New Brunswick

Robert McCorkill estate ruling stands

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of a New Brunswick court ruling that barred a neo-Nazi group from inheriting a man's estimated $250,000 estate.

New Brunswick decision barred neo-Nazi group from inheriting man's $250K estate

Robert McCorkill, who also went by McCorkell, bequeathed his estate to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in West Virginia. (Southern Law Poverty Center)

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of a New Brunswick court ruling that barred a neo-Nazi group from inheriting a man's estimated $250,000 estate.

The Canadian Association for Free Expression asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Robert McCorkill case, arguing it is "of national importance."

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed the group's motion seeking leave to appeal the decision of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

As is customary, the Supreme Court did not give reasons for its decision.

The court did award legal costs to Isabelle Rose McCorkill, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Province of New Brunswick.

McCorkill, who died in Saint John in 2004, had bequeathed his valuable collection of coins, artifacts and investments to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in the United States.

Last summer, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal upheld a decision to void the will because it was "against public policy."

Paul Fromm, director and founder of the Canadian Association for Free Expression, whose Ontario-based non-profit group has lobbied for Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zundel in the past, calls the New Brunswick decision "horrific."

"It opens the door to endless litigation whenever a bequest is made to a controversial person or organization," Fromm said in a statement.

It nixes the right of a person to dispose of his property as he sees fit.- Paul Fromm , CAFE

"It nixes the right of a person to dispose of his property as he sees fit."

However, by refusing to hear the appeal, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal ruling stands.

Decision welcomed

The Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which was an intervenor in the case, welcomed Thursday's decision.

"We commend the Supreme Court of Canada for rejecting an application for leave to appeal in this case," said CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel in a statement. "In so doing, the SCC reaffirmed the decision repeatedly taken by the lower courts. Bequeathing assets to hate organizations is a violation of Canadian public policy."

Fogel said the case "offers a precedent that can prove invaluable in stopping the flow of funds to hate groups."

"We will continue working to identify legal tools to degrade the capacity of groups that spread hate propaganda against any minority."

The lawyer who represented McCorkill's sister, Isabelle Rose McCorkill, in challenging the will, was "quite happy and pleased" with the decision.

"Now the administration of the estate has to go through the regular process, but eventually the assets will be transferred to our client and also her brother," said Marc–Antoine Chiasson.

Failed to address substantive submissions

CAFE contends the New Brunswick Court of Appeal's decision was "dismissive" and "failed to deal with the substantive arguments and submissions" by CAFE's lawyer, as well as the lawyer representing the executor of the estate.

The Court of Appeal decision stated: "Having regard to the application judge's comprehensive reasons and his determination that the bequest was void as against public policy, we can find no justification to interfere."

"We are in substantial agreement with the essential features of the carefully considered reasons of the application judge," the three-judge panel ruled, awarding McCorkill's estranged sister, Isabelle Rose McCorkill, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the New Brunswick government each $3,000.

New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Grant had described the written materials of the National Alliance as "racist, white supremacist and hate-inspired." Such "hate propaganda" is both illegal in Canada and contrary to public policy, he had ruled.

McCorkill's 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 an appraiser's report from August 2010.

Parts of the collection have been exhibited in Saskatoon and Ottawa, where he had lived and worked over the years.

Probate court documents obtained by CBC News showed McCorkill's estate was valued at about $250,000, with about $89,000 in outstanding liabilities, leaving about $161,000 for the beneficiary.

Anti-racism groups wanted to stop the National Alliance from receiving the valuables, 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.

With files from Alan White


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?