TORONTO -- The editor and publisher of a controversial Toronto publication are facing hate-related charges, one of which had never been laid previously in Ontario.
James Nicholas Sears, 54, and Lawrence (Leroy) St. Germaine, 76, are each charged with two counts of wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group, namely Jews and women, Toronto police said Wednesday.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said it is the first time in the province that hate crime charges have been laid alleging the wilful promotion of hatred against women.
"In a multicultural and inclusive province like Ontario, the promotion of hatred stands in direct opposition to our fundamental values of equality and diversity," Naqvi said in a statement.
"Hate crimes are, by their very nature, serious offences because their impacts can be devastating, spreading from the individual, through the social fabric of our communities as a whole."
Toronto police said they received numerous complaints about the distribution and content of "Your Ward News" between March 2015 and June 27 and allege the accused published and disseminated editions that promoted hatred against members of the Jewish community and women.
In an email Wednesday evening, Sears called the charges "politically motivated" and said they expect to "easily beat" them.
"Part of our defence will be a constitutional challenge against the hate speech law, as it violates our right to free expression," he said.
Last year, the federal government ordered Canada Post to stop delivering "Your Ward News" after the then-minister of public services and procurement found it "highly offensive and well outside the norm of Canadian values."
The publication, which is posted online, routinely contains articles critics have claimed target women, Jews, Muslims and the LGBTQ community.
Jewish groups are commending police for charging Sears and St. Germaine.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs says it and other community activists have provided Toronto police with "evidence of antisemitic, racist, misogynist, and pro-Nazi content" in the publication.
"There is no place in our city for the mass promotion of hatred against women and minorities," CIJA chair Berl Nadler said Wednesday in a statement.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said it has been fielding complaints from the public about the content of the publication.
"Just recently the 'newspaper' was delivered to a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood in central Toronto where many Holocaust survivors and children of survivors reside," said Avi Benlolo, FSWC's president. "These charges, we hope, will be a setback for those who peddle hate."
B'nai Brith Canada also welcomed the charges.
"For years, 'Your Ward News' has attempted to promote hatred and poison the minds of impressionable readers against visible minorities," spokesman Daniel Koren said in a statement. "We hope this will act as a deterrent for those who are looking to promote racism, discrimination and hatred."