British Columbia

B.C. man convicted of promoting hatred against Jews loses constitutional challenge

Arthur Topham was convicted of promoting hatred against Jews through his website in 2015.

Lawyer argued that client's communication was justified in free, democratic society

A jury in Quesnel convicted Topham of communicating statements that willfully promote hatred against Jewish people on his website in 2011 and 2012. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

A B.C. man convicted of wilfully promoting hatred against people of the Jewish religion has lost a constitutional fight over the same issue in court.

Arthur Topham's lawyer argued in B.C. Supreme Court in Quesnel that his client's communication on his website was justified in a free and democratic society and that in this Internet age, the same viewpoints are available in many places.

The Crown noted that the arguments were based on an erroneous assumption that Topham only republished material written by others on his website — which wasn't the evidence put before the jury during his trial in November.

In a decision posted Monday, Justice Bruce Butler says that fact that the Internet has increased people's ability to communicate widely doesn't raise a new legal issue.

In fact, he said in his ruling that the Internet may make the risk of harm associated with hate speech a more pressing issue.

The judge dismissed the constitutional challenge, saying Topham failed to identify any new legal issues under the charter and didn't present any evidence that would shift the debate about the hate statements being justified.