The trial of two men charged with using their free, unsolicited newspaper to promote hatred against Jews and women began on Nov. 28 in Toronto.
James Sears, 55, the editor of Your Ward News, and Leroy St. Germaine, 77, the newspaper’s publisher, are each charged with two counts of wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group.
They both pleaded not guilty.
In an opening statement, Crown prosecutor Robin Flumerfelt said that Your Ward News has a circulation of more than 300,000 and contains statements and images that are “vile and degrading in the extreme.”
Examples include repeated claims of a global, bloodthirsty Jewish banking conspiracy and promotion of the legalization of rape, according to the Canadian Press (CP).
Images have depicted Jews as devils with serpent tongues and reptilian hands, Flumerfelt argued.
Among the quarterly publication’s themes, Flumerfelt said, was that Jews masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks; that the Holocaust was a myth invented by Jews to strengthen their control of the world; and the glorification of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“These are examples of the communications that the defendants made available to hundreds of thousands of homes without being asked,” Flumerfelt said, calling their actions an “overwhelming breach” of the Criminal Code, according to CP.
The first of two expert witnesses for the Crown was Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history who used to teach at the University of Toronto and is now at Harvard, who said that many of the anti-Semitic themes in Your Ward News date back centuries. For example, he said, one cover depicts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his mouth bloodied, and other senior Liberal politicians drinking the blood of a child.
“This is a direct borrowing of a famous anti-Semitic trope going back to the 12th century that Jews ritually murder children,” Penslar testified. “It’s probably the most notorious feature of anti-Semitism.”
Sears’ lawyer, Dean Embry, cited a definition of anti-Semitism as hostility or discrimination toward Jews.
“Anti-Semitism does not have to equate with hatred. Would you agree with that?” Embry asked Penslar.
Penslar replied that anti-Semitism is about evoking “very strong negative emotions” toward Jews. While some of the language and imagery in the newspaper can appear to be satirical or funny, it is nevertheless “shocking and repugnant,” Penslar said.
The Crown has also alleged that Your Ward News has promoted the legalization of rape. It is calling law professor Janine Benedet, an expert on misogyny, as a witness.
In May 2016, the federal government issued a temporary order banning Your Ward News from using Canada Post to mail the newspaper, following complaints about its discriminatory content. The ban was recently made permanent.
In a separate matter, Sears faces a charge of uttering a death threat against author and political activist Warren Kinsella that was published in Your Ward News. A decision in that case is expected on Dec. 10.
The trial on the hate crimes charges continues.