April 20, 1996 (B2)
Botting comes face-to-face with past
by Kim Westad
Times Colonist staff
Victoria lawyer Gary Botting tried to lay his past to rest
Friday, when he dumped a plaque commending him for free speech
through the mail slot at Doug Christie’s downtown law kiosk.
Botting said he waqs ‘duped’ a decade ago when he accepted the
engraved plaque from the Canadian Free Speech League.
Botting hoped to hand it to Christie, a Victoria-based lawyer
who has gained notoriety nationwide for defending people
accused of promoting anti-Semitism. Christie was also the
lawyer for the Free Speech League.
But Christie wasn’t at the tiny Courtney Street office, and
did not return calls for comment.
Botting called the gesture symbolic: today is 10 years to the
day since he was given the award. It is also Hitler’s
Some members of the Jewish community saw it as more
‘The gesture of popping an award through a keyhole strikes us
as being rather theatrical and not sufficient proof that he
really has changed,’ said Sol Littman, Canadian director for
the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, ‘although another possibility is
that he has had a genuine change of heart and that he wants
now to renounce his past.’ robert Haymond is a local
psychologist and a member of the steering committee of B’nai
Brith. He said Friday that Botting’s act was anything but
self-serving. ‘He gained nothing by it personally and in fact
took a risk. And I would say simply he did the honorable
thing,’ said Haymond.
Dumping the plaque was Botting’s latest effort to dissociate
himself from Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel. Botting said
Zundel is unfairly using a taped interview he and Zundel made
in 1986 as part of a program to ‘try to legitimize Holocaust
denial, and therefore anti-Semitism, and therefore racism.’
The tape was made willingly, Botting said. But he described it
as an attempt to restate some of the principles of free speech
he had espoused in testimony at Zundel’s first trial.
Zundel was charged in 1983 with knowingly spreading false news
about the Holocaust. He was convicted in 1988 but was
acquitted four years later after the Supreme Court of Canada
struck down the law.
Botting said he had been asked to testify at the trial as an
expert in the area of censorship. Zundel’s lawyer was
Christie. Botting would later go on to be an articling law
student with Christie.
Botting said video copies of the interview are being offered
for sale through the Zundel Internet site, and if the practice
isn’t stopped, he will pursue legal action against Zundel.
The Wiesenthal Centre has a file on Botting, and will continue
it until the day he dies.
‘We have kept research material on all those people associated
with Zundel, because we consider Zundel to be a threat to
Canadian society,’ said Littman.
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