The April 17 judgment by Mr. Justice Paul Creaghan of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench awarding ex-teacher and author Malcolm Ross damages for defamation is “a major step toward fairness”, said Paul Fromm, Director of the Canadian Association for Free Expression. In a series of cartoons, Saint John cartoonist Josh Beutel, who is Jewish, depicted Mr.
Ross as a Nazi and as Joseph Goebbels, German wartime propaganda minister. Mr. Justice Creaghan’s award ordered Beutel to pay Ross $7,500 and the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association, which had sponsored a meeting where Beutel’s cartoons formed part of the presentation, to pay $2,100 toward Mr. Ross’s court costs.
The judgment also awarded Mr. Ross “allowable disbursements”, which, under New Brunswick law would include airfare and accommodations for Doug Christie, Mr. Ross’s Victoria, B.C.-based lawyer, and other expenses like photocopying.
In explaining the decision to a Canadian Association for Free Expression meeting, April 19, lawyer Barbara Kulaszka said: “The judgment means you can defend your Christian religion and you can question the holocaust and not be called a Nazi.” In his decision, Mr. Justice Creaghan “said that Mr. Ross’s views were founded on his fundamentalist Christian beliefs and not on Nazism …
To take as a fact that Malcolm Ross is a Nazi goes too far.'” (Globe and Mail, April 20, 1998) Further, the judge ruled: “Malcolm Ross’s reputation was hurt as a result of the defamation against him.” (New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, April 20, 1998) In a statement, Ross commented: “The award … only covered a small fraction of my costs for the trial, but I believe it was an important moral victory. It stated clearly that one can question aspects of the Holocaust and can proclaim the belief that Judaism is an enemy of the Church without being called a Nazi.”
This judgment is long overdue,” says Paul Fromm. “For too long the forces of censorship have relied on lies, vicious defamation and character assassination to marginalize and isolate intended victims. To question immigration is to risk being smeared as a ‘racist’ or ‘white supremacist’. To be a 19th century traditional Christian is to risk being smeared as a Nazi.
The organized opponents of free speech and, all too often the lemmings in the press, spread the libel of ‘hatemonger’.” To question the current immigration invasion, to express and traditional objection to homosexual practices or to question the Hollywood version of World War II is to risk being smeared as ‘hatemonger’, warns Fromm. “This charge, in almost all cases, is defamatory and false. Wilfully promoting ‘hate’ against privileged minorities is contrary to Section 319 of the Criminal Code.
None of those regularly labelled “hatemongers” has ever been charged or convicted,” he adds. Even today, this same type of smear continues. Fromm noted the headline of the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal (April 21, 1998) — “Ross’s libel victory grist for Zundel’s internet hate mill.” Perhaps, said Fromm, “some in the press still haven’t learned.
Whatever one might think of publisher Ernst Zundel and his efforts to rehabilitate his people’s reputation after World War II, he has never been charged or convicted of promoting hate. Therefore, to smear his Internet site as a ‘hate mill’ is as false and defamatory as to call him a rapist or a car thief.”
Hal Joffe, “a lawyer with the Canadian Jewish Congress, said … the decision significantly curtails the ability of both individuals and media commentators to criticize public figures.” (Globe and Mail, April 21, 1998) “This is a breathtaking display of hypocrisy,” says Fromm. “The Canadian Jewish Congress has laboured mightily to gag free speech in this country.
Now to see them trying to hoist the mantle on their shoulders reminds me of Shakespeare’s line in Macbeth that it ill becomes them: ‘like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.'” There is no chill on spirited debate and lively commentary, he contends.. “What Mr. Justice Creaghan’s ruling did say is that commentary must be truthful.
It is neither just nor fair to try to ‘get’ an ideological opponent by pulling out the worst labels in the book and attaching it to him, when the labels are false. Malcolm Ross is no Nazi. To have suggested he is to have lied. That is wrong and the judge so ruled.”
Presslers Win Defamation Suit Against David Lethbridge and CHBC-TV
Claus and Eileen Pressler of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, have won a major defamation case against self-described anti-racist activist David Lethbridge and CHBC-TV of Kelowna, B.C. Eileen Pressler is the head of the Council on Public Affairs, an organization which has fought for the right to free speech in Canada.
