Ruling against Toronto editor strikes right balance
Sep 5, 2019 By Melody Izadi
The one-year house-arrest sentence given to the editor of a Toronto-based publication for promoting hatred against women and Jews sends the correct message, says Toronto criminal lawyer Melody Izadi.
Izadi, an associate with Caramanna, Friedberg LLP, says the decision by Ontario Court Justice Richard Blouin strikes a balance between denouncing the promotion of hatred and upholding the right to freedom of expression.
“It sends a very clear message to the community that while we have freedom of expression in this country if you offend the Criminal Code or disseminate something publicly to incite a breach of the peace, you can and will be prosecuted,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
In sentencing, Blouin said he would have handed down a much stiffer sentence had the law allowed, The Canadian Press (CP) reports.
“It is impossible, in my view, to conclude that (the defendant) ... should receive a sentence of any less than 18 months in jail,” Blouin told CP. “(He) ... promoted hate to a vast audience in an era where online exposure to this material inexorably leads to extremism and the potential of mass casualties.”
Evidence was that the free publication was distributed to more than 300,000 homes and businesses in the Toronto area as well as online over a three-year period, the national news agency reports.
It consistently portrayed women as inferior and as inviting rape, called the Holocaust a myth and claimed Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those themes continued even after the trial started, Blouin noted.
The Crown called for the maximum sentence of six months on each count for a total of one year for the editor. He was sentenced to one year to be served under house arrest.
The judge did deny a prosecution probation request to bar the editor from publishing the newspaper. Such a ban would violate the constitutional right to free expression, Blouin said.
Izadi says there can be a grey area in determining the threshold between allowing freedom of expression and denouncing hate material. However, that “clearly” wasn’t the case in this instance.
“Written material that suggests rape should be legalized clearly went too far and the maximum sentence reflects that,” she says.
“Justice Blouin balances that by denying the request to have the newspaper banned from publishing. His Honour said that crossed the boundaries,” Izadi says. “They can have this newspaper. They just can’t publish anything that could result in a breach of peace.”