Jewish groups are applauding the guilty verdict against a Montreal man accused of willfully promoting hatred against Jews.
Gabriel Sohier Chaput, 36, was convicted by Quebec Court judge Manlio Del Negro on Jan. 23 on the single hate speech charge brought against him for a 2017 article the reportedly prominent neo-Nazi wrote in the far-right U.S.-based website The Daily Stormer.
Most egregiously, Chaput called for “non-stop Nazism everywhere.” The defence argued that the article was intended as satire.
B’nai Brith Canada filed a complaint against Chaput in 2018 after The Montreal Gazette published a series of investigative articles that exposed him as a prominent neo-Nazi recruiter and the author of hundreds of hate-filled pieces in The Daily Stormer under the pseudonym Zeiger.
“We are encouraged that the courts are recognizing that hate crimes are serious offences,” said Sam Goldstein, B’nai Brith’s director of legal affairs. “B’nai Brith brought Chaput to the Crown’s attention and we will continue following this case to the sentencing stage.”
The sentence is expected to be handed down in May. Chaput faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
He was ordered into custody following the verdict on the grounds he poses a danger to the public, the judge said. His bail conditions are scheduled to be set on Jan. 25.
The judge wrote in his 72-page decision that Chaput “intentionally promoted hatred, through the Daily Stormer platform, against people of Jewish faith,” which could lead readers to act violently.
Del Negro did not accept the accused’s “hodge-podge of explanations” about his antisemitic posts.
“(The court) rejects his entire account because his explanations leave no doubt,” he wrote. “The court finds that the explanations provided are specious, insincere, opportunistic, deceptive, far-fetched, implausible, concealers of the truth and were cobbled together to conceal the true intention of the accused.”
He added: “The victims of the Holocaust and also the victims of other genocides perpetrated throughout history, as well as their families, deserve to be left in peace. The suffering they have been put through is inexpressible and defies the meaning of humanity.”
In the article in question, Chaput wrote, “We need to make sure no (social justice warrior) or Jew can remain safely untriggered. Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.”
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn stated he hopes this judgment will serve as a deterrent against those who seek to spread hate.
“Sohier Chaput is a coward who, behind the veil of the internet, thought he could rile up other haters to his disgusting cause,” said Mostyn. “Today’s decision shows that Canadians and our legal system will not accept such harmful, dangerous and genocidal drivel, all of which aim to resurrect the most vile ideology in world history.”
Eta Yudin, Quebec vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, “I think it’s a powerful message that we don’t stand for this and as a society we won’t stand for the banalization of the Holocaust and the normalization of hate or antisemitism.”
She added that the case points to the need for mandatory Holocaust education in Quebec.
The trial saw defence lawyer Helene Poussard argued that the prosecution had not proven a direct link between the ideology of Nazism and the Holocaust, an argument thoroughly rejected by Del Negro.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies also hailed the judgment.
The organization’s president and CEO Michael Levitt noted that Chaput used antisemitic memes in the article and mocked a Holocaust survivor referring to him as an “oven-dodger.”
“Following a long trial that included some troubling statements from the defense that minimized and distorted the Holocaust, the court has given the appropriate verdict for this case,” said Levitt.
“Gabriel Sohier Chaput clearly intended to incite hate and violence against Jewish people when he wrote his article and must finally face the consequences for his hateful actions.”
Levitt commended the Crown and the judge for their strong statements against Chaput’s defense that the article was intended to be humorous and no serious person would take it literally.
Del Negro wrote, “There is nothing ironic in the fact that millions of Jewish people and others were exterminated during the Holocaust orchestrated by the Nazis… it is one of the saddest events in the history of humanity.”
He affirmed that the connection between Nazism and the murder of millions of Jewish people during the Second World War is an incontestable fact and not open to debate among reasonable people.