A Montreal resident was found guilty Monday of promoting hatred toward Jews based on an item he posted on a far-right website.
In a decision delivered at the Montreal courthouse, Quebec Court Judge Manlio Del Negro did not accept Gabriel Sohier Chaput’s defence that what he wrote for the Daily Stormer was satirical or intended as exaggeration.
Del Negro took the unusual step of ordering that Sohier Chaput be taken into custody on Monday. He had never been detained since the warrant was issued for his arrest in 2018. The judge agreed to release Sohier Chaput Monday afternoon after he agreed to follow a series of conditions. His case will enter the sentencing stage at a later date.
“In the final analysis, the court does not retain the hodgepodge of explanations provided by Gabriel Sohier Chaput about his writings,” Del Negro wrote in his lengthy decision.
“(The court) rejects his entire account, because his explanations leave no doubt. The court finds that the explanations provided are specious, insincere, opportunistic, deceptive, far-fetched, implausible, concealers of the truth, and were cobbled together to conceal the true intention of the accused.”
The judge wrote that Sohier Chaput “intentionally promoted hatred, through the Daily Stormer platform, against people of Jewish faith.”
“The evidence in this regard is overwhelming. In closing, allow (myself) to make the following observation: the victims (Jews and other groups) of the Holocaust and also the victims of other genocides perpetrated throughout history, as well as their families deserve to be left in peace. The suffering they have been put through is inexpressible and defies the meaning of humanity.”
In another section of the decision the judge wrote: “In the light of all of (Sohier Chaput’s) writings, the court could not ignore what the ideology of Nazism meant. On the contrary, through his writings, we can infer that (Sohier Chaput) was well versed in the matter of hateful ideology that Nazism represented and the role it played during the Second World War.”
In 2018, Sohier Chaput was charged under the Criminal Code with the wilful promotion of hatred “by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, (that) wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group.”
The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years.
The warrant for his arrest came after Sohier Chaput was the focus of a series of articles published by the Montreal Gazette in 2018 that described him as one of North America’s most prominent writers on the Daily Stormer, a far-right news website.
The articles linked Sohier Chaput to the Zeiger pseudonym he used to publish hundreds of articles on the Daily Stormer website and alleged that he had organized meetings for a local neo-Nazi group.
Shortly after the articles were published, B’nai Brith Canada filed a complaint about Sohier Chaput to the Montreal police. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 30, 2018. When his trial began last year, his defence lawyer, Hélène Poussard, admitted he was the person who posted between 800 and 1,000 items under the Zeiger pseudonym for the Daily Stormer.
During the trial, the defence lawyer argued that what her client wrote was repugnant but that he had a right to post his writings under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The article in question in Sohier Chaput’s trial warned that 2017 “will be the year of action.”
“We need to make sure no (social justice warrior) or Jew can remain safely untriggered,” it continued. “Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.”
Del Negro noted that specific part of the posting in his 72-page decision.
“When cross-examined on the meaning of his thought about the sentence: “Non-Stop Nazism, everywhere” and if it could be perceived as promoting the extermination or persecution of the Jews, his answers were evasive, he seemed to want to avoid answering it,” Del Negro wrote. “Counsel for the prosecution had to repeat the same question three times before he answered ‘No.’ ”
Sohier Chaput testified in his defence during the trial and said that “in order to get people’s attention, you have to go to the extreme, toward humour, absurdity, provocation,” but added of what he wrote: “obviously that’s not the literal message.”
In his decision, Del Negro wrote that “the court does not accept as being plausible or probable the explanations offered by (Sohier Chaput). Quite the contrary, the court considers that it is under the pretext of satire, humour and sarcasm that (he) camouflages his hateful rhetoric which he foments.”
In reaction to Del Negro’s decision, Eta Yudin, vice-president Quebec of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), wrote: “CIJA is pleased that neo-Nazi Gabriel Sohier-Chaput has been found guilty of promoting hate. The verdict is a strong statement that hate and antisemitism are not acceptable and perpetrators will be held accountable.
“We are pleased that, as expected, the court upheld longstanding precedent that recognizes the Holocaust as historical fact under Canadian jurisprudence. The Holocaust is the most carefully documented genocide in the world, its facts are well known, and there should be no room for denying or distorting them – whether in the public, online, in the media, or in the court.”