TORONTO (Dec. 15)
An attorney for Holocaust revisionist Ernst Zundel told Canada’s Supreme Court last week that the law under which he was convicted could just as well have been used to go after people who believe in Santa Claus.
At a Dec. 10 hearing of Zundel’s appeal in Ottawa, defense attorney Douglas Christie claimed that if the constitutionality of a law against “publishing false news” is upheld, “it wouldn’t be impossible to prosecute someone for having a belief in Santa Claus.”
All opponents would have to do is successfully demonstrate that belief in Santa Claus is detrimental to the public interest, he said.
In this latest of Zundel’s bouts with the Canadian court system, he is appealing his 1988 conviction for knowingly publishing false news, after the Supreme Court in May agreed to let him broaden his constitutional challenge of Section 181 of Canada’s Criminal Code.
Christie maintained that the law infringes on his client’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and should be stricken from the books.
“These laws are really instruments of thought control, which should be avoided in a free and democratic society,” said Christie, a Vancouver lawyer who has defended virtually every accused neo-Nazi or Nazi collaborator before Canadian courts.
Christie argued the false-news law could have a chilling effect on publishers, who might fear prosecution for promoting ideas that challenge accepted norms. He said Galileo, the 16th century Italian astronomer, might have been convicted for spreading news that the Earth revolves around the sun.
ZUNDEL IS NO GALILEO
A lawyer for the Ontario attorney general challenged this assertion, saying the law could be used only against people who deliberately spread lies that harm the public.
“In my opinion, Mr. Zundel is hardly in the position of Mr. Galileo,” said W.J. Blacklock.
The federal and Ontario provincial governments maintain that the law is needed to “preserve social and racial harmony.” Backing that position are B’nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress, both intervenors in the case.
Zundel, 52, was originally convicted in February 1985 of spreading false news with his publication of “Did Six Million Really Die?” a 32-page pamphlet claiming the Holocaust is a hoax designed to enrich Israel through reparations payments from Germany.
A 12-person jury found Zundel guilty and he was given a 15-month sentence. He appealed.
In 1987, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the legality of the false-news provision. But the court ordered a new trial because of several errors made by the judge.
In 1988, following a three-and-a-half month jury retrial, Zundel was again convicted and given a nine-month sentence.
A German national who never acquired Canadian citizenship, Zundel was also convicted by a Munich court last month of distributing hate material and was fined $20,000.
Should Zundel lose his latest challenge to Canadian law, he could face deportation.