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Canadian Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Hate-crimes Law

Canada’s 20-year-old anti-hate law, considered by many to be the toughest legislation of its kind anywhere, was challenged last week in the country’s highest court.

Seven Supreme Court justices heard arguments by lawyers for three notorious hate-mongers who are appealing their convictions under anti-hate and human rights statutes.

Another case, with possibly the most far-reaching implications, involves former high school teacher Jim Keegstra, whose conviction for preaching anti-Semitism in his Eckville, Alberta, classroom was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeals.

All of the cases have aroused intense interest in government, legal and human-rights circles. Many groups, including Jewish organizations, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs upholding the law.

The Alberta court ruled that the anti-hate law was invalid because “hate” was not defined, the law’s “sweep was too broad” and no injury had been proven.

Eckville, a farm community of about 900, has no Jews. Legal action was brought against Keegstra by parents who complained their children were being indoctrinated with hate propaganda.

The justices are also hearing appeals by Don Andrews and Bob Smith of Toronto, who were convicted under the same law for publishing a hate-mongering periodical called the Nationalist Report. They are represented by J.D. Coombs and David Harris of Toronto.

A third case is the appeal of John Ross Taylor, 77, who was convicted of violating the Canadian Human Rights Code.

Taylor has a record of pro-Nazi propaganda dating from the 1930s. His latest conviction was for transmitting anti-Jewish and anti-black messages by telephone.

Keegstra and Taylor are both represented by Douglas Christie, who is also defense counsel for Imre Finta, who is currently facing charges in Canada’s first-ever war crimes trial, which opened in Toronto on Nov. 21.

The Supreme Court heard all of the cases simultaneously because of their similarities. The judgments are not expected to be announced for at least a month.

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