Hold Antisemites Accountable

Graphic by Carl Bindman

On Jan. 23, Gabriel Sohier-Chaput was found guilty of willfully promoting hatred in an article published over five years ago in The Daily Stormer—a far-right, white supremacist, neo-Nazi online publication.

Sohier-Chaput’s appalling article, "Canada: Nazis Trigger Jews By Putting Up Posters On Ch--k Church," commended posters promoting neo-Nazi ideology glued on a bus stop in New Westminster, B.C. 

“Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies,” read Sohier-Caput’s words in his 2017 article. He is known as one of Canada’s most influential neo-Nazi and admitted to writing over 800 articles for The Daily Stormer under the pseudonym Charles Zeigner.

"He's allowed to hate Jews. He's allowed to hate Black people. He can hate all humanity if he wants to,” said Hélène Poussard in her argument before the judge, Sohier-Chaput’s lawyer. “What he's not allowed to do is incite hate." Poussard argued that his writing was to be read with “humour” and “exaggeration.” 

“There is nothing ironic in the fact that millions of Jewish people and others were exterminated during the Holocaust orchestrated by the Nazis,” stated Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro. “It is one of the saddest events in the history of humanity.”

Del Negro’s judgement favoured the prosecution, who claimed that the “connection between Adolf Hitler’s philosophy and the murder of six million Jews” did not require an expert opinion during the trial. The defence disagreed on this point. 

We cannot let an event that occurred less than a century ago and resulted in mass genocide and collective trauma be treated with such impassiveness.

In January 2022, a school board in Tennessee’s McMinn County voted to ban Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus from its curriculum. The main reasons behind this decision was the presence of violence and nudity in the book. 

Yet, anyone who reads the book is awfully aware of the omnipresent violence as Spiegelman’s father story is recounted—after all, it is a book about the Holocaust, written by the son of a Holocaust survivor. As Melasawn Knight stated: “People did hang from trees, people did commit suicide, and people were killed — over six million were murdered”. There is no comfortable way to recount mass genocide.

Electing to avoid discussing such an issue has consequences: a 2021 survey by Liberation75, an organization aiming to raise awareness of the Holocaust and gather the stories of survivors, disclosed that a third of Canadian and American students were unsure about whether or not the Holocaust happened. 

There are few witnesses still alive to recite their experience. Books, like Maus and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, are therefore important because they exist as physical witnesses that persist through time. It allows them to share their experiences and the violences they endured. 

They are crucial in transmitting the horrors of humankind to the next generation, so we can learn from them. Hiding the truth because it is too gruesome will not erase the past and banning books is akin to the 1933 book burnings—which should be taught about in school. 

We need to hold  those like Sohier-Chaput, accountable for playing Shrodinger’s cat game by willingly promoting antisemitic hate speech all while feigning ignorance.

Sohier-Chaput is but a profoundly dangerous symptom of the lack of awareness of the parts of history that are difficult to speak about. We ought to be held accountable for the perpetuation of these hateful acts and for the silencing of those brave enough to speak on them.