Virtually all residents of Ward 32 are familiar with a publication delivered to their doors by Canada Post, deceptively titled Your Ward News. Many have labeled it a racist and hateful publication.
The publication features anti-Semitic rants about “ZioMarxists,” “parasites,” and the classic “illegitimate Zionist apartheid state of Israel that holocausts Palestinians.” Other targets include immigrants, blacks and women. The Confederate flag is defended and glorified. Women are degraded. History is revised. Community members, politicians, and political candidates are demeaned and debased.
Many can see the hand of the defunct neo-Nazi group The Heritage Front in the writing and content, making an unwelcome return to our community. It calls readers (men only) to join the “New Constitution Party.” The membership cards feature Nazi-style salutes and references to the number 88, neo-Nazi code for “HH” or “Heil Hitler.” It uses other sick images and abhorrent language not worthy of repeating.
When challenged about the vile content, the paper’s principals will wrap themselves in the flag of free speech and satire, and sermonize about civil liberties. They become the victims and rally us to join their cause.
Many residents have asked: Why can’t the hate laws of Canada prosecute this publication and shut it down?
In short, the law possibly can, but there is a very high threshold. Hate speech in Canada is a criminal code offence, governed by a federal law. Like most Western countries we prize free speech. We do not want to shut down others regardless of how offensive and depraved their views may be.
To pass the threshold of hate speech, the criminal code states that elements of the offence are to willfully incite hatred against an identifiable group in a public place which is likely to lead to a breach of the public peace; or to willfully (and publicly) promote hatred against an identifiable group. The matter has caught the attention of the Attorney General of Ontario, who must determine if there is enough evidence that the publication crossed the line and will face criminal charges.
However, prosecuting hate in the courts should be the last resort.
Ernst Zundel used his trial as a free media circus to promote holocaust denial. Others who equally detest the publication will rally to the defence of free speech on principle. For the editor-in-chief – reported in the media as a disbarred doctor who had his medical licence stripped for sexual misconduct – public prosecution provides a free media platform. Many believe the publication should be allowed to lavish in obscurity and hopefully wither.
It should be noted that our community has rallied loud and clear. Many have written to advertisers asking them to cancel their ads, with great success. The Facebook group East Enders Against Hate and For Responsible Advertising continues to grow. MPP Arthur Potts recently announced more funding to help law enforcement recognize hate crimes.
Which raises the question: Why can’t Canada Post simply refuse to deliver the publication? The answer follows the same reasons discussed above: Canada Post does not want to be placed in the role of censor or to be sued for failing to carry out its mandate.
Pushing Canada Post has not changed this position. However, the regulations that govern this Crown corporation also provide a grassroots solution. Canada Post must deliver addressed mail, but with some exceptions. It is not required to deliver unaddressed unsolicited mail. A large note on your mailbox that states: “Do not deliver Your Ward News to this address” is an enforceable legal right. It is the most powerful tool you have to stop delivery to your home and reclaim your space. Ironically, each one of us can directly stop personal delivery more effectively than the lawyers, politicians, and Canada Post who have reviewed this matter for months.
You can even go a step further and ask your neighbours to do the same. At the end of the day, personal action is the most powerful tool we have to reclaim our community and stop the dissemination of hate.