mccorkell-robert-2002

Robert McCorkill lived in Saskatoon and Ottawa before moving to Saint John, where he died in 2004. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

The sister of a New Brunswick man who left a collection of coins and artifacts worth an estimated $250,000 to a neo-Nazi group in the United States has obtained an injunction.

The court order temporarily blocks any distribution of Robert McCorkill's estate or transfer out of New Brunswick, Ottawa-based lawyer Richard Warman stated in an email.

McCorkill, who also went by McCorkell, left his collection to the U.S.-based National Alliance when he died in Saint John nine years ago, but the estate has remained unsettled.

The ex parte injunction was obtained on Monday on behalf of McCorkill's sister Isabelle McCorkill, who will be challenging the bequest on public policy grounds, Warman said.

"I anticipate that other groups will intervene in support of the application in the coming days," he said.

Anti-racism groups had planned to try to stop the National Alliance from receiving the items, fearing they could be sold and help spark a rebirth of the neo-Nazi group that has been in decline since its founder died more than a decade ago.

Attorney general hired investigator

The New Brunswick Office of the Attorney General had received calls from two human rights lawyers in Canada and the United States, inquiring whether it planned to intervene in the public interest, said department spokesman Dave MacLean.

"The Attorney General has two fundamental constitutional obligations. The first is to uphold the rule of law, but the second, which is a little less clear to the public, is that the Attorney General must act in the public interest," said MacLean.

"And this is a case where one could argue that the money would have been left to an organization that some might have seen that they might not have promoted what is the best interest of society as a whole," he said.

"So it was matter of determining whether the Attorney General should intervene and try to stop that money from going to that organization."

The department first had to determine whether the assets were still in Canada, said MacLean. "If they were no longer in Canada it may have been a lot trickier to proceed, it may have made the case moot," he explained.

So the office hired a private investigator, Gary Le Gresley, of Moonstruck Investigation Services in Bathurst, on July 12 to look into the matter.

An affidavit by Le Gresley was among the documents before Justice Peter Glennie of the Court of Queen's Bench in deciding whether to grant the injunction.

Ties to Malcolm Ross

The affidavit reveals McCorkill knew noted anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Malcolm Ross.

Ross, a former Moncton school teacher, was removed from his position in the early 1990s after a parent filed a human rights complaint against the school district — a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. A subsequent appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee was rejected.

Ross is also known for successfully suing editorial cartoonish Josh Beutel for defamation in 1993 for comparing him to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbles. Ross was awarded $7,500, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal threw out that decision.

The investigator's affidavit describes Ross as "a friend of the estate."

Remnant Enterprises Ltd., a company incorporated by Ross and his brother, William, was entrusted to transport and inventory McCorkill's assets in 2005, said Le Gresley.

"Approximately 200 numbered boxes of items were examined by Mr. Malcolm Ross," the court document states. "They were apparently store in a unit of Lighthouse Self Storage in Moncton."

Le Gresley determined the assets are still in Canada.

But now that there is a known heir, McCorkill's sister, the Attorney General's office plans to take a "backseat" in the case, said the department spokesman.

Ross could not be reached on Tuesday for comment.

Worth less than $1M

Initial estimates pegged McCorkill's collection, parts of which have been exhibited in Saskatoon and Ottawa, as being worth up to $1 million.

But probate court documents obtained by CBC News showed McCorkill's estate willed to the National Alliance is valued at about $250,000, with about $89,000 in outstanding liabilities.

That leaves about $161,000 for the white supremacist organization, which is based in West Virginia.

The collection includes Greek and Roman coins that are thousands of years old, an ancient Iranian sword, Neolithic arrowheads and an Egyptian stone tablet from the 13th Dynasty, according to a 55-page appraiser's report from August 2010.

"The delay necessary to effect service of the Notice of Motion [to McCorkill's executor Fred Streed] might entail serious consequences to the applicant," the judge stated in his decision to grant the injunction.

"All assets of the Estate of Harry Robert McCorkill (a.k.a. McCorkell) shall remain in the province of New Brunswick until further order of this court," he said.

The matter is expected to be back before the courts on July 31 for a hearing on the continuation of the order.