An Ontario court has imposed a peace bond against a far-right figure, in what is believed to be the first instance in which activists have sought such a peace bond in response to right-wing extremism in Canada.
Justice of the Peace Stephanie Goffin-Boyd on Monday ordered Kevin Goudreau, head of the Canadian National Front, to enter into the peace bond, which requires he “keeps the peace and is of good behaviour” and abides by four conditions for 12 months, including not making violent threats online or otherwise towards Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman, and other board members with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Goudreau is also prohibited from possessing any weapons.
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In June, Warman asked the Ottawa court to issue a peace bond that would order Goudreau, who resides in Peterborough, Ont., to cease making threats online against him. Warman, who is a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said police had repeatedly declined to lay charges against Goudreau, and so he pursued a peace bond, which is like a restraining order.
The Crown took over the matter for Warman, who served as the only witness at the hearing on Monday.
“I had no expectations, but I am absolutely relieved,” Warman told Global News after the decision was rendered. He said he wished that police had pursued criminal charges, but that the peace bond sets a positive precedent for human rights activists who are targeted online and looking for possible remedies.
After the Christchurch, New Zealand attacks in March, a post was shared on a Facebook page belonging to Goudreau. The post encouraged violence against “priority targets” including the Canadian Anti Hate Network, other anti-racist groups and government agencies.
It also mentioned media outlets including VICE, the National Post and CBC.
Goudreau, who represented himself at court, said at the hearing that the social media posts aren’t his. Goudreau previously told Global News that his website states his group does not “promote, advocate or incite hatred or violence by our members or anyone else.”
The court said there was no evidence to suggest that the social media posts were not Goudreau’s.
Warman, who has monitored far-right and neo-Nazi movements in Canada for decades, told the court that Goudreau’s posts made him fear for his safety.
“It’s not just the potential for Mr. Goudreau … it’s for the fellow neo-Nazis who are actually reading the post. Because we know that there is a long history of violence involved in the neo-Nazi movement in Canada,” Warman told the court. He added that the posts disputed by Goudreau are consistent with other written and video content posted by him over the years.
Goudreau, chairman of the Canadian Nationalist Front (formerly the White Nationalist Front) who has a large swastika tattooed on his chest, was banned from Facebook and Twitter in April as part of a crackdown on extremist content and “organized hate” that followed the New Zealand mosque attack that left 51 people dead. The blog for Goudreau’s group, however, is still online and active.
In a brief cross-examination of Warman, Goudreau asked whether they had ever communicated directly or indirectly. Warman responded that they had not spoken directly or met in person, but that he felt the posts were an indirect form of communication between them — and that the posts were threatening.
“What makes you think that I am any particular danger besides these supposed internet postings?” Goudreau asked Warman.
“Because you’ve engaged in threats of violence, and counselling violence, over the past at least eight years that I’ve seen communications by you posted online, whether in person, through Youtube videos, or through social media postings,” Warman replied.
“If I go to the posting itself, you openly advocate shooting high-value targets, as you describe them, in the wake of a terrorist attack that left 51 people dead. So, if I think that there is the likelihood of copycat violence taking place in the wake of those kinds of attacks and then you go and advocate that specific thing, including shooting me and my colleagues twice in the head to ensure that we’re dead, that makes me reasonably fearful for my safety.”
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Goudreau declined to testify, which would have required him to do so under oath. He left the courthouse quickly after the decision was rendered.
Peace bonds are similar to restraining orders and allow the courts to impose limitations on peoples’ liberties through bail-like conditions.
In 2015, the federal government revamped the Criminal Code to lower the standard for obtaining terror-related peace bonds as part of its anti-terror legislation. The RCMP has used these peace bonds in recent years as a counter-terrorism tool against people feared of attempting to join terrorist groups abroad such as the Islamic State.
Earlier this year, Goudreau’s peace bond legal battle, over his online threats of violence and not terrorism, had received support from Paul Fromm, a self-proclaimed white nationalist and founder of the Canadian Association for Free Expression. A post on his group’s website from June 25 shows a photo of Fromm and Goudreau together and stated that the group has “obtained legal advice for Mr. Goudreau.”
Fromm was not present at court on Monday.
Goudreau and Fromm were under police investigation earlier this year regarding posts online about the New Zealand terror attack. After an investigation, Peterborough police declined to lay charges against Goudreau, citing insufficient evidence.
Hamilton police announced that its hate crime unit was investigating Fromm after the manifesto for the man accused in the New Zealand attack was posted on a website affiliated with him.
A spokesperson for the Hamilton police told Global News in an email on Monday that its investigation into Fromm is “open and on-going.”
— With files from Global News’ Stewart Bell.