An Ontario court has found James Sears, the editor-in-chief of Your Ward News, and Leroy St. Germaine, its publisher, guilty of wilfully publishing hatred directed at Jews and women. But only minutes after Judge Richard Blouin delivered his verdict, Sears remained unrepentant, promising to appeal the conviction and vowing that Your Ward News would continue to be published.
Saying that he felt like Jesus being crucified, Sears told a media scrum at the College Park courthouse in Toronto that the verdict was wrong, that the charges were “politically motivated” and that if the matter was as serious as alleged, he should have been tried before a jury of his peers.
“We’re going to keep publishing. The Crown is asking us to take down the issues in question. Obviously, the new issues of Your Ward News are not affected by this decision,” Sears said.
Sears said he and his lawyer were still reading the judgment and were not sure which previous issues the judge ordered him to remove.
Sears also stated that the Crown was asking that he be jailed for six to nine months. The two will be sentenced on April 26 and face a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the two counts of wilfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group that they were found guilty of.
“I called my wife. She said she is extremely proud of everything I‘m doing and what my partner Leroy is doing and she stands by my side,” he said, adding that the verdict “hardens my resolve.”
Sears maintained that his “position is that the content is not illegal.”
The content, of course, is what landed Sears and St. Germaine in court after years of critics calling it anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic and pro-Nazi.
Your Ward News is a collection of anti-Marxist rants, stream-of-consciousness ramblings, essays linking Jews to communism and assorted anti-gay and pro-Nazi articles. The tabloid also employs photographic collages that invariably include Nazi imagery and other photos and articles portraying Jews as evil.
Bernie Farber, the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was a favourite target of Your Ward News, as was anti-racism advocate Warren Kinsella and his wife, Lisa.
In the Winter 2018 edition of the free paper, Sears doubled down on anti-Semitic stereotypes, featuring on its cover a bottle of Chateau Rothschild wine decorated with a Star of David and bearing the caption, “Essence d’Enfant,” a reference to the historic blood libel, which claimed that Jews consumed the blood of gentile children.
The anti-Semitism didn’t stop there. In a cartoon speech bubble, Jewish investor and political activist George Soros gives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructions on advancing a “zio-globalist” plan, while the prime minister tells Soros, “I’ve followed your orders,” suggesting Jewish control over political figures.
Prior to the trial, critics of Your Ward News – including a number of Jewish advocacy groups, Kinsella, Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman, Farber and others – had been calling on law enforcement to charge Sears under Canada’s hate speech laws. They also called on Canada Post to stop delivering the publication. Last year, Carla Qualtrough, the minister responsible for Canada Post, issued a final prohibitory order preventing the delivery of Your Ward News.
Now, those same critics are applauding the judge’s verdict.
Kinsella said the verdict breaks new ground in that it marks the first time a court has convicted someone for promoting hatred against women.
“That is huge,” he said.
Warman, who asked police to charge Sears in 2016, said the conviction showed that “as a last resort, criminal controls on hate speech can be effective.”
Farber said the verdict “sends a message not only to vulnerable communities who now feel protected and vindicated, but to the haters out there. Hatred in Canada will be prosecuted and you will be held accountable.”
Jewish groups joined in congratulating the court for the convictions.
“The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) applauds the court’s decision, which sends a clear message that those who promote hate will be held accountable,” said Noah Shack, CIJA’s vice president for the Greater Toronto Area. “For years, Your Ward News has been peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, misogyny, homophobia and racism. We appreciate the work of police and prosecutors, and hope that this ruling will mark the end of Your Ward News.
“While the abhorrent views reflected in Your Ward News belong to a small, marginal group, we cannot allow anti-Semitism and bigotry to gain traction in our society. Those who target Jews and other minorities pose a threat (to) Canada as a whole and we must remain vigilant and steadfast in opposing them.”
“We’re pleased with the decision,” said Avi Benlolo, the CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We feel it was a long time coming. We hope this establishes a precedent for others to be wary about what they say that’s hate propaganda.”
“We are pleased to see justice served and Sears and St. Germaine found guilty of promoting hatred against women and members of the Jewish community,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “B’nai Brith has for years spoken out against the hateful content found in the pages of Your Ward News. We now eagerly await sentencing and hope that the punishment fits the crime.”