A Montreal resident was found guilty on Monday of promoting hatred toward Jews based on an item he posted on a far-right website, The Montreal Gazette reports.
In a decision delivered at the Montreal courthouse, Quebec Court Judge Manlio Del Negro did not accept Gabriel Sohier-Chaput’s defense that what he wrote for the Daily Stormer was satirical or intended as exaggeration.
Del Negro took the unusual step of ordering that Sohier-Chaput be taken into custody on Monday. He had never been detained since the warrant was issued for his arrest in 2018. The judge agreed to release Sohier-Chaput Monday afternoon after he agreed to follow a series of conditions. His case will enter the sentencing stage at a later date. Sohier-Chaput faces a maximum sentence of two years.
The judge wrote that Sohier-Chaput “intentionally promoted hatred, through the Daily Stormer platform, against people of Jewish faith.”
“The evidence in this regard is overwhelming. In closing, allow (myself) to make the following observation: the victims (Jews and other groups) of the Holocaust and also the victims of other genocides perpetrated throughout history, as well as their families deserve to be left in peace. The suffering they have been put through is inexpressible and defies the meaning of humanity,” he added, according to The Montreal Gazette.
In another section of the decision the judge wrote: “In the light of all of (Sohier-Chaput’s) writings, the court could not ignore what the ideology of Nazism meant. On the contrary, through his writings, we can infer that (Sohier-Chaput) was well versed in the matter of hateful ideology that Nazism represented and the role it played during the Second World War.”
Sohier-Chaput was one of the most frequently published writers on the Daily Stormer, with approximately 1,000 articles written under the pen name Zeiger.
In court, Sohier-Chaput admitted that he was behind the name Zeiger, under which the article was written. The article contained multiple slurs and offensive terms for Jews. It also mentions a Global News story about neo-Nazi posters found at a British Columbia bust stop.
The warrant for his arrest came after Sohier-Chaput was the focus of a series of articles published by The Montreal Gazette in 2018 that described him as one of North America’s most prominent writers on the Daily Stormer.
Shortly after the articles were published, B’nai Brith Canada filed a complaint about Sohier-Chaput to the Montreal police. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 30, 2018.
During the trial, the defense lawyer argued that what her client wrote was repugnant but that he had a right to post his writings under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canadian Jewish groups welcomed Monday’s ruling.
“We are encouraged that the courts are recognizing that hate crimes are serious offences,” said Sam Goldstein, B’nai Brith’s Director of Legal Affairs. “B’nai Brith brought Chaput to the Crown’s attention and we will continue following this case to the sentencing stage.”
Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, expressed satisfaction with Judge Del Negro’s decision and hopes it will serve as a deterrent against those who seek to spread hate.
“Sohier-Chaput is a coward who behind the veil of the internet thought he could rile up other haters to his disgusting cause,” said Mostyn. “Today’s decision shows that Canadians and our legal system will not accept such harmful, dangerous and genocidal drivel, all of which aim to resurrect the most vile ideology in world history.”
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) also welcomed the guilty verdict against Sohier-Chaput.
“Following a long trial that included some troubling statements from the defense that minimized and distorted the Holocaust, the court has given the appropriate verdict for this case,” said Michael Levitt, FSWC President and CEO. “Gabriel Sohier-Chaput clearly intended to incite hate and violence against Jewish people when he wrote his article and must finally face the consequences for his hateful actions.”
Eta Yudin, Vice President Quebec, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in response to the verdict, “CIJA is pleased that neo-Nazi Gabriel Sohier-Chaput has been found guilty of promoting hate. The verdict is a strong statement that hate and antisemitism are not acceptable and perpetrators will be held accountable.”
“The judge saw through the excuses of the accused, who claimed his comments were mere satire and irony, and reinforced that hatred cannot be explained away. Words matter. We know all too well that online hate leads to real-world violence, and that is why we are working with partners in a national coalition to call for strong legislation against online hate.”
“The judge’s unwavering condemnation of the accused’s intent to foment hatred against Jews and of the defense’s unacceptable attempts to trivialize the Holocaust sends a clear message to those who willfully promote hatred against any group: that they will not get away with it and consequences will be harsh.”
“We are pleased that, as expected, the court upheld longstanding precedent that recognizes the Holocaust as historical fact under Canadian Jurisprudence. The Holocaust is the most carefully documented genocide in the world, its facts are well known, and there should be no room for denying or distorting them – whether in the public, online, in the media, or in the court. This follows previous judgements in R v. Zundel and Lafferty, Harwood & Partners v. Parizeau, and Canada’s criminalization of Holocaust denial, which have also clearly addressed this issue.”
“With International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, January 27, combined with alarming statistics that 22% of Canadian millennials have not heard, or are unsure if they have heard, of the Holocaust, and that 62% of Canadian millennials were not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, this trial is yet another demonstration of the need to make education about the Holocaust and antisemitism mandatory in the Quebec school curriculum.”