James ‘Jim’ Keegstra, a prominent Canadian holocaust denier and former high school teacher in Eckville, Alta., is dead at the age of 80, CBC News learned late Thursday night.
Keegstra made international headlines in 1983 when he was accused of teaching students that the history of the Holocaust was fraudulent, and that a Jewish conspiracy was responsible for many of the world’s problems.
It was alleged that Keegstra had been teaching his anti-Semitic views to his social studies class for 14 years before a parent complained to the local school board about his lessons.
In January 1984, Keegstra was stripped of his teaching certificate and charged with “wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group” under the Criminal Code of Canada.
At the time, no one had been successfully convicted under Canada’s hate propaganda laws enacted in 1970.
Keegstra was represented at trial by attorney Doug Christie, a political activist originally from B.C., who would go on to defend some of Canada’s most high-profile Holocaust deniers.
Keegstra was convicted at his original trial and fined $5,000. His lawyers appealed the decision, arguing that the law was unconstitutional and that it violated provisions on freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After multiple trials and appeals the case eventually reached the Supreme Court of Canada, who in 1990 and again in 1996 upheld Keegstra’s conviction in a landmark ruling that found that the Criminal Code section on public incitement of hatred did infringe on Charter rights, but that infringement was justified.
Keegstra received a one-year suspended sentence, one year of probation, and community service.
He died on June 2, according to a report in the Red Deer Advocate. CBC News confirmed with his son that his father was in fact dead.
According to the same report, Keegstra spent the latter part of his life as a custodian at an apartment complex in the city.