In his May 21, 1998 judgment, Mr. Justice Owen-Flood of the B.C. Supreme Court awarded Claus Pressler $60,000.00 in damages. Eileen Pressler was awarded damages of $11,500.00. The case involved a TV news broadcast aired in October of 1993 by CHBC-TV in which reporter Blaine Gaffney and Lethbridge repeated rumours that the Presslers were building a paramilitary compound on their retirement property, complete with extensive security measures, guarded perimeter fences, underground bunkers, separate telecommunication and electrical systems and a barn with numerous rooms and a spiral staircase.
At trial it was shown that the Presslers were building a retirement home and that the rumours were completely false. Several of their neighbours testified on behalf of the Presslers at trial. CHBC-TV and Lethbridge made no attempt at the trial to prove that the allegations made in the broadcast were true. Both attempted to justify the broadcast on the grounds that the Council on Public Affairs had defended the right to free speech of people such German-Canadian Ernst Zündel and Alberta teacher Jim Keegstra.
Eileen Pressler said that she was elated with the news. “Not only is it a great victory for us, but it’s also a great victory for freedom of speech and freedom-loving Canadians everywhere,” she said. “So-called anti-racist groups in Canada have for years freely vilified anyone in this country who stands up for freedom of speech. This decision sends a message that those who fight to maintain the freedoms Canadians fought for in World War II can do so without having their reputations and lives destroyed by lies and falsehoods.”
Lethbridge is a well-known anti-racist who has been active in shutting down the meetings of any groups or individuals whose views he disagrees with. He ran as the candidate for the Communist Party in the last federal election, attracting 369 votes.. The Presslers were ably represented by well-known lawyers Douglas Christie of Victoria and Barbara Kulaszka of Ontario.
Mr. Justice Owen-Flood’s judgment was emphatic. Yes, Eileen Pressler had expressed strong views critical of Jews. However, this did not entitle Lethbridge and CHBC to lie about her and her husband. In the judgment, Owen-Flood wrote regarding David Lethbridge: “I find that in his zeal his behaviour removes from his reach the defence of qualified privilege.
Racism and anti-Semitism are based on unacceptable stereotyping. So too was Lethbridge’s view of the entire Pressler family. He tarred them all with the same brush, although he must have known it was unfair so to do. He deliberately tried to drive them our of town.
He succeeded in contributing to the ruin of Claus Pressler’s pharmacy. He boasted publicly of this as a victory. He spread rumours which, in many instances, he knew not only were untrue, but could not possibly be true. It cannot be said that he acted with an honest belief and without malice.” (166)
The bulk of the damages — $60,000 — is assessed against Westcom (CHBC). This is critical. Too often in B.C. and elsewhere, compliant and in some cases utterly irresponsible media have boomed the lies and false labels of professional anti-racists and censors into the headlines. This judgment may force the media to be more responsible. At the very least, they face the prospect of having to answer for the lies they tell and some of the damage they do.
The landmark judgment was an utter media non-event. Within the first 10 days, only the Vancouver Sun’s (May 30, 1998) Trevor Lautens covered the matter. His column opened with vintage Lethbridge: “‘Yeah, I got a message for you, you fucking Nazi pigs. Any more of these goddamn rallies and there’s gonna be trouble. We’re fed up with you.
So, just fuck off!’ — David Lethbridge, founder of the Salmon Arm Coalition Against Racism, in a phone call to … Eileen Pressler.” Lautens concluded his column with a recent comment by Lethbridge about Lenin in a May 15 letter to the Jewish Western Bulletin. There he hailed the mass murderer as “one of the world’s greatest liberators and democrats.”
Is this “Hate”?
“Bank of Montreal officials scrambled yesterday to damn one of their internal memos that depicted a half-naked black man — bone in his nose and knife in hand — boiling two whites. … ‘Don’t let us be eaten alive by the competition … feed us your competitive intelligence,’ the memo read, concluding with ways workers could get their ideas heard. ‘It’s basically telling the people who work here that Caucasians are more intelligent,’ said [manager, Marcel] Archer.” (Toronto Sun, February 13, 1998) A novel interpretation Mr. Archer – who’s eating whom? Don Cherry lost “Bell Canada’s sponsorship of his Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada after the phone giant got 12 complaints in Quebec about Cherry’s comments.” (Toronto Sun, April 19, 1998)
Piping Hot Human Rights in B.C.
