Skip to main content

The editor of an extremist Toronto newspaper continued distributing the paper even after his criminal trial, a court heard on Friday. James Sears produced a winter 2019 edition of Your Ward News following his court hearings in December, as well as a fall 2018 edition after the Crown laid charges. The editions continued to incite violence against women and Jews.

“They demonstrate persistence in publishing his material,” Crown counsel Erica Whitford said. She said they indicate Mr. Sears is “undaunted by his dealings with the criminal justice system.”

Mr. Sears, 55, was found guilty in late January of two counts of wilfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group. The publisher of the newspaper, LeRoy St. Germaine, was also found guilty of these charges. Mr. St. Germaine’s case was adjourned on Friday because his lawyer has requested a Gladue report, a document prepared ahead of sentencing Indigenous offenders. Mr. St. Germaine identifies as Métis.

Proceeding by summary conviction, the Crown requested the maximum sentence totalling one year in jail for Mr. Sears. As conditions for a three-year probation, the Crown also requested Mr. Sears be required to remove the Your Ward News website and be banned from publishing any written statements in the public domain.

Between 2015 and 2018, Mr. Sears and Mr. St. Germaine produced 22 issues of Your Ward News, which was distributed to more than 300,000 homes and businesses primarily in Toronto’s Beaches area. The newspaper calls for cultural eradication of Judaism and celebrates the rape of women. The issues are also available online.

The latest editions, the Crown argued on Friday, show that Mr. Sears has low prospects for rehabilitation. Ms. Whitford recited a passage from Mr. Sears from the winter 2019 paper: “I need more artists, web designers, writers," Mr. Sears wrote, "to roll out the inaugural 100,000 print of the 20-page Christian-Aquarian quarterly, targeting infidel areas to bring all Muslims and Jews to Christ before 2033.”

Some critics say the criminal-justice system is not the way to rehabilitate people for hateful expression. Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says society should address hate speech by addressing underlying mental illnesses of the people accused. She says criminal prosecution can give people such as Mr. Sears a sense of martyrdom and a larger platform to spread their messages.

“I understand people got this publication at their homes and were disgusted by it and offended by it,” Ms. Zwibel says, “but if everyone had thrown it in the garbage and ignored it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Ms. Zwibel also says the decision to charge people with hate speech threatens other people’s right to free expression, even if the accused is acquitted.

“The damage that you’ve done by prosecuting, and the kind of chill you’ve sent through the community on freedom of expression, that damage is already done,” she says.

However, regardless of rehabilitation, prosecution could provide a deterrent for other people prone to hateful expression or violence, says Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor.

“I think it’s appropriate to punish,” Prof. Moon says. “I don’t think the punishment should be too severe. This is not the same as a violent physical assault, but at the same time, we are increasingly aware that this kind of speech may well be contributing to those kinds of actions.”

Mr. Sears is scheduled to return to court on May 31. Mr. St. Germaine is scheduled to return in July. They held off publishing their April edition, Mr. Sears said in an interview after the hearing, because “everything’s up in the air.”

Interact with The Globe