Judge Ponders Sending Dissident to Prison for Not Shutting Down His Website
VANCOUVER. October 10, 2012. A controversial website http://nspcanada.nfshost.com. may soon disappear and many postings by a Regina university lecturer may be removed from STORMFRONT, if Canada’s thought control advocates get their way.
A federal judge was asked to jail Internet dissident and webmaster Terry Tremaine for months or until he breaks and removes a controversial website. After a tense morning of demands for the jailing of a man who has posted politically incorrect opinions on the Internet and equally strong submissions by his lawyer Douglas Christie decrying censorship and bullying by the state, Judge Sean Harrington adjourned court and reserved judgement in Mr. Tremaine’s contempt of court hearing here.
Representing the Canadian Human Rights Commission Daniel Poulin urged an 85 day term of incarceration for Mr. Tremaine or until “the original material found to be offensive” under Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (now repealed by the House of Commons) is removed. He argued that leaving the postings complained of was violating a Human Rights Tribunal’s order to “cease and desist.” In a further demand that had Internet savvy listeners shaking their heads, he insisted that Mr. Tremaine must remove his signature block from his more than 3,000 posting on Stormfront, where he posted under the name “mathdoktor99” because it provides the web address of his website. He then seemed to go further and said: “The only way to ensure the material is not repeated is to remove the website,” even though it was acknowledged there were several thousands of postings and audio and musical items, only a few of which formed the basis of the 2005 complaint by Richard Warman.
Mr. Poulin charged that Mr. Tremaine “knew he was ignoring the cease and desist order and he did so purposefully.” So, in Mr. Poulin’s submission, Mr. Tremaine is to be ordered to take down his website and write to STORMFRONT to remove material deemed offensive in the Tribunal’s order.
How, the judge asked, is Mr. Tremaine to “purge his contempt and remove material from the Internet” if he is in jail?
“He can have his lawyer do it or hire a consultant,” Mr. Poulin shot back.
Further, “if he fails to remove the website after 85 days, he must transfer the website to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We’ll remove it and make it a blank page.” And then the final kick at Mr. Tremaine, who was rendered penniless after Richard Warman complained to the University of Saskatchewan long before the initial complaint was adjudicated and cost Mr. Tremaine his job. “While we recognize Mr. Tremaine’s ability to pay is limited, we seek costs.”
Richard Warman who has hounded Mr. Tremaine with the original human rights complaint, a complaint to his employer, a criminal code Sec. 319 “hate law” complaint, and at least three contempt of court complaints rose to make his sentencing submissions.
Warman demanded a jail term of three to six months, even if Mr. Tremaine removes the website. “Deterrence and denunciation are important, given the five year extensive period of contempt. I’d be concerned if he was let out as soon as he purged his contempt,” Mr. Warman continued.
Then, warming to his subject, he harrumphed: “There is the self-evident seriousness of Mr. Tremaine’s trying to alienate control of his site. It boggles the mind to think of anything so contemptuous of the court.” He referred to the startling revelation in court the previous day that Mr. Tremaine was arranging to sell his website to someone in the U.S., which is not bound by Canada’s police state censorship laws. The judge issued an order preventing him from communicating the password to anyone else.
However, Judge Harrington interjected, “there is no law preventing him from selling his website.”
Warman also wanted the order to direct Terry Tremaine to write to archive.org to ask that their copy of his site be removed.
Mr. Warman, too, said he was seeking costs, even though much of his trip to Vancouver would have been paid for by the Commission which called him as a witness. “You’re here as a complainant who is also a solicitor,” the judge noted.
“I have a day job and have foregone that revenue and I practise also as a solicitor and have foregone that income. [Mr. Tremaine’s] inability to pay is not a reason for not awarding costs.
Mr. Warman, too, didn’t want the large number of innocuous postings on Terry Tremaine’s website to remain: “You’ll recognize the dangers of sifting the wheat from the chaff on the nspc website. It is much better to close it entirely. If we don’t, we’ll be back here again soon and this matter will never end.
