British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal
Abrams v. North Shore News & Collins
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Decision Summary
On February 3, 1999, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal released
its decision in Abrams v. North Shore Free Press Ltd. doing
business as North Shore News and Doug Collins. The Tribunal
held that Harry Abram’s complaint against Collins and the
North Shore Free Press Ltd. (the “North Shore News”) was
justified. As part of the remedy for the human rights
violation, the Tribunal ordered the North Shore News to
publish this summary.
Abram’s complaint alleged that Collins and the North Shore
News violated the Human Rights Code by publishing four of
Collins’ articles in 1994:
* “News flash! Daily press discovering free speech” (January 12);
* “Hollywood propaganda” (March 9);
* “Pondering far better than pandering, folks” (March 23);
* “Some value freedom of the press, some don’t” (June 26).
Collins and the North Shore News chose not to present
evidence to the Tribunal or to participate in the hearing.
The Deputy Chief Commissioner of the B.C. Human Rights
Commission presented evidence in support of Abrams. B’Nai
Brith Canada and the Attorney General of B.C. also
participated. All of the evidence before the Tribunal
supported Abram’s allegation that Collins and the North
Shore News violated the Code.
The Tribunal found that the columns are likely to expose
Jewish persons to hatred or contempt because of their race,
religion or ancestry contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the
Human Rights Code. That section prohibits, among other
things, the publication of any statement “that is likely to
expose a person or a group of persons to hatred or contempt”
based on certain listed grounds of discrimination. Those
grounds are race, colour, ancestry, place of origin,
religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental
disability, sex, sexual orientation or age.
The Tribunal ordered Collins and the North Shore News to
cease publishing statements that expose or are likely to
expose Jewish persons to hatred or contempt and to refrain
from committing the same or a similar contravention of the
Code. The Tribunal also ordered that Collins and the North
Shore News pay $2,000 to Abrams as compensation for the
injury they have caused to his dignity and self-respect.
In determining whether the columns violated section 7(1)(b),
the Tribunal applied a two-part test:
ú First, would a reasonable and informed person understand
the message as expressing hatred or contempt?
ú Second, is the likely effect of the publication to make it
more acceptable for others to manifest hatred or contempt
against the person or group concerned?
For the purpose of section 7(1)(b), hatred and contempt mean
“unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation,
calumny and vilification”. Both parts of the test require a
consideration of the message’s social and historical
Individually, and taken out of context, each of the four
columns at issue might not convey messages that meet the
high threshold necessary to prove a violation of section
7(1)(b). However, collectively they do. The columns
repeatedly reinforce some of the most virulent forms of anti-
Semitism, and perpetuate the most damaging stereotypes of
Jews: that they are selfish, greedy and manipulative; that
they conspire to manipulate society’s most important
institutions for their own gain, and that, through control
of the media, they have perpetrated a massive fraud to
exaggerate their suffering during the Holocaust.
The columns express these hateful and contemptuous messages
indirectly and subtly. The publication of these messages in
a credible community newspaper that is delivered to almost
every home in the community increases the likelihood that
others will manifest hatred and contempt against Jewish
people in a more directly harmful manner.
Therefore, the four columns collectively contravene s.
7(1)(b) of the Code.