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Your Ward News editor, publisher convicted of promoting hatred

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But hey, go big or go home, right?

Or go, perhaps, in the case of James Sears, to prison. Along with fellow bucket of slime LeRoy St. Germaine.

The editor and publisher, respectively — by which I mean no respect at all — of Your Ward News were on Thursday convicted of wilfully inciting hatred against women and Jews in their piggy little rag.

“In cases of this nature, ordinarily a custodial sentence would be sought,” Crown counsel Jamie Klukach said afterwards.

Cases of this nature are rarely pursued and even more rarely successfully prosecuted. For good reason. Criminalizing free speech is inherently antithetical in a democratic society. It’s a bludgeon, not worth wielding in the freewheeling mosh pit of opinion.

But the hate law exists, under Section 319.2 of Canada’s Criminal Code. This is believed to be the first conviction in Canada for promoting hatred against women. (Women were only added to that section in 2014, under then-prime minister Stephen Harper.)

“There is an overreaching and unrelenting depth of hate”’ in the publication’s content, Judge Richard Blouin observed in brief remarks before releasing his decision. “You both wholly intended to promote hate.

“If this doesn’t qualify as hate, I don’t know what will. I find you both guilty.”

Of course Sears sneered and snorted, as he had throughout the judge-alone trial, in which he did not take the stand but nevertheless made his feelings obvious, by expression and gesture. As if the whole thing was a farce, his paper itself a farcical and sophomoric tab intended as crude satire.

Crude, there is no doubt.

So Sears assumed the posture of persecuted martyr, reaching for the most sacrosanct of divine analogies.

“I have to say that 2,000 years ago, a man very similar to me was hauled up on hate speech charges by the Pharisees,” Sears, 55, told reporters outside the courtroom later. “Two thousand years later, I’m being hauled on hate speech charges and we are going to be crucified very soon.”

Christ. On. A. Cross.

Jesus was tried and condemned, by the way, for claiming to be king of the Jews, a crime of treason against the Roman Empire. Not a word of hatred is to be found in scripture.

But why let facts or history get in the way of megalomania?

“Jesus suffered way worse than we have,” Sears continued. “I consider it an honour and a blessing to suffer for the same crime that Jesus suffered for, which was hate speech.”

Reporter: You’re comparing yourself to Jesus?

Sears: “Yes I am. I’m prepared to be crucified.”

Hate speech laws, Sears added, are “arbitrary” and neo-judicial. “What I said would not have been considered hate speech 30, 40 years ago.”

Your Ward News, which is distributed free to — it’s claimed — more than 300,000 households in southwest Ontario, mostly in Toronto’s east end, is a rancid hate-tract of anti-Semitism and misogyny. Jews are depicted, in words and caricatures, as controlling world finances. Hitler is glorified. Holocaust denial runs rampant across its pages. Women are demonized for castrating men in contemporary culture: “satanic whores,” “FemiMarxist c — ts,” chattel; and rape non-existent, “speeding tickets on the seduction,” as Sears — who was convicted sexually assaulting two female patients in 1992, his medical licence revoked — wrote under his alternate pseudonym of Dimitri the Lover.

Sears also blamed feminist ideology and toxic vaccines for the van attack along north Yonge St. last April.

“I don’t think the things we write are hurtful,” Sears argued. “We write about all sorts of groups. Two test groups were chosen (for trial). But any particular group could come after us. The most complaints I ever received were from Christians who complained that us depicting Jesus Christ in a threesome with two women was sacrilegious and blasphemous. I received more hate from Christian groups for portraying Jesus as a stud than I have from any Jewish or women’s groups.”

I do not like quoting Sears. I do not like quoting from Your Ward News — which Canada Post is now forbidden to deliver. But there’s no getting around it.

The judge noted that he’d examined the entirety of YWN’s 22 editions because defence lawyers maintained the contents should be assessed “contextually.”

Blouin wrote, “When all 22 issues are examined, one is left with unfocused and absurd opinions, contradictory messages, and scattershot ramblings.”

And those are hateful, beyond any reasonable context.

Klukach: “He found the material was clear and obvious hatred.”

No room for equivocation at all.

Still, a tall assignment for the prosecution, as Klukach explained, “because the level of intent that the Crown has to prove is extremely high. It’s not enough that the material is hatred but the perpetrator has to have intended to promote it. So ordinarily they turn on issues of proof of intent.”

Most famously, the hate law section was invoked to secure convictions against Alberta school teacher Jim Keegstra in 1994 (overturned on appeal but reinstated by the Supreme Court of Canada) and Holocaust-denying pamphleteer Ernst Zundel in the 1980s (deported to Germany in 2005.)

Germaine, 77, arrived in court late, hastily whipping off a black do-rag.

“I got nothing to say to you,” he told reporters. “What’s to be disappointed about? The judge had a decision to make, he made it.

“No regrets at all.’’

Court is to return for sentencing on April 26. It is believed, however, that Germaine, who professes Indigenous heredity, will seek what’s called a Gladue report, whereby Aboriginal background may be taken into account in sentencing.

That’s rather rich, given that race, gender, ethnicity and sexual designation are all fodder for Your Ward News bile.

“This went on for years,” said Bernie Farber, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who sat in on the proceedings throughout. “I was portrayed as an evil Jew for years. If there’s going to be meat behind this kind of a decision, I would hope that there would be time served in jail. That is the kind of thing that gives a message.”

Farber noted that he had brought a complaint against Your Ward News three years ago. “It took this long to get a final decision. That tells us we need to have better policing on this issue. We used to have anti-hate units in various police forces across this country. They have been done away with.”

If Your Ward News isn’t crushed — and it’s unclear if the paper can continue to publish — like-minded periodicals will simply pop up elsewhere, says Farber.

He points to other far-right hate groups such as the Proud Boys, the Incel movement — a bizarre alt-right offshoot, self-described as “involuntarily celibate” that justifies violence against women — and the Yellow Vest movement exported from France as ideologies that have taken root via hate propaganda unchecked.

“This decision tells haters of all kinds that you will be accounted for, that there is justice here.”

Also taking heart from the decision were Warren and Lisa Kinsella, who have brought a civil lawsuit against Sears and Germaine. Both men were acquitted of uttering threats against the political consultant couple.

“The judge correctly found here this isn’t free speech,” said Warren Kinsella. “It’s hate propaganda. It is the most foul and vile expressions of hatred against women and Jews and members of the LGBTQ community that you can find. This is worse than anything — Keegstra, Zundel, all of them.”

And they’re normalizing hate speech.

“They’re no longer on the fringes,” warned Kinsella. “They’re now at the centre of power. A white supremacist is the president of the United States.”

Jesus wept.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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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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Anglais

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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Anglais

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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