The British Columbia Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a Quesnel, B.C., man convicted of promoting hatred against Jewish people in November 2015.
On his website, RadicalPress.com, Arthur Topham wrote that Jews should be forcibly sterilized. He described Canada as being “controlled by the Zionist lobby” and said Jewish synagogues are “synagogues of Satan.”
Harry Abrams, who was the representative for the B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights in 2007, when he was the first to raise the alarm about Topham’s anti-Semitic writing, said he’d like to see Topham receive the maximum sentence of two years.
“He was convicted in 2015 by a jury of his peers, and he’s dragged it out, kept everything up on his website since then and added to it over all this time,” said Abrams, who now serves as chair of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island.
“It’s all been hateful, deliberate and with the intention of causing maximum pain and fear to Jews. He’s a sick guy and there has to be some kind of backstop on this.”
The Feb. 20 ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court is an important one, said Aidan Fishman, who worked closely with Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, on this case.
“The argument by Topham’s lawyer, Barclay W. Johnson, that the law that criminalizes hate speech in Canada is unconstitutional, had no merit in my opinion,” he said.
“Basically they were arguing that the presence of the Internet, and the fact that information is more widely available because of it, changes whether that material is constitutional or not. The judge firmly rejected that argument. He wrote in his decision that it actually makes the offence even more serious, by virtue of the fact that it’s much easier to disseminate hate today,” Fishman added.
“This also means that when faced with incidents of hate, especially online, police and prosecutors should press charges because there’s no evidence those charges won’t succeed, so there’s no excuse for not enforcing them.”
Abrams speculated Topham might try to appeal this conviction to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Johnson said he had not received any instructions from his client about an appeal.
He noted that he shared office space with Topham’s former lawyer, Doug Christie, who died in March 2013 after a long career in which he gained notoriety for defending Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zundel and James Keegstra.
“On his deathbed, I told [Christie] I’d look after the rest of his files, and this was one of them,” Johnson said.
“My interest was piqued by going over the issues related to freedom of expression. Ninety-nine percent of the material Arthur Topham posted from other sources is available on the Internet, so the question is, what do you do about all this wickedness? I don’t think you use the Criminal Code,” he said. “We argued that the protections afforded in Canada are of little assistance if you weigh them against what’s available worldwide.”
Johnson said Topham does not have a criminal record, and he’s hopeful he would not serve time in jail.
But Abrams begged to differ.
“I really think he should spend a couple of years in jail. He’s sadistic and racist, and he’s worked really hard for it.”
Johnson said Topham’s sentencing is scheduled for March 10.