The Ontario court of justice will decide on May 31 whether the publishers of Your Ward News (YWN) will spend time in jail for wilfully promoting hatred against women and Jews.
In a hearing on April 26, Crown attorney Erica Whitford urged Judge Richard Blouin to impose the maximum jail sentences in a case that “strikes at the heart of Canadian values.”
She said both James Sears, the editor-in-chief of YWN, and Leroy St. Germaine, its publisher, should spend six months in jail for each of two counts of promoting hatred.
She also suggested that the jail sentence be followed by three years of probation and a ban of publishing any written material.
The defence argued the court should instead consider imposing a four-month conditional sentence.
In January, Blouin found Sears, 55, and St. Germaine, 74, guilty of wilfully promoting hatred against Jews and women. The conviction marked the first time Canada’s anti-hate law was successfully used in the case of promoting hatred against women.
After reviewing 22 issues of YWN, Blouin ruled that, “Both men were fully aware of the unrelenting promotion of hate in YWN. (They) intended that hatred to be delivered to others.”
In her submissions to court, Whitford included several community impact statements, including one provided by Avi Benlolo, the president and CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).
Several men have told me that, because of our publication, they did not commit violence.
– James Sears
Benlolo told the court that FSWC had received numerous complaints from members of the Jewish community about the paper.
“For Holocaust survivors and their families, YWN was particularly hurtful, given its similarity to hate material they have witnessed and experienced during the Holocaust and thereafter,” Benlolo stated.
“For other members of the Jewish community, the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world has been a source of trauma and victimization. The content found in YWN deliberately contributes to these feelings. Many members of the Jewish community felt personally targeted by the newspaper, given that it was dropped on the doorstep to their home on multiple occasions. Some felt vulnerable as a result and contacted the Toronto police.”
Meanwhile, in a 20-minute address to the court, Sears claimed that YWN gave a voice to angry men and women. “Several men have told me that, because of our publication, they did not commit violence,” he said.
“We’re just trying to open a discussion.… His honour cannot take one side of a religious debate, or one side of a political debate.”