Court backs penalties against man posting anti-Semitic messages
The Federal Court of Canada has upheld a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that orders a Regina man to stop posting anti-Semitic commentary on the internet.
Terry Tremaine, a former part-time math lecturer for the University of Saskatchewan, had gone to the federal court seeking a judicial review of the tribunal's rulings.
The federal court heard the case in Regina on Sept. 3. The judgment was published on the court's database on Wednesday.
In her decision, Justice Judith Snider wrote that the tribunal's rulings were reasonable.
"The tribunal noted the extreme and violent nature of [Tremaine's] postings and concluded it would offer readers reason to hate and to be suspicious of minorities," Snider found.
"It must also be noted that the tribunal was careful to balance Mr. Tremaine's freedom of expression right with the equality rights of all individuals in reaching this decision."
Tremaine's case began as a complaint filed to the federal Human Rights Commission by Richard Warman on Oct. 13, 2004. The tribunal made its rulings on Feb. 2, 2007.
Daniel Poulin, legal counsel for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, argued the case before the federal court. In a telephone interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Poulin said the latest decision adds to a body of case-law that is developing around the internet and hatred against minorities.
Exposing people to hatred, contempt
"The Tremaine case is one of a number of cases that deal with messages posted on the internet," Poulin said. "These decisions deal with the strongest types of messages. They're messages that are found to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."
In the 2007 decision of the Human Rights Tribunal, Tremaine was described as writing messages towards Jews that "characterize them as the enemy of humanity, as a parasitic race, as pure evil, hideous parasites, as a disease, vermin, as deceitful, liars, depraved criminals involved in organized crime, drugs and white slavery."
The tribunal ordered Tremaine to cease and desist writing such things on the internet and was told to pay a $4,000 fine.
Poulin says one result of the court review is that the tribunal orders may now be implemented.
"This means that the decision of the tribunal stands and is enforceable," Poulin said.
As a practical matter, however, Tremaine, 60, has been without access to a computer since a criminal charge was laid against him by police in Regina on January 23, 2008.
As part of their investigation, police seized Tremaine's computer. He was later ordered to stay away from the internet as a condition of his being released on bail. The criminal charge of promoting hatred is still before the courts. No date has been set for when it will be tried.
Extreme, malicious nature
In his application for judicial review of the Human Rights Tribunal decision, Tremaine also argued that the $4,000 penalty was unreasonable, because of his financial circumstances.
However, the federal court judge noted that all relevant factors were analyzed including the fact that Tremaine had lost his job with the university, did not own a car or a house and was working a minimal wage job part-time.
"Although Mr. Tremaine's ability to pay was clearly limited by his monthly salary," the judge wrote, "the tribunal correctly balanced this factor with the extreme, malicious nature of the discriminatory practice."
The court also noted the fact that the fine was not the maximum — $10,000 — that could have been imposed.
Poulin said Wednesday that he was not aware of any further appeal in the case. However, Tremaine could take the matter to the Federal Court of Appeal and, if similarly unsuccessful, he could seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.