Acting for Terry Tremaine Douglas Christie, who is also general counsel for the Canadian Free Speech League, pointed out that, since Marc Lemire won his tribunal case and got Sec. 13 declared effectively unconstitutional, until a federal judge upheld the law, but stripped of penalties, that the sky had not fallen. There were no serious adverse consequences. That judge’s decision may well be appealed. The Senate may soon pass the repeal of Sec. 13 and the Supreme Court decision on Whatcott is eagerly awaited. This case challenged the power of human rights commissions to restrict free expression. He urged the judge to delay sentencing until these decisions are in. “Parliament has already determined that this material is not illegal,” he said.
He reflected on the bizarre ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal: “Now you are liable for contempt of an order even before you are informed of the order.”
“Mr. Tremaine’s right to free speech is important. His freedom to speak is your freedom and mine as well.”
In a comment that would draw a sharp rebuke from Richard Warman and a threat to complain to the Law Society of British Columbia, Mr. Christie said: “Mr. Warman has made a career out of shooting cripples,” as a figure of speech. His victims are “people who are marginal.” Some, like Terry Tremaine, end up in mental hospitals. “Mr. Warman now wants costs assessed against a man who cannot even hold a janitor’s job. At the behest of Mr. Warman, he was prosecuted under the Criminal Code.” And all this, said Mr. Christie, “to eliminate a political ideology Mr. Warman does not agree with.”
“Tolerance,” Mr. Christie reminded the court, “is best as a virtue when it is practised rather than preached.”
“Is there an order for Mr. Tremaine not to sell his website to some American who wants it? What my friends really need is to abolish the 1st Amendment. My friends hunt down ideas they do not like. They want to add ‘remove’ if the order’s ‘cease and desist’ doesn’t mean that.”
He pointed out that a recent Supreme Court decision authored by Madam Justice Rosalie Abella held that a link is not libel.” Mr. Tremaine’s signature block on STORMFRONT.org is just a link and should not be ordered removed.
“My friends want the nspc website shut down so that Mr. Tremaine cannot be known. The objective is to eliminate thoughts.”
Mr. Warman, he argued, “didn’t have to be here. He’s a witness, counsel and plaintiff. He’s a voluntary participant. Now he wants costs which will haunt Terry Tremaine for life. He should not be entitled to costs.”
“There’s nothing illegal or immoral if the website is sold to an American. We don’t yet police the world. Unlike Canada, free speech really means something in the U.S.” He cited the case of a recent anti-Moslem video which sparked violence, riots and murder in the Middle East. Yet, no serious politician in the U.S. suggested banning it.
“Is it contempt of court to render yourself non-compliant” by trying to sell the website?” he asked.
“Mr. Warman’s proposal to put Terry Tremaine’s ideas down the memory hole is like most totalitarian states in the world.”
The clumsily worded human rights tribunal order enjoined Mr. Tremaine from “telephonic” communication. He did not engage in “telephonic” communication in the period in question: February – December, 2007, Mr. Christie said. “It is legitimate to communicate what is not specifically prohibited,” he added.
Mr. Christie denounced Mr. Warman’s “draconian, systematic totalitarian treatment of Terry Tremaine. He deprived him of his job, drove him into a mental hospital, refused an apology (which would have ended the human rights complaint in 2006) and kept him in litigation for years. Mr. Warman is a one-man anti-Nazi brigade.”
Urging a delay in handing down a judgement, Mr. Christie said: “Sec. 13 is on its way out. It won’t be around in a year. Terry Tremaine is not a bad man, He may have some bad ideas but he also has some good ideas that may benefit humanity.”
Concluding, Mr. Christie said: “Many people have suffered from these Warman complaints. Terry Tremaine has suffered well and truly enough since 2005. There is no need to make him suffer further.”
Judge Harrington reserved judgement.