Residents of Toronto's waterfront neighborhoods have been complaining about a controversial newsletter for more than two years now. Your Ward News is a simply-produced, newsletter-style publication calling itself an "anti-Marxist publication," while critics say it is filled with anti-LGBT, anti-women, and Islamophobic rhetoric. On Friday, it was made public that the minister in charge of Canada's postal service has banned both the editor and publisher of the paper from sending any mail using that national service.
Both the men are also forbidden from having others send mail on their behalf. Under the ##Canada Post Act, the Hon. Judy M. Foote has the ability to make such decisions, but this is only the third time the order has been issued in the country's history.
Paper investigated for hate crimes
When it first started nearly 10 years ago, Your Ward News was delivered by independent carriers to a small number of homes. In early 2015, publishers contracted Canada Post to deliver to a greater number of residences on its behalf, but almost immediately, letter carriers complained about having to deliver the papers. June 2016, the government ordered Canada Post to end its contract with Your Ward News, less than 18 months after it began. At the time of that decision, Editor-in-Chief James Sears was undeterred and said the loss of Canada Post delivery would only affect distribution to the area's apartment buildings, as the paper had its independent carriers to fallback on..
"We're just a satirical, offensive newspaper," he told CBC News at the time. "...we're not breaking any hate speech laws."
However, a coalition of residents calling themselves Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice (STAMP) welcomed the government's decision, saying the offensive paper had already been delivered to some 300,000 Toronto homes for far too long.
"We are ecstatic about the minister's decision," Lisa Kinsella, founding member of STAMP, told CBC. She added, "Minister Foote's swift and decisive action means that this disgusting material will no longer be landing in the mailboxes of people who don't want it."
However, in late January this year, police began receiving complaints from residents still receiving Your Ward News. On January 30, Toronto Police confirmed they were investigating the publication for possible hate speech crimes.
Previous legal issues
This is not the first time James Sears has been in the news in Canada. In 2008, he advertised himself as "Dimitri the Lover," a self-help guru who charged men nearly $3000 for two-day workshops where they could learn to seduce women.
Sears was a doctor in the early 1990s before having his medical license revoked in 1992 amid allegations of sexual misconduct by female patients. Initially pleading guilty to two charges of sexual assault, he successfully appealed his convictions, claiming his lawyer at the time had "pressured" him to enter a guilty plea.
To date, neither Sears nor publisher Lawrence St. Germaine have been able to defend themselves, or Your Ward News, in court. They have hired prominent Toronto-based defense attorney Frank Addario to represent them, should a hearing date to appeal Minister Foote's decision be issued by the Crown. #hate crime