Montreal man sentenced to 15 months in jail for fomenting hatred against Jews
Posted September 22, 2023 9:59 am.
Last Updated September 22, 2023 6:34 pm.
A Quebec man convicted of promoting hatred against Jews has been sentenced to 15 months in jail and three years of probation.
Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro said today in a Montreal courtroom that it’s clear Gabriel Sohier Chaput hasn’t grasped the seriousness of his actions or the harm he’s caused to society.
Sohier Chaput was found guilty in January after the judge ruled that a 2017 article published on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer actively promoted hatred of Jewish people.
The accused was a frequent contributor to the website, writing more than 800 articles for the online publication named after the Nazi-era propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer.
Both the prosecution and the defence had recommended a three-month sentence followed by probation, but Del Negro said in July that he worried such a sentence would trivialize the crime.
Sohier Chaput has admitted to writing part of the article that led to the charges but has argued that the article was intended to be taken ironically and that it used humour and exaggeration.
“Today the courts sent a very strong message that there are very real consequences to promoting and spreading hate,” said Eta Yudin, vice-president of the Quebec Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“As anti-Semitism continues to rise around the world, the court’s guilty verdict in January, and today’s sentence, demonstrate that the anonymity of the internet is no shield for those who seek to promote hatred. We are pleased that the court took seriously the criminal nature of Sohier-Chaput’s online hate propaganda. Its offensive, anti-Semitic content trivialized the Holocaust and encouraged hatred,” said Yudin.
“However, we need to go further. Online hate has real consequences, including violence, which need to be addressed. One way to achieve more effective legal outcomes is for the government to establish a specialized training program that would enable prosecutors to better understand how to identify hate and use the appropriate conditions and charges. We need to ensure that those who seek to divide society know that the justice system is prepared to hold them to account.”
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“This judgement is huge and it’s huge for all Quebecers. Today the courts sent a very strong message that there are very real consequences to promoting and spreading hatred. We’re living in a time of rising anti-Semitism, rising hate, rising online hate, and sitting behind a keyboard and spreading that hate is not a free pass to do what you want. There are very real consequences.”
The judge said Sohier Chaputs writings mock the holocaust and the sufferings of Jews, which attacks the values of Canadians.
“Without Holocaust Education in our schools we are more susceptible to this type of crime repeating itself. It’s imperative that the government of Quebec act in this fashion and impose Holocaust Education not only in high schools but in the primary school level,” said Henry Topas, Quebec regional director of B’nai Brith Canada.
“We believe this will send a message to the haters. There’s teeth in the law. You do this we’re coming after you and you will go to prison,” said Marvin Rotrand of B’nai Brith.
At his sentencing hearing in July, he told the court he wanted to apologize for his words, saying he was no longer active in politics and was instead concentrating on work.
Defence lawyer Antonio Cabral said his client is a changed man and is no longer involved with online neo-Nazis.
Then, the Crown and the defence agreed a three-month detention would be appropriate.
But Judge Manlio Del Negro seemed taken aback, saying such a sentence does not reflect the gravity of the crime and that it trivializes it.
Del Negro cited several cases similar to this one where the internet was used to perpetrate hatred, and where sentences were stricter.
The judge said he would take the next couple of months to reflect on the sentence length.
In January, Judge Del Negro said Sohier-Chaput “actively promoted the detestation of people of the Jewish faith” in the 2017 article.
“Not only did he foment hate, he encouraged his readers to act,” the judge told the courtroom in January.
-With files from the Canadian Press