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Warren Kinsella tells court that Your Ward News called for him to be ‘bludgeoned to death’

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Political consultant and author Warren Kinsella testified Tuesday that he and his wife, Lisa, had ample reason to feel intimidated and frightened that the editor and publisher of a controversial publication were making death threats against them.

“We regarded the article as a call to action, that we should be bludgeoned to death,” Kinsella told Ontario Court Justice Dan Moore on the first day of trial.

James Sears, 55, and LeRoy St. Germaine, 76, respectively editor and publisher of Your Ward News, have pleaded not guilty to uttering death threats against the Kinsellas in the summer 2017 issue of the publication.

They are also charged separately with two counts of wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group, namely Jews and women.

Less than 24 hours after helping John Tory’s relatively easy coast to re-election as Toronto mayor, Kinsella — a lawyer and author of several books about extremism — described the escalating conflict with Sears and St. Germaine that began after the Kinsellas began receiving Your Ward News at their east-end home.

They persuaded advertisers to stop advertising in what Kinsella described Tuesday as a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and offensive rag, and organized a group, called STAMP (Standing Together Against Male Prejudice) that successfully pressured Canada Post to stop delivering the publication.

However, the Kinsellas continued to receive copies, though with less frequency, and found themselves increasingly as targets both in words and images inside.

Crown attorney Matthew Giovinazzo showed Kinsella several issues featuring Kinsella’s image, including caricatures of him drinking the blood of Christ and his head superimposed on the head of a snake.

“We were concerned. We have six children between us, we enhanced the security system we had placed, we spoke to all of our kids about taking prudent steps,” Kinsella said.

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The couple initiated lawsuits against Spears and St. Germaine, some of which are still active.

The tipping point, said Kinsella, 58, was when Sears wrote an article that ended “there was a chance that some hothead who cares deeply about me and my family would lose it and do something illegal and bludgeon the Kinsellas to death.” St. Germaine also wrote something that Kinsella felt put a “bounty” on his head.

The Kinsellas laid a private charge against the pair that was eventually taken over by Toronto police.

Kinsella, however, faced aggressive cross-examination by defence lawyer Chris Murphy, who is representing St. Germaine. Murphy suggested the case is a “battle for publicity” and the alleged death threat “inconsequential.”

Murphy asked Kinsella about the numerous articles and news releases his communications firm has issued about the case, as well as granting media interviews after a Justice of the Peace indicated charges would be laid.

“If there were neo-Nazis or members of the far right who had no right idea who James Sears or Leroy St. Germaine were, you’re actually spreading (the word about) them and spreading the alleged threat,” Murphy stated.

“Is there a question there?” Kinsella shot back in one of many testy exchanges between the two.

Kinsella finally said there was no “media tour.”

“We were shining a light on the threat. For more than 30 years of my life, my belief has been that it is better to shine a light on the cockroaches so that they scatter,” he said. “I do not believe that sticking your head in the sand is effective against people like your client.”

Murphy also grilled Kinsella about his hardball tactics in the political arena, pointing to his online bio where he says “it is said that you can be useful in a stick-swinging, bench-clearing brawl, correct?”

“It’s not an official biography, it’s clearly, for anybody, let me answer your question, anybody who reads it, it’s intended to be humorous. My official biography is on my firm’s website.”

Murphy also asked Kinsella about a tweet sent from his Twitter account on Oct. 19, 2015 that said “James Sears is a neo-Nazi sex offender,” with a link to a website that contained personal information including Sears’ home address.

Kinsella said the tweet was a retweet and that he was unaware of that content.

The trial continues.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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