|R.I.P. Doug Christie 1946-2013|
Here's a video of a CTVNews report:
According to the National Post, Christie was working almost all the way up to the end. Two and a half weeks ago, Christie, fighting nausea and intense pain, stood in a Victoria courthouse, fighting nausea and intense pain while arguing on behalf of a local man arrested in an undercover police bust of an alleged underage prostitution ring. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to Victoria Hospice, where he succumbed to an aggressive liver cancer. But it was for his defense of politically-incorrect clients such as Holocaust revisionist Ernst Zundel, neo-Nazis Wolfgang Droege and Paul Fromm, white racialist advocates Doug Collins, John Ross Taylor and Terry Tremaine, "anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists" Malcolm Ross and James Keegstra, and Nazi war criminals Imre Finta and Michael Seifert that he was best known. Because of his illness, Christie was forced to withdraw from the defense of Arthur Topham, a British Columbia patriot facing trial on a rare charge of willful promotion of "anti-Jewish" hatred online. Christie also represented aboriginal leader David Ahenakew, who was stripped of his Order of Canada for comments he made about Jews. Christie was also a western separatist, having launched The Western Block Party, which sought to split B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba from the rest of Canada. Christie even sought elective office in his own right, running for Commons under the Western Block banner during the 2006 federal election in the riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca in British Columbia.
Christie's vigorous defense of politically incorrect clients also made him a target. He found himself in trouble with the B.C. Law Society in 2008 when he was accused of professional misconduct and slapped with a hefty fine. This stemmed from an incident in 2003, when Christie had authorized three subpoenas that contained documents affixed with a forged court stamp. Although Christie was found not to be involved in the forged subpoenas, the law society said he did ask his untrained client to prepare the documents. In its decision, the law society ordered Christie to pay two fines totaling $22,500 but noted it did not want to give him a fine he wasn't able to pay because it might force him out of practicing law.
Born in Winnipeg in 1946, Christie graduated from the University of British Columbia’s law school and went on to found the Canadian Free Speech League, drawing a steady stream of clients other lawyers wouldn’t represent. He gained a national profile in 1984 when he took on his first major hate-speech case, defending James Keegstra, a teacher fired from his job and criminally charged with promoting hatred by teaching students that there was a Jewish conspiracy. Although Keegstra was convicted of hate speech, Christie successfully convinced the Alberta Appeals Court to overturn the conviction, though the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1990. Christie's appellant success attracted other like-minded clients when they also ran afoul of Canada's political correctness.
Reaction: In an email, Paul Fromm, who described Christie as an immensely brave man who was motivated by a deep love of freedom and a suspicion of government and authority, wrote "The Doug I knew was a sensitive and proud man. He was a deeply moral man. He did not seek notoriety. He felt the rejections and condemnations deeply. Yet, Doug felt a higher imperative -- individual freedom and liberty". Nearly all of the 17 comments posted to CTVNews are supportive of Christie, applauding his fervent defense of the principle of free speech.
Chris Schafer, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, said Christie served a necessary and important purpose in Canadian law and society. "There seems to be ... a few number of people who are willing to stick their neck out and defend unpopular causes and people. He was one of them. Every society needs people like that," he said in an interview. Some of the people he defended are unsavoury types, but everyone deserves a defence."
However, a couple of Jewish-related sources demurred. Lawyer Anita Bromberg, who represented the Jewish advocacy group B’Nai Brith in hearings related to Zundel in the mid-2000s, said “I can’t agree with the tributes that say he was an amazing man who stood up for free speech. All too often what he stood up for was the right to spread hate and hate-related speech. To me he was on the wrong side of that coin...Watching his career, I think he all too often shared (his clients’) philosophies and sentiments.” And Bernie Farber, the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said “Even to this day, the jury remains out in my mind as to whether or not he was a fellow traveller with them or simply a defence counsel...My gut tells me he was kind of a fellow traveller, but he was an ardent and passionate defender of their right to free speech.” Both of these individuals squared off against Christie in court. Christie acknowledged that because of the clients he represented, he was seen as a right-wing extremist, a Nazi, or an anti-Semite -- smear words he said were inaccurate and unfair. He said he was an individualist who recognizes every other person’s right to be so assessed.