TORONTO – A free newspaper sent unasked to hundreds of thousands of people is filled with articles and imagery that promote hatred toward women and Jews, an Ontario court judge heard Wednesday.
At the opening of the trial of James Sears and LeRoy St. Germaine, the prosecution said Your Ward News makes statements about the two groups that are “vile and degrading in the extreme.”
“The defendants have tended to promote hatred against Jewish people and women,” prosecutor Robin Flumerfelt said.
Sears, 55, the editor-in-chief, and St. Germaine, 77, the publisher, pleaded not guilty to two counts each of wilfully promoting hatred against identifiable groups.
With a circulation of about 300,000, Your Ward News has drawn a barrage of complaints from recipients in and around Toronto and as far as Ottawa. The federal government temporarily barred Canada Post from distributing the publication in 2016 and recently made the ban permanent.
The publication, Flumerfelt said, demonizes feminists as “dangerous people” and calls women “tri-orficed chattels.” It brands most feminists as “satanists exhilarated by abortion,” claims women are inferior, are “natural liars with no sense of justice,” and that feminist behaviour encourages rape.
“Your Ward News describes rape as a social construct,” the prosecutor told Judge Richard Blouin. “It promotes the legalization of rape.”
The paper also contains repeated claims of a worldwide, blood-thirsty Jewish conspiracy, court heard. Imagery, for example, depicts Jews as devils with serpent tongues and reptilian hands.
Among its themes, the prosecution said, was that Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Holocaust was a myth invented by Jews to strengthen their control of the world, and the glorification of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“These are examples of the communications that the defendants made available to hundreds of thousands of homes without being asked,” Flumerfelt said, calling their actions an “overwhelming breach” of the Criminal Code.
Sears, who lost his medical licence in the early 1990s for sexual misconduct with three women, has run in various provincial and civic elections and is the founder of the New Constitution Party of Canada, court heard.
An image in one edition borrows from a famous 1935 poster showing Hitler on horseback in armour carrying the Nazi flag. The image has been altered to replace Hitler’s head with Sears’ and the Nazi flag with that of the New Constitution Party. The caption reads: “The new flag bearer.”
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The first of two expert witnesses for the Crown was Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history at Harvard University, who said many of the anti-Semitic themes in Your Ward News date back centuries. For example, he said, one cover depicts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his mouth bloodied, and other senior Liberal politicians drinking the blood of a child.
“This is a direct borrowing of a famous anti-Semitic trope going back to the 12th century that Jews ritually murder children,” Penslar testified. “It’s probably the most notorious feature of anti-Semitism.”
Sears’ defence lawyer, Dean Embry, quibbled with the professor’s definition of anti-Semitism as hatred, citing a dictionary definition as hostility or discrimination toward Jews.
“Anti-Semitism does not have to equate with hatred. Would you agree with that??” Embry said.
Penslar shot back that it made little difference. What’s clear, he said, is that anti-Semitism is about evoking “very strong negative emotions” toward Jews. While some of the language and imagery can appear satirical or funny, it is nevertheless “shocking and repugnant,” Penslar said.
At one point, proceedings were interrupted by a man who jumped from his seat in the back of the courtroom and used vulgar language to describe the men on trial. The judge banned him from the courtroom, saying he intended to conduct the trial with dignity.
The trial continues.