Montreal

Former B'nai B'rith director says child porn videos were research

The former Quebec director of the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith says prosecutors should drop child pornography charges against him because he was using the material for educational purposes.

The former Quebec director of the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith says prosecutors should drop child pornography charges against him because he was using the material for educational purposes.

Bill Surkis was arrested in Montreal last spring following a police investigation and charged with possessing child pornography.

Authorities were contacted after an electronics repair shop found several suspicious video files on Surkis's computer, which he brought in for repairs.

On Tuesday, his lawyer, Steven Slimovitch, appeared in court and asked that prosecutors reconsider the charges given what Surkis has said about the files.

"The purpose of his viewing the child pornography material [was] to educate himself on the topic of child pornography," Slimovitch told CBC News outside court. "Then he would go into schools and give lectures on people abusing people."

Surkis did download 26 videos of child pornography to his hard drive, Slimovitch said, but watched them only for a couple of seconds each to get information that he then used in a Power Point presentation.

Surkis has already undergone a psychiatric evaluation by a doctor chosen by prosecutors and was given a clean bill of health, Slimovitch said.

Quebec law has weighed in on similar cases in the past, he added, and recognized an education exemption in some cases of child pornography. Slimovitch hopes to eventually have the case dismissed.

Surkis has been out on bail since his spring arrest, subject to several conditions, including that he not be in the company of minors, avoid areas where minors gather and not use his computer to access the internet.

He has also surrendered his passport and agreed to stay in Quebec for the duration of his case.

The former B'nai B'rith director left the Jewish organization two years ago. He was also the dean of education at John Abbott College for 22 years and a past executive director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.