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