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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Use These Recipes to Ward Off Cold and Flu Season

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Every Monday night, Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport gives us a peek inside his brain by taking over our newsletter. He shares recipes he’s been cooking, restaurants he’s been eating at, and more. It gets better: If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get this letter before everyone else.

Cold and flu season is coming

I can’t tell you when the official start of “cold and flu season” is, but I do know that the Bon App offices got hit hard last week.

Carla Lalli Music called in sick, Alex Delany and Alyse Whitney went home sick, and I staggered through a slate of endless meetings with a pounding head cold. In times like these, the BA staff turns to the recipes that soothe us.

Want this letter before it hits the website? Sign up for our newsletter!

First up is always one of Brad Leone’s tonics. Our test kitchen manager-turned-YouTube phenom keeps a battery of tinctures, juices, extracts, and herbs in the walk-in fridge. And if you butter him up good, he’ll concoct a cure-all for you on short notice.

ba-brads-classic-tonic

Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

I like mine with lots of fresh lemon or lime juice, some bruised mint leaves, unsweetened cranberry juice, and then whatever else Brad drops in there, from echinacea to digestive bitters. It all goes into a big plastic quart container with some ice and then, if I’m feeling fancy, I top it all off with a can of seltzer. This carries me through the day when all I really want to do is take a nap on my couch.

Same but different is Chris Morocco’s garlic broth—loads of garlic and fresh herbs simmered in water with a bit of salt and olive oil ‘til you’ve got a fragrant, fortifying broth. Fill a big mug with the stuff and you can roll up all boss-like on your colleagues, just like Lumbergh in Office Space.

garlic broth

Of course, when you’re battling a cold, you’ve got to do more than stay hydrated—you’ve gotta eat. I gravitate toward two BA recipes, both with poached chicken, ginger and some heat, either hot sauce or fresh chiles—something to clear the sinuses.

I love Carla’s chicken with crispy rice. She takes the chicken-poaching liquid (infused with Thai basil, ginger and scallions) and then uses it to make the rice. A brilliant, efficient move. The finished dish evokes Khao Man Gai, the celebrated signature dish at Nong’s in Portland, Oregon.

chicken-with-crispy-rice

Alex Lau

If you insist on soup when you’re under the weather, then you’d be wise to go with Andy Baraghani’s chicken and rice soup with green chiles and ginger. It’s as homey and warming as it sounds and (bonus!) it’s topped with chopped roasted peanuts and scallions. I’m all in.

So, there you go. You’re armed and ready. Because, not to get all Game of Thrones on you, but cold and flu season is coming.

Get the get-well recipes:

BA Brad’s Classic Tonic
Garlic Broth
Chicken and Rice Soup with Green Chiles and Ginger
Chicken with Crispy Rice

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Judge rules there’s no evidence Your Ward News publisher threatened political strategists with death

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A Toronto judge has discharged one of two men charged with uttering death threats against political consultants Warren and Lisa Kinsella.

Ontario Court Justice Dan Moore agreed to a “directed verdict” request finding no evidence that LeRoy St. Germaine was guilty of the death-threat Criminal Code charge, defence lawyer Chris Murphy said Friday.

St. Germaine, 76, is publisher of Your Ward News, an east-end Toronto based newsletter criticized for being homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist. His associate, James Sears, 55, a former doctor who had his licence revoked for sexual impropriety, is still facing the charge and is expected to making his closing submissions next week.

The pair were charged with threatening death in 2017 after the Kinsellas initiated a private prosecution over an article that appeared in the newsletter. The Crown has taken over the case. St. Germaine and Sears are also charged separately with wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups.

This week, Warren Kinsella testified a piece written by Sears called for the couple to be “bludgeoned to death,” prompting them to take security precautions.

“The hateful, threatening words couldn’t have (been) published by Sears without the support and involvement of St. Germaine,” he wrote in a direct Twitter message to the Star.

The couple is also concerned about the impact on the upcoming promoting hatred case.

“Does this mean, now, that the publisher of this neo-Nazi rag walks away from that, too? The judge’s ruling sets a very disturbing precedent, one that affects not just us, but persons of colour, women, as well as the Jewish, LGBTQ and Muslim communities.”

On Thursday, while waiting to see if the judge would grant his request to discharge St. Germaine, a woman spit in Murphy’s face as he sat in a Starbucks near the College Park courthouse.

He didn’t recognize her. But Murphy believes she lashed out because of the “emotional” court proceeding unfolding across the street — and the current political climate, noting the rash of pipe bombs sent to leading Democrats in the U.S. Murphy and another lawyer were appointed by the court to assist the defendants by cross-examining the complainants.

“There’s no middle ground,” Murphy said Friday. “If I’m the person who is supposed to be covering the middle ground, from a legal basis, and this happened to me, what chance is there for people who hold different political viewpoints to ever have a rational discussion.”

