“Inciting hatred against Jews and trivializing or denying the Holocaust will lead to harsh consequences.”
Montreal, QC – January 23, 2023 – Today, the Court of Quebec – Criminal and Penal Division, rendered a guilty judgment in the case of Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, who was on trial for the wilful promotion of hatred and accused of attempting to recruit others to join the movement. Sohier-Chaput was found guilty of “Wilful promotion of hatred” under section 319 (2) of the Criminal Code; the criminal charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison (sentencing scheduled for May).
During the trial, the defendant’s lawyer had argued for the judge not to take judicial notice of certain facts surrounding the Holocaust, questioning the number of Holocaust victims and whether the Nazis had intentionally set out to exterminate Jews, referring to it as a “cost-saving” measure instead. This argument led to a separate hearing over whether the fact that Nazism led to the Holocaust should be recognized as common knowledge. Reading from his 72-page judgement, Judge Manlio Del Negro shut down the defence lawyer’s attempts to mischaracterize the malevolence of those responsible for the Holocaust and he confirmed taking judicial notice of the “role played by the Nazi regime in the extermination of Jews during World War II” (our translation). He added that “the role that the Nazis played in connection with the persecution and massacre of Jews during World War II is [...] a historical fact that is “patently indisputable”” (our translation) and said “that judging otherwise would be “perverse finding of fact.””
Responding to today’s verdict, Eta Yudin, Vice President Quebec, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said:
“CIJA is pleased that neo-Nazi Gabriel Sohier-Chaput has been found guilty of promoting hate. The verdict is a strong statement that hate and antisemitism are not acceptable and perpetrators will be held accountable.
“The judge saw through the excuses of the accused, who claimed his comments were mere satire and irony, and reinforced that hatred cannot be explained away. Words matter. We know all too well that online hate leads to real-world violence, and that is why we are working with partners in a national coalition to call for strong legislation against online hate.
“The judge’s unwavering condemnation of the accused’s intent to foment hatred against Jews and of the defence’s unacceptable attempts to trivialize the Holocaust sends a clear message to those who wilfully promote hatred against any group: that they will not get away with it and consequences will be harsh.
“We are pleased that, as expected, the court upheld longstanding precedent that recognizes the Holocaust as historical fact under Canadian Jurisprudence. The Holocaust is the most carefully documented genocide in the world, its facts are well known, and there should be no room for denying or distorting them – whether in the public, online, in the media, or in the court. This follows previous judgements in R v. Zundel and Lafferty, Harwood & Partners v. Parizeau, and Canada’s criminalization of Holocaust denial, which have also clearly addressed this issue.
“With International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, January 27, combined with alarming statistics that 22% of Canadian millennials have not heard, or are unsure if they have heard, of the Holocaust, and that 62% of Canadian millennials were not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, this trial is yet another demonstration of the need to make education about the Holocaust and antisemitism mandatory in the Quebec school curriculum.”
- Since June 23, 2022, Holocaust denial has been a criminal offence in Canada. Wilfully promoting antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust is now a criminal offence (s. 319 (2.1) of the Criminal Code.
- Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to communicate, except in private conversation, statements that wilfully promote hatred against an “identifiable group” (which has the same meaning as in section 318).
- Section 318(4) of the Criminal Code defines an “identifiable group” as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.
- In Canada, in the August 1992 R v. Zundel case, in which CIJA predecessor, the Canadian Jewish Congress was an intervenor, the Supreme Court confirmed the Holocaust is a historical fact that must be regarded as proven.
- In Quebec, in the 2000 Lafferty, Harwood & Partners v. Parizeau case and its subsequent 2003 appeal, the court recognized the Nazi regime’s fundamentally racist ideology, its relentless targeting of Jews, and its plans to use its concentration camps to exterminate the Jewish population.
- International Holocaust Remembrance Daywas established by the United Nations General Assembly on November 1, 2005, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The resolution stemmed from a special session held on January 24, 2005, during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
- The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey conducted by the Claims Conferencedemonstrated that an alarming 22% of Canadian millennials have not heard, or are unsure if they have heard, of the Holocaust; and 62% of Canadian millennials were not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
- CIJA is committed to working with the government to increase investment in antisemitism and Holocaust education across Canada.
About the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations across Canada. CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Jewish life in Canada through advocacy and to advance the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.
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Director, Media Relations and GTA Communications
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
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