Initially-Proposed Three-Month Sentence Underscores Need for Specially Trained Prosecutors
Montreal, QC – September 22, 2023 – Today, the Court of Quebec – Criminal and Penal Division sentenced Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, to 15 months of imprisonment. He was found guilty in January of “Wilful promotion of hatred” under section 319 (2) of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum criminal penalty of two years in prison.
Eta Yudin, Vice President - Quebec, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), was present in the courtroom for the sentencing. In July, she provided a Community Impact Statement to the court in the context of the Sohier-Chaput case and regarding the broader impact of the dissemination of hate and antisemitism on the Jewish community. During the sentencing, Yudin's statement was cited multiple times by Judge Manlio Del Negro.
The case centred around Sohier-Chaput’s authorship of a 2017 article that called for “non-stop Nazism,” which he wrote under a pseudonym on the American neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer. Sohier-Chaput’s article promoted hate towards the Jewish people.
Responding to today’s sentencing, Eta Yudin said:
“As antisemitism continues to rise worldwide, the court’s guilty verdict in January, along with today’s sentencing, sends a message that the anonymity of the internet is no shield for those looking to promote hate. We are encouraged the court took seriously the criminal nature of Sohier-Chaput’s vile online hate propaganda that featured antisemitic slurs, trivialized the Holocaust, and promoted hatred.
“By including CIJA in the sentencing process, the court and Crown demonstrated an understanding of the importance of hearing directly from the Jewish community about the real impact this type of crime has on those targeted by hate.
“Today, a strong message was sent to those who want to promote hate. However, more must be done. Online hate has real-world consequences, including violence, that must be addressed. One way to deliver more effective judicial outcomes is for the government to establish a specialized training program that would equip prosecutors with a stronger understanding of how to identify hate and use appropriate conditions and charges. We must guarantee that those who seek to divide society know the justice system is prepared to hold them accountable.”
On Jan. 23, 2023, Sohier-Chaput was found guilty of promoting hate, specifically violating section 319 (2) of the Criminal Code. CIJA was pleased with the court’s verdict, noting its ability to deter future similar crimes.
- 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.
- 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 2022, Canada amended the Criminal Code to include Holocaust denial as an indictable offence under 319 (2.1) Wilful promotion of antisemitism. The amendment states: “Everyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction." This effectively criminalized Holocaust denial and distortion.
- 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.
- The Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey conducted by the Claims Conference demonstrated that an alarming 22 percent of Canadian millennials have not heard, or are unsure if they have heard, of the Holocaust; and 62 percent of Canadian millennials were not aware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Statistics Canada police-reported hate crimes data for 2022 revealed, once again, that Jewish Canadians remain the most targeted religious minority for hate crime and second overall.
- In 2022, members of the Jewish community represented only one percent of the population, yet were victims of 14 percent of all reported hate crime.
- In 2022, Jewish Canadians were the target of 67 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes.
- The Jewish community was targeted in 502 reported hate crime incidents – that’s more than one incident of Jew-hatred per day in 2022.
- While religiously motivated hate crimes overall were down 15 percent year over year, hate crime targeting the Jewish community increased 2 percent between 2021 and 2022.
- Anti-Jewish hate crime has increased 52 percent since 2020.
About the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing 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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Associate Director, Communications and Marketing (Quebec), CIJA
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