Murphy added that “obviously” he does not subscribe to the content of Your Ward News and that he took several days before agreeing to take on the case, realizing “it could just really damage my career in a sense I would be associated as a person who subscribes to these ideas.”

Neverthess, Murphy said he felt he had no choice.

“I would rather never do this job for another minute than to have turned it down because I was bullied ….”

Murphy told the store’s manager he didn’t want police called about the spitting assault.

“I’m assuming that this person who did this was, has been the subject of some kind of trauma or hate in her life. The last thing I want is for the police to go and charge her; that’s not going to solve any problem. It’s just going to make it worse, frankly, from my perspective.”

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

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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.

Read more:

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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Mihevc defends Tory robocall at heated Toronto-St. Paul’s ward debate

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Incumbents Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc made their case to a crowd of Toronto-St. Paul’s voters at the lone ward debate Monday night.

They both acknowledged early on in the evening that neither of them chose to be in this situation — a council shrunk to 25 wards from 44 that has pitted them against one another within much larger boundaries.

Incumbents Joe Mihevc, left, seen here in a Sept. 13 file photo, and Josh Matlow, seen in a March 28, 2017, file photo, are running against each other in the newly combined ward of Toronto-St. Paul’s.
Incumbents Joe Mihevc, left, seen here in a Sept. 13 file photo, and Josh Matlow, seen in a March 28, 2017, file photo, are running against each other in the newly combined ward of Toronto-St. Paul’s.  (Steve Russell / Steve Russell, Bernard Weil/Toronto Star)

But things became heated when an audience question challenged Mihevc directly on the “ethics” of John Tory’s robocall endorsing the longtime councillor. On Monday, Tory told reporters that Mihevc sought out his endorsement. Tory’s campaign spokesperson earlier told the Star the call was paid for by Mihevc’s campaign.

“He is the mayor of the city of Toronto and his voice is important,” Mihevc said in front of more than 100 people gathering in the auditorium of the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on St. Clair Ave., rejecting that there were any ethical issues and noting other endorsements he has received. “The mayor has said to me that he is supporting me because I can work with him. Because we can get things done.”

Matlow said he didn’t think the endorsement said as much about Tory’s relationship with Mihevc as it did about the incumbent mayor’s desire to get rid of Matlow, noting his ongoing fight against the controversial, more-than-$3.35-billion Scarborough subway, which Tory supports.

“I’m not seeking anyone’s endorsement who I can’t strongly support as a leader of the city,” he said. “I will work with the mayor when he does good things … When they do things I don’t agree with, I think all of us should take a stand.”

He challenged Mihevc on not supporting the opening of federal armouries during a shelter capacity crisis last winter, instead proposing a plan worked on with the mayor’s office to open hundreds of new beds over several years. Tory, week’s later, agreed to request the armouries be opened.

The evening debate included candidates Elizabeth Cook and Ian Lipton, and saw Matlow and Mihevc sharing similar views on providing express buses, building new affordable housing and supporting supervised injection sites as a needed life-saving service.

“I honestly don’t have a plan B,” Mihevc said to an audience question about what the candidates would do to serve the community if they lose on election day. “I’m really committed to this work.”

Matlow, similarly, said he was dead-set on winning.

“My focus is on being our councillor,” he said. “My focus has been on what I want to do to build a progressive caring city.”

NEW WARDS. BIG STORIES. Get the scoop on how Toronto’s 25 new wards impact you. Subscribe to the Star.

The debate followed Tory’s Friday endorsement of Mihevc that surprised some Toronto-St. Paul’s voters and Mihevc supporters.

It’s only one of two endorsements in ward races that Tory has made. He said Monday no others are currently planned.

Mihevc, along with other left-leaning colleagues who have in recent days publicly endorsed Jennifer Keesmaat for mayor, signed her nomination papers to run for that office. Mihevc said Friday he is not endorsing any mayoral candidate.

Matlow responded to the situation over the weekend, tweeting: “I know that in politics it’s far easier to toe the line. But I don’t accept that we should always support John Tory or Doug Ford just because they say we should. I will continue to strongly challenge any decision that doesn’t put the residents we serve before politics.”

The endorsement appears to have caused some blowback from voters, with Matlow’s campaign saying it had rallied volunteers and supporters to their cause.

“I didn’t vote in the advance polls because I was still torn between @JoshMatlow and @joemihevc,” wrote one user, @VAinTO, who has tweeted she is supporting Keesmaat. “And then Mihevc accepted Tory’s endorsement. Deeply disappointed, but at least now I guess I know how I’m voting.”

At a campaign stop Monday announcing climate change measures, Keesmaat said there will be “many endorsements” this campaign when asked about Tory’s endorsement of Mihevc.

“I’m very thrilled that the candidates that I’ve endorsed so far and the candidates I will be endorsing are candidates who are deeply principled and driven by a vision of this city that is inclusive, and as per our announcement today, sustainable, and also that is forward-looking.”

The election is Oct. 22.

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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