday.

"We are disappointed that St. Germaine won't be spending any time behind bars," Mostyn said in a statement. "However, at a time of rising extremism, this case serves as an important reminder to hate-mongers that their venom will not be tolerated in Canada."




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