The lawyer defending an alleged promoter of hatred against Jews told the judge hearing his case that the fact that the Holocaust was the consequence of Nazism cannot be entered as evidence without proof.
Hélène Poussard argued that her client, Gabriel Sohier Chaput, who faces one count of wilful incitement of hatred against an identifiable group, cannot be found guilty because the prosecution did not provide sufficient proof of a direct link between Nazi ideology and the eventual murder of millions of Jews.
At the final day of Chaput’s trial on Nov. 25, Poussard said the very definition of Nazism remains vague and the use of the term today may be different from what it was in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The extermination of Jews was not part of the Nazi regime’s original plans she asserted but was adopted for “economic” reasons later on.
She further argued that not all Nazi party members were in favour of the extermination of the Jewish people and, conversely, many German soldiers who were not Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of Jews because they were ordered to do so.
She noted that the Nazi regime considered other ethnic groups as inferior to Germans, implying that Jews were not unique.
Poussard raised doubts about the exact number of Jews annihilated, citing a historian named Jack R. Fischer who she said estimated it at from 4.2 million to 7 million.
She was countering the final argument of Crown prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière who maintained that Quebec Court judge Manlio Del Negro should take the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis as a matter of judicial notice, that is, a fact so well established that it is unnecessary to prove it before a court.
Lafrenière suggested the judge could readily verify that from such reliable sources as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The arguments by both parties at this final single day continued in a similar vein as they had when the trial broke off in July, after having opened in March, years after Chaput was charged.
The case against the 36-year-old Montreal man is based on a single article he posted on The Daily Stormer, a far-right U.S.-based online publication, in January 2017 headed “Nazis Trigger Jews by Putting Up Posters on Ch—k Church,” using a derogatory term for Asians and referring to an incident in British Columbia.
The piece called for “a year of action” in which “no SJW (social justice warrior) or Jew can remain safely untriggered.” Chaput urged “non-stop Nazism everywhere until the streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.”
It was accompanied by a drawing of a guard about to activate a gas chamber and other Nazi imagery.
Chaput, who testified he contributed between 800 and 1,000 articles to The Daily Stormer under the pseudonym Zeiger, said that the article in question was satire meant to mock the political correctness of the left.
While acknowledging the article was in “bad taste” and that The Daily Stormer is “scornful and vexatious” in its representation of minorities and women, his lawyer contended Chaput was within the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the article would not lead “any reasonable person” to hate Jews.
Lafrenière countered that there can be no doubt Chaput’s words could be interpreted as hateful and even violent, specifically against Jews, and that The Daily Stormer is “clearly hate propaganda.”
In any event, a satirical intention does not absolve one from a hate speech conviction, he said.
In July, Justice Del Negro halted Poussard after she “went too far” in some of her suggestions on why the Holocaust took place, while reproaching Lafrenière for not bringing in an expert witness to back up his assertion that Nazism led directly to the persecution and murder of Jews.
This time, when Justice Del Negro questioned Poussard on whether she was contesting the extent of the Holocaust, she denied doing so.
Justice Del Negro said he would deliver his verdict on Jan. 23. If convicted, Chaput faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The turn this trial has taken to becoming a debate over the link between Nazism and the Holocaust has alarmed the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai Brith Canada, which in 2018 filed the complaint against Chaput which led to his eventual arrest.
Earlier that year, the Montreal Gazette ran a series of investigative articles, largely based on information from local anti-fascist groups, that identified Chaput as Zeiger and that he was influential in the neo-Nazi movement.
At the trial’s conclusion, Emmanuelle Amar, CIJA’s Quebec director of policy and research, said Canadian jurisprudence recognizes the Holocaust as a historical and uncontestable fact. Moreover, since June it has been a criminal offence to deny or minimize the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust is the most minutely documented genocide in the world. It is documented by its perpetrators, by their victims, by bystanders.”
CIJA said this trial points to the need for mandatory education on the Holocaust and antisemitism in Quebec schools.
Just ahead of the trial’s final day, CIJA’s Quebec vice-president Eta Yudin issued a statement: “The Nazi regime’s genocidal intent was clear, and courts have long accepted the lived experiences of millions of our people as proof of this historical fact… Poussard should be careful not to go down the same path as her client.
“Poussard should have known she was out of bounds when she presented her denialist line of argument… We hope the trial can resume after this frivolous interlude so that her client, Sohier Chaput, can be judged for the hate he spewed online and the impact it has had on Jewish people in Quebec, Canada, and around the world.”
B’nai Brith has called on federal Justice Minister David Lametti and his provincial counterparts to ensure Canadian judges have a thorough understanding of the Holocaust.
“Every Canadian should be appalled,” said Sam Goldstein, B’nai Brith’s director of legal services, referring to Justice Del Negro’s handling of the hearing in July. “We don’t expect Holocaust denial and distortion from our courts. The prosecutor does not need to establish that the Holocaust happened. No expert witness is needed. The Jewish community is outraged.”