AGAR: Putting haters in jail does not infringe on free speech

James Sears, the editor of Your Ward News, was sentenced to one year in jail after being convicted on two counts of wilful promotion of hatred in January. He is out pending an appeal.

Publisher LeRoy St. Germaine is confined to his home for a year, with exceptions for medical appointments and four hours a week to shop for necessities. He was given consideration due to his Aboriginal background.

Here is what the Criminal Code has to say:

319 (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

How is “breach of the peace” defined? Is it more than just making people uncomfortable?

Toronto defence lawyer Ed Prutschi says: “Breach of the peace clearly speaks to something more than merely ‘upsetting’ people. Hate speech is the kind of speech that subjects its victims to degradation and vilification and incites others to harm that identifiable group — there is nothing ‘free’ about such vile speech.”

Did Your Ward News cross that line?