Teacher Charged With Promoting Hatred Against Jews
RED DEER, Alberta (AP) _ A former social studies instructor, fired for teaching his high school classes that a Jewish conspiracy aims to enslave the world, is now in court fighting charges of promoting hatred among his students.
James Keegstra, who has been testifying in his own defense for more than a week, is trying to persuade the jury of 10 men and two women that his teachings were true - or at least, that he had reasonable grounds to believe them.
″The Jews are in control of the movies, the finance, the media,″ Keegstra said from the witness box in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, where the trial in in its third month. ″They seek one-world domination.″
The Keegstra case has been a national sensation, in part because it has been linked in news accounts to other affairs concerning Nazism, the Holocaust and the history of the Jews.
A West German citizen who lives in Toronto, Ernst Zundel, 46, has been ordered deported for publishing leaflets saying the Nazi Holocaust was a hoax. He is appealing the order, which followed his conviction on a charge of distributing false information.
In addition, a commission has been set up to determine if Nazi war criminals were improperly allowed to reside in Canada.
Keegstra, 50, taught shop, drafting and social studies from 1968-82 in Eckville, a town of 830 people set in the rolling wheat fields of central Alberta, before complaints from some students’ parents led to his firing.
Under public pressure, the Alberta government decided to charge Keegstra with promoting hatred against an ″identifiable group.″ There has only been one conviction under Canada’s hate statute in the 15 years since it was enacted, and that case was overturned on appeal.
Because the law has not been effective, many Jewish groups and human rights activists have been urging the Canadian government to strengthen it by removing the difficult-to-prove requirement that the defendant ″willfully″ promoted hatred.
Before the trial began, Douglas Christie, Keegstra’s defense attorney, unsuccessfully attempted to have the hate law ruled unconstitutional under Canada’s 1982 Charter of Rights. If convicted, Keegstra could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Prosecutors in the Keegstra case called nearly two dozen of his former students to testify and submitted their class notebooks as evidence.
Keegstra, speaking calmly, told the court Monday that his course looked at world ideologies to determine which would lead to ″a society of peace, of love, of freedom, of truth.″
″We were supposed to critically analyze all these ideologies,″ he said. ″It doesn’t mean you hate. It means doing your job.″
He said he supplemented what he called the ″censored history″ of the approved textbooks by giving his students copies of other writings, such as ″The Real Jewish Peril,″ a chapter from a 1924 book entitled ″Secret Societies and Subversive Movements.″
Keegstra said it was difficult to tell what proportion of Jews were involved in a purported conspiracy to control the world, but that he had nothing against ″the Jew who is doing good, following the Old Testament.″
During Keegstra’s testimony, the 110-seat courtroom has been about half- filled with his supporters, many of whom wear buttons reading ″Stop the Witchhunt″ and ″Freedom of Speech.″
Jurors are being provided with photocopies of thousands of pages of evidence, and many carefully underline passages and take extensive notes during testimony.
Keegstra is expected to remain on the witness stand for at least another week, reading aloud from books he says inspired his beliefs, and facing what is likely to be intense cross-examination from the prosecutor, Bruce Fraser.