Hearing begins into Canada Post ban on controversial newspaper Your Ward News

A board of review hearing began Tuesday into a federal order prohibiting a publication that's been called vile, racist and anti-semitic from being sent in the mail.

Ban from using the postal system rare, hasn't happened since 1981

James Sears is editor of Your Ward News, which has been called hate propaganda. (Submitted)

A board of review hearing began Tuesday into a federal order prohibiting a Toronto-area publication that's been called vile, racist and anti-Semitic from being sent in the mail.

The people who run the newspaper Your Ward News are challenging the order put in place in June, 2016, by the then-federal minister responsible for Canada Post. Police have investigated the publication for hate speech but no charges have been laid.

This type of hearing is rare. The last time a minister banned mail from being distributed by Canada Post was in 1981, against a publishing company owned by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. It was overturned months later by a review board. 

'There's racism on every page,' Kinsella says

Political consultant Warren Kinsella is one of the people complaining about the paper, which is edited and published by James Sears and Laurence St. Germaine.

"There's the use of the n-word, there's racism on every page, it is the most disgusting thing."

Warren Kinsella shows some of the graphic images found in Your Ward News (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

To prove his point, Kinsella showed examples from old editions he photocopied. One image portrays a Jew as a dog; another shows an image of Jesus sexually assaulting a woman.

While the publication is based in the Toronto area, he says this review is important for all Canadians.

"We need to say Canada Post should not be distributing hatred; Canada Post should not be allowed to distribute racism."

Multiple groups and people want to be considered interested parties in the review process, including some Jewish organizations, which say they received complaints about the newspaper, including from Holocaust survivors shocked to see images of a swastika.

Paul Fromm, founder of the Canadian Association for Free Expression and a self-described white nationalist, says Your Ward News should have the right to use Canada Post to distribute the paper. (Lorenda Reddekopp, CBC News)

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUP-W), also requested standing to speak on behalf of employees disgusted by having to deliver the newspaper.

The Canadian Association for Free Expression argues the publication has a right to use the mail system. 

"People should have the right to publish what they want," said the association's founder Paul Fromm, who refers to himself as a white nationalist.

Emilie Taman, co-counsel for the two men who produce Your Ward News, argues the government has stripped them of their right to free speech. (CBC)

"If people don't want to read it, there's a garbage can, there's a blue box, there's the bottom of the bird cage."

The lawyers representing Your Ward News argue the minister's order has taken away their clients' freedom of speech, though the publication is still available online and can also be delivered using a private courier service. 

"It opens [a] floodgate, which is a government assessing the speech that it likes and doesn't like at a lower standard than we would say is appropriate," said lawyer Emilie Taman. 

Any recommendation by this three-person board of review is still at least months away. The board is still sorting out procedural issues. It isn't expected to hear submissions and look at evidence related to the ban until late summer at the earliest.