You might consider this week’s court case involving the editor and publisher of Your Ward News (YWN) as Round 1 in a legal battle that is expected to go at least two rounds.
Or perhaps it was Round 2 of a three-rounder, if you include the paper’s imminent hate speech prosecution as Round 3.
In any case, hearings in the current case are expected to conclude today, after several days of testimony and argument. James Sears, the editor-in-chief of YWN, and LeRoy St. Germaine, its publisher, are facing charges of uttering death threats in connection with material they contributed to the paper.
The charges originate in a complaint by Lisa and Warren Kinsella, the husband and wife team of anti-racism activists who have long sought to have YWN’s mailing privileges revoked, and who also urged prosecutors to lay charges of promoting hatred.
YWN has often targeted the Kinsellas in the paper, at one point running a cartoon of Warren Kinsella drinking blood and another with his head pasted on the body of a snake.
The current case alleges that Sears uttered a death threat in YWN’s Summer 2017 edition.
The alleged threat came at the end of a long article about a children’s aid society (CAS) investigation into Sears and his family, in which he stated that he believed that whoever lodged the complaint with CAS was likely motivated by an article written by Lisa Kinsella.
“If I told my friends, thousands of people on my mailing list, and hundreds of thousands of readers of Your Ward News about it, while a CAS investigation was active and our son could still have been kidnapped, there was the chance that some hothead who cares deeply about me and my family, would lose it and do something illegal, like bludgeon the Kinsellas to death,” Sears wrote.
“No matter how little respect I have for them, as a Christian, I chose to turn the other cheek and let enough time pass for the people who love, would give their lives for or would go to jail for, me.”
The charges also allege that in another article, St. Germaine put a “bounty” on Kinsella’s head.
Testifying before Ontario Court Judge Dan Moore, Kinsella said, “We regarded the article as a call to action, that we should be bludgeoned to death.”
Lisa Kinsella testified that she felt that St. Germaine’s article constituted a threat to “me, my husband, our six children and my grandchild.”
According to media reports, defence lawyer Chris Murphy suggested to Warren Kinsella that the case was a “battle for publicity,” and that the alleged death threat was not serious.
He also asked Warren Kinsella about a tweet he re-tweeted in 2015 that called Sears “a neo-Nazi sex offender,” and included a link to a website that revealed Sears’ home address.
Warren Kinsella replied that he did not know the original tweet included that information.
Warren Kinsella was also questioned about articles he had written criticizing YWN and calling for its demise.
“We were shining a light on the threat,” Warren Kinsella replied. “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. I do not believe in sticking your head in the sand is effective against people like your client.”
According to Bernie Farber, a long-time anti-racist activist and friend of the Kinsellas, “It’s a very complex case. You have to prove the intent and the power of words.”
The back and forth between the opposing legal counsels was often testy.
“It’s clear there is a lot of emotion from the two witnesses about what happened to them,” Farber said.
As for Sears, he appeared like “his usual cocky and smirking self,” Farber added.
Attending the trial was like going back in time, he continued. “All the old neo-Nazis from the Heritage Front days were there.”
Your Ward News is a quarterly publication that has prompted numerous complaints from people who find it delivered, unbidden, in their mailboxes.
Warren Kinsella, the author of numerous books on extremism, described it in court as racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and offensive.
He and his wife, along with other opponents of the paper, created a group called STAMP (Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice), that lobbied Canada Post to stop delivering the publication.