Both the editor and publisher of the controversial newspaper Your Ward News have been charged with willfully promoting hatred against two identifiable groups, Jews and women, Toronto police tell CityNews.
James Sears, 54, the publication’s editor-in-chief, and publisher Leroy St. Germain, 76, were both arrested on Wednesday.
They’re scheduled to appear in court on December 20, 2017.
Sears and St. Germain have long defended the newspaper, arguing it should be protected through freedom of speech and expression.
But opponents accuse the publication of being unabashedly anti-Semitic and promoting hatred towards women. It also routinely targets Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community.
When contacted on Wednesday, Sears said he was eager to defend against the charges.
“We expect to easily beat these politically-motivated charges. Part of our defense will be a constitutional challenge against the hate speech law, as it violates our right to free expression.”
Last year, the federal government ordered Canada Post to stop delivering the tabloid, but it continued to find its way into mailboxes through private distribution companies and volunteers.
On Wednesday, anti-hate groups celebrated the charges.
“For years, Your Ward News has attempted to promote hatred and poison the minds of impressionable readers against visible minorities,” B’nai Brith Canada spokesman Daniel Koren said in a statement.
“We are pleased that criminal charges have finally been laid against the publishers of this hate-filled rag.”
Political activists Lisa and Warren Kinsella have long been targeted by the publication. In an editorial, Sears once suggested that followers may “do something illegal like bludgeon the Kinsellas to death.”
The Kinsellas’ longstanding battle with the publication prompted them to start the group Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice (STAMP).
“Promoting hatred against Jews and women – promoting hatred against any identifiable group – is unacceptable in Canada,” Lisa Kinsella said in a statement Tuesday. “With these charges, Canada is now making that clear to all. In this country, in this time, hate will no go unopposed.”
“The members of STAMP … have long been pushing all levels of government to take action against this vile, despicable hate sheet,” added Warren Kinsella.
“We wish the charges had been laid sooner, because there was no shortage of evidence. But we are relieved it has finally happened. STAMP will now be working with authorities to ensure these prosecutions are a success.”
The Legal Action Committee of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) also sent out a release applauded the charges.
“The ‘newspaper’ promotes Nazism and is also considered offensive to many groups and individuals, including women, Black, Muslim and LGBT communities,” the group wrote.
“FSWC is pleased that action has been taken and that a red line has been drawn to reaffirm hate speech and hate crime laws in Ontario. The organization is especially concerned given the rise of antisemitism and racism across the country as documented on its website.”