A B.C. man convicted of deliberately promoting hatred against Jewish people on his now defunct website RadicalPress.com, was given a six month curfew and a ban on public online activity.
Arthur Topham, 70, did “not call for violence; his views were political satire,” and it was not his intent to “indirectly incite violence,” B.C. Supreme Court Judge Bruce Butler said at Topham’s sentencing March 13.
On the racist, anti-Semitic website he founded and on which he posted vitriol before removing the site just last week, 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.” He could have faced a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Unrepentant, Topham told the Quesnel, B.C. courthouse he felt it was his “duty to alert the… public to the imminent threat…. [of] the Jewish lobby.”
In posts he put up on site Feb. 27, Topham informed his followers that his Facebook presence and website would be removed from the Web within two weeks and said he would be unable to publish “anything on ANY website that has my name attached to it. To do so would mean immediate jail for breaking whatever probationary restrictions that will be imposed on me.” He said his “immediate concerns are personal family issues and health challenges” and added he was “not planning on doing any interviews in the immediate future.”
On March 8, he exhorted his followers to download any and all items from RadicalPress.com for free.
‘He was convicted of hate speech and he’s got a curfew? This sends a message you can pick on Jews and it’s totally OK’
B’nai Brith Canada, which had alerted the RCMP to Topham’s activities back in 2007, said it was “strongly disappointed” with the sentencing. In a statement, CEO Michael Mostyn described the sentence as “a mere slap on the wrist which will do little to protect Canadian Jews or preserve the multicultural mosaic of our society.”
“Mr. Topham is a committed and unrepentant Jew-hater who persisted in publishing lurid anti-Semitic content on his website throughout this legal process,” Mostyn continued. “Canada’s laissez-fair approach to hate crimes continues to fail minority groups and puts them at increased risk of attacks against their lives or property.”
Mostyn said the timing of the lax sentence was especially disturbing “as Canada’s Jewish community reels from a series of bomb threats against our community centres, inspired by the same hateful ideology that drives Mr. Topham.”
Harry Abrams, who was the representative for the B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights in 2007, when he was first to raise the alarm about Topham’s anti-Semitic writing, described the sentencing as “a rope around [Topham’s] balls.”
“Somewhere in all this, the judge took pity on an old man with a sick wife and bought this thing that Topham and his friends were trying hard to sell: that all this was a parody, a satire,” he noted.
“Sure, I’m disappointed with the sentence, but we have to look at the sum total of this thing. Topham has been exposed as a sick, crazy old man, his stuff is down from the Internet and he’s restricted from posting online. This is what we’ve got to work with, and he’s not just given free rein to go back to beating on us Jews.”
Ryan Bellerose, advocacy co-ordinator for B’nai Brith Canada’s League of Human Rights in Western Canada, described the sentence as “a little ridiculous.” “He was convicted of hate speech and he’s got a curfew? This almost sends a message that you can pick on Jews and it’s totally OK, you won’t have an existential payment for it,” he said. “We finally managed to get someone charged and convicted on a hate crime in Canada, and the message they send with the sentencing is that it’s not taken very seriously.”
“Everyone is talking about anti-Semitism right now, and the bomb threats to Jewish communities in Canada, which of course needs to be dealt with. But no one is even talking about [Topham’s sentencing]. That’s an especially bad message to send in today’s climate.”