On Facebook, James Sears depicts himself as a knight in shining armour, kneeling beneath a hand-held cross, with a sword in hand and an army of knights nearby. It’s the image of the “defender” that Sears wants all to see, as he faces hate crime charges, in connection with the tabloid he edits, Your Ward News.
On Nov. 15, Sears and Leroy St. Germaine, the publisher of Your Ward News, turned themselves in to police.
“It is alleged that (the) two men published and disseminated a number of editions of Your Ward News that promoted hatred against members of the Jewish community and women,” stated a news release issued by the Toronto Police Service.
Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said police had received complaints about the publication, going back to March 2015. The newspaper was investigated and Ontario’s attorney general consented to the criminal charges, as required by law, she said.
Sears and St. Germaine are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 20 for preliminary legal matters, Gray added.
Jewish groups and other critics of Your Ward News applauded authorities for laying charges under the seldom-used hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code. A number of them had been urging police to charge Sears for what they called blatant anti-Semitism, as well as the promotion of hatred against a number of groups.
“The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and other community activists have previously provided Toronto police and Canada Post with evidence of anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist and pro-Nazi content appearing in Your Ward News,” said CIJA Toronto chair Berl Nadler.
“There is no place in our city for the mass promotion of hatred against women and minorities. I am proud that the Jewish community played a key role in bringing James Sears and Your Ward News to account before the law. We want to ensure that tens of thousands of GTA families are no longer forced to receive hate propaganda on their doorsteps.”
The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the charges show that “a red line has been drawn to reaffirm hate speech and hate crime laws in Ontario.”
“Just recently, the ‘newspaper’ was delivered to a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood in central Toronto, where many Holocaust survivors and children of survivors reside. In some cases, it is reported that specific Jewish homes were targeted, and this has become a form of harassment toward the Jewish community,” said FSWC CEO Avi Benlolo.
“The ‘newspaper’ promotes Nazism and is also considered offensive to many groups and individuals, including women, black, Muslim and LGBT communities.”
Bernie Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, has been a prominent target of Your Ward News for years. In the fall edition of the publication, he is depicted in a front-page collage as Moses parting the Red Sea. He is seen speaking to B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn, who is paying Liberal activist Warren Kinsella coins of silver for betraying his people.
The charges do not specify which particular page or image form the grounds for the hate crime charge, but there have been many that police could have chosen from over the years, Farber said.
Farber said he believes that this is the first time the Criminal Code has been used to prosecute alleged hate speech directed toward women.
There were many groups targeted by the publication, but Jews and women figured most prominently, he said.
Kinsella wrote on Twitter that, “The charges against the neo-Nazi rag Your Ward News are historic – pretty sure nobody has ever before been charged for promoting hatred against women. Which is huge. And overdue.”
Kinsella and his wife, Lisa Kinsella, have both been targeted by the publication. They launched a group called Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice (STAMP), to convince Canada Post to stop delivering the paper.
In June 2016, the federal government ordered the letter carrier to do just that.
Farber said that in an environment in which extremist groups seem to be getting bolder, “this is a very clear shot across the bow that this kind of hate will not be tolerated.”