Terry Tremaine’s “Hate” Case Attracting Media Attention & Criticism of Sec. 319 (“hate law”)
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR FREE EXPRESSION
P.O. Box 332,
THE NATIONAL POST.
Re: “Handing hatred a microphone,” (National Post, July 5, 2012), if this were any other than a highly charged political case, your headline and conclusion (“hatemongers such as Mr.Tremaine”) would have contained the mandatory “alleged” hatred. The Terry Tremaine trial on charges of “willful promotion of hate” hasn’t even started yet. Presumably, that’s what the trial will determine: whether or not Mr. Tremaine’s political opinions expressed on the Internet on several U.S. websites constitute “hate.”
I agree with your condemnation of Sec. 319 of the Criminal Code, Canada’s notorious “hate law.” You ask: “How many Canadians had heard of Mr. Tremaine before the charges against him were laid. … We hadn’t.” Your ignorance is a scandal.
The Canadian Association for Free Expression has sent regular report on Terry Tremaine’s travails over the past six years, including to your paper and many other media outlets in Canada..
Mr. Tremaine has been the victim of a political vendetta by Ottawa civil servant Richard Warman. In 2005, Mr. Warman launched a human rights complain against him under the now repealed Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Before any tribunal had been convened., Mr. Warman approached Mr. Tremaine’s employer, the University of Saskatchewan with a complaint. Mr. Tremaine lost his job as a lecturer and was unable to afford a lawyer for the human rights Tribunal. Next, Mr. Warman launched a complaint with the Regina Police under Sec. 319 of the Criminal Cod – the case at hand.
For the past four years, Mr. Tremaine’s bail conditions have prevented him from posting his views on any “White supremacist” website. Too bad his name isn’t Wei Wei. This Chinese dissident was jailed and then stripped of his political rights for a year and was not allowed to talk to the Western media during that time. Many Canadian papers came to his defence and protested Red China’s denial of freedom of speech. Rightly so.
However, the always self righteous Canadian media is often silent with abuses closer to home. Mr. Tremaine has been gagged four times as long as Mr. Wei Wei, with no end in sight..
CANADIAN ASOCIATION FOR FREE EXPRESSION
Handing hatred a microphone
National Post · Jul. 5, 2012 | Last Updated: Jul. 5, 2012 4:02 AM ET
This week, a Saskatchewan judge generated a national furor by giving Regina neo-Nazi leader Terry Tremaine permission to visit white-supremacist websites, and even post material on them, as he gathers “facts” for his legal defence against charges that he wilfully promoted hatred against an identifiable group.
Mr. Tremaine is not exactly a sympathetic figure. He is the author of multiple anti-Semitic and racist web posts (as a small sampling, he has labelled blacks “intellectually inferior,” and Jews “parasitic”), and he founded the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of Canada (whose lead article on its website, as of yesterday, was entitled The Greatness of Adolf Hitler). Nevertheless, Mr. Tremaine could do Canada a service, albeit in a perverse way, by highlighting the counterproductive nature of hate-speech laws.
The former math lecturer once was confined to sharing his creepy Hitler-boosting and white-power messages in shadowy websites with little traffic or credibility. However, he will now be treated to a media-publicized trial in a Canadian courtroom, in which he will be able to air his nasty views for the benefit of mainstream journalists. We might even witness, on a diminished scale, the farce of Ernst Zundel’s 1988 legal prosecution, in which the German bigot put the Holocaust itself on trial by trotting out “experts” who argued that no Jews were killed at Nazi concentration camps. (On his website, Mr. Tremaine puts quote marks around the word “Holocaust.”)
This is not to say the judge in Mr. Tremaine’s case made a mistake. Denying Mr. Tremaine the ability to mount a full and effective defence (however farfetched) would be an injustice. Even the most contemptible defendants enjoy a right to due process. Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Frederick Kovach was right to recognize this. The real problem lies with section 319(2) of the Criminal Code – and with the original decision to prosecute Mr. Tremaine under its auspices.
The law criminalizes those “willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group” by means of “communicating statements, other than in private conversation.” In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of anti-Semitic Alberta schoolteacher James Keegstra, that the law is constitutional. But Mr. Tremaine’s case is a reminder that every constitutional law isn’t necessarily sensible or desirable.
In some extreme cases, Section 319 prosecutions are justified – especially those cases in which a hatemonger is actually inciting violence against an identifiable group, and in which there is a credible risk that listeners will act on that incitement. But obscurities such as Mr. Tremaine, whose main audience consists of human rights investigators with Nazi screen names, are best left to languish in their one-room basement apartments. The 1996-era quality of their websites speaks volumes about the audiences they are reaching.
How many Canadians had heard of Mr. Tremaine before the charges against him were laid, or before Wednesday’s story about the court order allowing him to surf white supremacist sites? (We hadn’t.)
Progressive as it is in 2012, Canadian society does an awfully good job of simply ignoring and marginalizing hateful messages without the law getting involved. We know this from the racist and anti-Semitic letters that we (and all newspapers) occasionally receive: The writers inevitably complain to us that their views are being “ignored” by the “mainstream media.” In this respect, we’re proud to say, they’re entirely correct.
Terry Tremaine once was a nobody. And he will be again one day, the sooner the better. His court-created celebrity is something prosecutors should remember the next time they consider launching a case against hatemongers such as Mr. Tremaine.