Editor found guilty of promoting hate seeks to stave off jail term
James Sears, right, editor in chief of "Your Ward News," and publisher LeRoy St. Germaine, is seen outside Ontario court in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Sears is charged with willfully promoting hatred of women and Jews. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 26, 2019 11:02AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 26, 2019 3:17PM EDT
TORONTO -- A publication found to have been filled with hatred against women and Jews was a valuable relief valve for men prone to violence, its convicted editor told his sentencing hearing on Friday.
In a statement to the judge as he sought to stave off a jail sentence, James Sears argued Your Ward News gave hope to the otherwise voiceless.
"I'm approached on a regular basis by angry men, and sometimes women, that Your Ward News gave them a voice when no one else would," Sears told Ontario court Judge Richard Blouin. "Several men have told me that, because of our publication, they did not commit violence."
Sears, who had wanted to deliver a 62-page "allocution" to the court but restricted himself to about 20 minutes, thanked supporters in the packed courtroom, including one woman he said had flown from Japan to be there.
He warned Blouin against shutting down the free flow of political and religious ideas.
"We're just trying to open a discussion," Sears said. "His honour cannot take one side of a religious debate or one side of a political debate."
Sears, 55, and publisher LeRoy St. Germaine, 74, were found guilty in January of two counts of promoting hatred against women and Jews for the contents of 22 issues of Your Ward News, which has a circulation of 300,000 in the Toronto area and beyond, as well as an online presence.
Among other things, the publication depicted in words and imagery vile stereotypes of Jews, denied the Holocaust, said women are inferior, and that they bring rape on themselves.
The Crown called for the maximum six months jail term for each offence to be served consecutively -- one year behind bars -- plus three years probation during which Sears would be prohibited from publishing any kind of written material.
The defence argued a four-month conditional sentence would be appropriate.
Blouin said he would sentence Sears on May 31.
In her submissions, Crown lawyer Erica Whitford cited several victim-impact and community-impact statements.
"By delivering Your Ward News to our door, they were saying there was nowhere to feel safe," Whitford cited one Jewish resident as saying.
Hate speech, Whitford said, "strikes at the heart of Canadian values." The glorification of violence against women made them feel vulnerable, retraumatized some, and tended to hurt the cause of equality overall, she said.
The publication was among the worst examples of hate promotion, she said citing previous instances.
"The case before you is significantly more egregious," Whitford said. "Denunciation is of the utmost importance in cases like this."
Whitford said Sears showed no signs of a "poor grasp on reality." Nor was it his first offence, she said, citing findings of guilt for sexual assault against him in the 1990s.
"It shows that his misogynistic beliefs are longstanding," she said.
But Sears' lawyer Dean Embry called his client a first-time offender, saying no record existed of any convictions or of a pardon. He also said there was no evidence the married father, who lost his medical licence over sexual impropriety with female patients, actually harmed anyone with Your Ward News.
"It can't be a theoretical harm," Embry said. "It can't be a possible harm."
While hate speech and Sears' call for the "cultural extermination" of Jewish culture was "repugnant," Embry said Your Ward News was not "created with the sole purpose with spreading genocidal thought."
Barring Sears from publishing any material is too broad and could be unconstitutional, the lawyer said.