Neo-Nazis face new trial in hatred case

CBC/February 24, 2005

Ottawa -- A group of neo-Nazi skinheads will go back to court on charges of inciting hatred against Roma refugee claimants in Toronto.

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out their acquittals and ordered a new trial.

The charges stem from a demonstration in 1997 outside a motel in Toronto where refugee claimants awaited hearings.

Some of the demonstrators waved Nazi flags, gave Nazi salutes and held placards with slogans such as "Honk if you hate Gypsies" and "You're a cancer to Canada." They also chanted "Gypsies Out" and "White Power."

A large number of Romas had come to Canada and claimed refugee status in 1997, attracting public attention.

After the demonstration, four adults and two young people were charged with inciting hatred. But they were acquitted in 1999 by a trial judge who cited legal confusion between the terms Roma and Gypsy - names usually considered interchangeable.

The defence said it was not clear that Roma and Gypsy mean the same thing. The trial judge accepted that argument and acquitted the defendants.

Writing for the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Louise Charron said the trial judge "misdirected himself" by focusing on narrow technical issues rather than on the evidence as a whole.

She wrote that the judge should have looked at "the totality of the evidence," including "the fact that the Roma people had been persecuted by the Nazis while a Nazi theme was apparent at the demonstration."

Charron also wrote that "the trial judge should have taken judicial notice of dictionary definitions showing that 'gypsy' can refer to 'Roma.'"

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