TORONTO (Mar. 12)
Jim Keegstra, the former high school teacher fired for preaching anti-Semitism in his Eckville, Alberta classroom, emerged from a courthouse last week to the cheers of supporters who carried signs charging that he was being “persecuted by Jews.”
Keegstra, who had also been Mayor of Eckville and was defeated in a re-election bid last year, faces charges of violating Canada’s anti-hate laws. He appeared in a Red Deer, Alberta, provincial court only briefly to officially state his preference for trial by jury instead of a trial before a judge.
The Red Deer courthouse was packed with spectators as Judge Ben Casson set aside the week of June 4-8 for a preliminary hearing. If the inquiry produces sufficient evidence for trial, Keegstra will have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at that time.
He will be charged with promoting hatred against a religious group, which is a crime under Canadian law. Keegstra was fired for telling his students that the Holocaust was a hoax, that Jews are the root of all evil, and that there was an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world. His anti-Semitic indoctrination raised protests from Eckville parents although no Jews live in that tiny Alberta village.
But Keegstra apparently has friends. As he left the Red Deer court with his lawyer, Doug Christie, a Western Canada separatist, about 40 of them burst into applause. They had been picketing the court with signs reading, “Cowardly Politicians Crucifying Jim Keegstra” and “Who’s Next? Keegstra Persecuted by Jews.”
Keegstra, smiling broadly, refused to talk to reporters except to say he was pleased by the amount of money people have donated for his defense. His wife, who says she is “sick” of the publicity, confirmed that he has received hundreds of letters of support from all over Canada and only a few critical ones.