A “slap on the wrist”
At a sentencing on March 13, Arthur Topham, the man convicted of deliberately promoting hatred against Jewish people on his now-defunct website radicalpress.com, was given a ban on public online activity and a six-month curfew.
B.C. Supreme Court Judge Bruce Butler said Topham, 70, did “not call for violence; his views were political satire,” and said it was not Topham’s “intent to indirectly incite violence.”
On the racist, antisemitic website he founded and on which he posted vitriol until removing the site just prior to the sentencing, Topham wrote that Jews should be forcibly sterilized. He described Canada as being “controlled by the Zionist lobby” and Jewish places of worship as “synagogues of Satan.” He could have faced a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Unrepentant, Topham told the Quesnel courthouse he felt it was his “duty to alert the … public to the imminent threat …. [of] the Jewish lobby.”
In Feb. 27 posts on anti-racistcanada.blogspot.ca, Topham informed his followers that his Facebook presence and website would be removed from the web within two weeks and said he would be unable to publish “anything on ANY website that has my name attached to it. To do so would mean immediate jail for breaking whatever probationary restrictions that will be imposed on me.” He said his “immediate concerns are personal family issues and health challenges” and added he was “not planning on doing any interviews in the immediate future.” On March 8, he exhorted his followers to download any and all items from radicalpress.com for free.
B’nai Brith Canada, which had alerted the RCMP to Topham’s activities back in 2007, said it was “strongly disappointed” with the sentencing. In a statement, chief executive officer Michael Mostyn described the sentence as “a mere slap on the wrist which will do little to protect Canadian Jews or preserve the multicultural mosaic of our society.”
Mostyn continued, “Mr. Topham is a committed and unrepentant Jew-hater, who persisted in publishing lurid antisemitic content on his website throughout this legal process. Canada’s laissez-fair approach to hate crimes continues to fail minority groups and puts them at increased risk of attacks against their lives or property.”
Mostyn said the timing of the lax sentence was especially disturbing, “as Canada’s Jewish community reels from a series of bomb threats against our community centres, inspired by the same hateful ideology that drives Mr. Topham.”
Harry Abrams, who was the representative for the B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights in 2007, when he was first to raise the alarm about Topham’s antisemitic writing, described the sentencing as “a rope around [Topham’s] balls.”
“Somewhere in all this, the judge took pity on an old man with a sick wife and bought this thing that Topham and his friends were trying hard to sell: that all this was a parody, a satire,” Abrams said. “Sure, I’m disappointed with the sentence, but we have to look at the sum total of this thing. Topham has been exposed as a sick, crazy old man, his stuff is down from the internet and he’s restricted from posting online. This is what we’ve got to work with, and he’s not just given free rein to go back to beating on us Jews.”
Ryan Bellerose, advocacy coordinator for B’nai Brith Canada’s League of Human Rights for Western Canada, described the sentence as “a little ridiculous.”
“He was convicted of hate speech and he’s got a curfew? This almost sends a message that you can pick on Jews and it’s totally OK, you won’t have an existential payment for it,” he said. “We finally managed to get someone charged and convicted on a hate crime in Canada and the message they send with the sentencing is that it’s not taken very seriously.
“Everyone is talking about antisemitism right now, and the bomb threats to Jewish communities in Canada, which, of course, needs to be dealt with. But no one is even talking about this [Topham’s sentencing]. That’s an especially bad message to send in today’s climate,” said Bellerose.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net. This article was originally published by CJN.