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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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Will gives valuable coin collection to U.S. racist group

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CIJA legal counsel Richard Marceau

A New Brunswick judge has put on hold a bequest of nearly $275,000 to a U.S.-based neo-Nazi organization.

Earlier this week, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge granted an interim injunction temporarily blocking the transfer. The case involves the will of Robert Harry McCorkill, a retired chemist who died nine years ago in Saint John, N.B. McCorkill (also known as McCorkell) was a supporter of the National Alliance, a Virginia-based organization that espouses white supremacist views.

McCorkill’s estate consists largely of a valuable coin collection and some cash that he left to the Alliance.

His sister, Isabelle McCorkill, is contesting the bequest. Her Moncton-based lawyer, Marc-Antoine Chiasson, said his client believes such a bestowal would violate public policy and should be stopped.

There are limitations to a person’s right to dispose of their property in their will as they see fit, based on concerns over public policy, Chiasson said. Hate speech is prohibited by law in Canada, and Canada has also signed international treaties against financing hate groups. That would make a bequest to such groups unlawful, he suggested.

According toe the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a U.S. civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, McCorkill joined the National Alliance in 1998, when it numbered some 1,400 members. At the time it was led by William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, a novel on race war that is said to have inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

According to the FBI, the group was considered a “continuing terrorist threat” and some of its members were implicated in bombings, arson and murder.

The group has shrunk to fewer than 100 members, and Erich Gliebe, Pierce’s successor, has put most of the group’s 346-acre property for sale, according to the SPLC.

Chiasson said it’s unclear why the disposition of McCorkill’s estate has not yet been finalized after nine years. But he’s confident the bequest can be blocked.

 “All in all, I think we have a good argument.”

He suggested several interveners could join the case to block the bequest.

Richard Marceau, legal counsel for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said the group is considering joining the case “to stop the money going to the National Alliance.

“We don’t want money to go to this bunch of racist, anti-Semitic extremists,” Marceau said.

He acknowledged that while individuals are generally free to allocate their estate as they see fit, there are exceptions in law if the bequest “is uncertain, unlawful or opposes public policy.”

The National Alliance “is not as strong as it once was, but we don’t want to take the risk of breathing new life into it,” he said.

Court is scheduled to reconvene on July 31, when it's slated to hear further arguments on whether to continue the temporary injunction pending a full hearing on the disposition of the assets.

McCorkill’s collection reportedly includes ancient Greek and Roman coins that have been appraised at around $250,000. Cash in bank accounts and other assets bring the estate’s value to close to $275,000, Chiasson said.

If the court rules in his client’s favour, McCorkill will be considered to have died intestate – without a will – and his sister would inherit the assets.

“My client’s objective is not to get the money. Her view is that someone had to act and she was in the best place to act,” Chiasson said.

The next print edition of The CJN is Aug. 1.

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