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August 2, 1998

Canada Tries to Bar Pro-Nazi View on Internet

TORONTO -- Just days after a pro-Nazi trilogy of novels called
"Lebensraum!" was published in the United States last April, Canadian
customs agents confiscated a shipment of the books at the border,
contending that they promote hatred against Jews and violate Canada's
anti-hate laws.

The trilogy's author, Ingrid Rimland, 62, promotes the books and the
ideas they contain on a Web site she runs out of a San Diego suburb.
The site is named Zundelsite, and it is filled with the words and
ideas of Ernst Zundel, a Toronto resident who is one of the world's
most insistent Holocaust deniers and distributors of anti-Semitic
literature. The trilogy was privately published. Its title, meaning
living space, is a reference to German imperialism.

Can one nation regulate a web site based in another? 


While Canada's laws are clear on how to deal with offensive written
material, they are still untested on communication that seeps across
the border electronically. Canadian customs agents regularly seize
books, magazines and compact disks that violate standards of decency
or promote hate.

Now for the first time there is a serious attempt to address the issue
of the same kind of material on the Internet. The Canadian Human
Rights Commission has charged Zundel with spreading hate propaganda
and is intent on shutting down the Zundelsite. The commission contends
that although the site is run from California, Zundel controls its
content and thus can be prosecuted under Canadian laws.

The case against Zundel began last fall and has encountered
complications as the quasi-judicial tribunal wrestles with new legal
issues of law and technology.

"We don't think the Internet is a law-free zone -- much as some people
might want it to be when it suits their purposes," said Bill Pentney,
general counsel for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. "We are
trying to control -- not the Internet -- but Ernst Zundel by applying
Canadian laws to him."

The case has raised questions of freedom of speech, which is
guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Recently
Zundel was prohibited by the House of Commons from holding a news
conference in a room in Parliament that is available to the public. He
complained that his rights had been violated.

"Ultimately it has everything to do with freedom, and all these other
issues are really only subjective, peripheral, spinoffs," Zundel said
during an interview in his home. "I am a not a country, I am one man,
and I say this man will not be browbeaten."

The German-born Zundel, 59, has lived in Canada for 40 years, but he
has been denied citizenship on the ground that he is a security risk.
He sees himself as a martyr, hounded by governments that have unfairly
portrayed Germany's history. The Zundelsite, set up in 1995,
prominently features his assertion that reports of the Holocaust are a

But Kenneth McVay, founder and director of the Nizkor Project, an
extensive Holocaust resource Web site, sees the issue differently.
"Zundel is a man who peddles lies and hatred for profit," he said.

Among the thorny issues raised by this case is how to determine the
origin of an Internet site. If the Zundelsite is based in California
but Zundel is in Toronto, to what country does the site "belong" and
who is responsible for its contents? The Canadian Human Rights
Commission contends that Zundel controls the Web site and therefore
can be prosecuted under Canada's hate laws. Canadian authorities are
seeking to apply Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which
prohibits anyone from using telephone lines to spread hate messages
based on race, religion or ethnic origin.

Ed Morgan, national legal counsel for the Canadian Jewish Congress,
said it would be almost impossible to bring a suit in the United
States to shut down the Zundelsite because of First Amendment
protections of free speech that have already been extended to the
Internet in previous cases. Ms. Rimland concedes that she frequently
uses Zundel as a consultant but insists she is in charge of the site.

Canadian authorities have tried to prosecute Zundel before. In the
1980s, he was brought to trial twice, under the weaker anti-hate laws
in effect then. His first conviction was overturned on a technicality,
but he was retried and convicted in 1988 under a law prohibiting the
spreading of false news. That decision was overturned when the Supreme
Court of Canada declared the law unconstitutional in 1992.

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