Human rights “protection is dished out according to who can sue whom most successfully. ‘Bluntly stated human rights in Canada now depend on the lottery of litigation.’ … the Canadian Human Rights Commission says in its 1997 annual report.” (Toronto Sun, March 25, 1998) Various rights commissions have been the weapon of choice in the malicious prosecution of countless Canadians for as long as ‘watchdogs’ have had teeth. “A restaurant owner has been ordered to pay $1,200 for humiliating a young family by urging them to eat in his cafeteria instead of the adjoining dining room. The B.C. human-rights tribunal says Gordon Robson discriminated against Rico Micallef — injuring his dignity, feelings and self-respect. … Robson, who has spent $10,000 fighting the charges over four years, was flabbergasted. ‘Things like this are what causes people like me not to want to do business in B.C. This is government gone nuts.’ Micallef, his wife and three children — aged six months, two and seven — were directed to the ‘family friendly’ cafeteria in accordance with a restaurant policy intended to keep children from disturbing others. When the Micallefs decided they didn’t like the cafeteria, they were seated in the dining room and served.” (Vancouver Sun, April 29, 1998)
Life in Prison for Vandalism?
The tolerance brigade never ceases to amaze. Let’s be perfectly clear: Toppling gravestones in a Jewish cemetery is not political expression. It’s loutish vandalism, whatever the motives. In late April, such vandalism occurred two nights in a row near St. Catharines, even though a suspect had been apprehended after the first night. Nevertheless, comments by a local rabbi seemed a little overheated: “‘These people should not be allowed back into society — period,’ said rabbi Martin Appelbaum.” (Vancouver Province, April 29, 1998) What? Life in prison?
No Canadian Flags in Parliament to Save Separatist Feelings
Even in Parliament — from the French for ‘the speaking place’ [parler = to speak] — free speech isn’t safe. On March 16, Speaker Gilbert Parent ruled: “MPs can’t have small Canadian flags on their desks in the House of Commons. …’No displays will be allowed and current practices will be upheld.'” (Toronto Star, March 17, 1998) The controversy had occurred when some Liberal and Reform MPs “delayed Bloc Quebecois MP Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Mitis) from speaking by singing ‘O Canada’ and waving Canadian flags.
Tremblay had protested an overabundance of Canadian flags in the Olympic Village in Nagana, which she said hampered the performance of Quebec athletes.” No one, of course, curtailed her comments. Perhaps, Parent is trying to emulate Cuba. Recent comments suggest he sees little difference between the two countries.
Then outgoing Tory leader Jean Charest got into the act and proclaimed flag waving as “misguided nationalism.” “He said the whole debate over whether Canadian flags on MPs’ desks constitute a provocation against the Bloc Quebecois is getting out of hand. ‘What I saw was some misguided nationalism by people who think that our flag is a sledgehammer,’ Charest said. ‘I found it extremely sad to see this happen and people forget that excessive nationalism is what caused one of the most dramatic cataclysms of mankind – the Second World War.” (Vancouver Sun, March 15, 1998)
Truth is Irrelevant, Human Rights Tribunal Rules
During the interminable Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearings into the Zundelsite, defence lawyer Doug Christie sought to have a prosecution witness, Dr. Frederick Schweitzer acknowledge that Jewish writers had made many of the same statements as those complained of on the Zundelsite. For instance, author Tom Segev in The Seventh Million had shown how many Israeli politicians had dishonestly used and manipulated accounts of the Holocaust for their own ends — a charge the Zundelsite had made.
In a bizarre May 25 ruling, the three-person tribunal decreed: “Consistent with a focus on effect rather than intent, it is the effect of the message on the recipient, and ultimately on the person or group vilified, that is the focus of the analysis. The truth in some absolute sense really plays no role. Rather, it is the social context in which the message is delivered and heard which will determine the effect that the communication will have on the listener. It is not the truth or falsity per se that will evoke the emotion but rather how it is understood by the recipient.”