VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's major telephone company will not unplug an Internet service provider that has been accused of hosting Web sites from racist and hate-mongering organizations from around the world.
"We don't have the right to determine what is offensive ... and can only take action at the request of the police", BC Tel spokeswoman Michelle Gagne said yesterday.
Ms. Gagne was responding to calls the B'nai Brith organization yesterday to take action against Bernard Klatt and his company, Fairview Technology Centre Ltd., located in the town of Oliver in the Okanagan Valley.
David Matas, a lawyer and vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada, said he plans to meet officials from BC Tel on Monday to demonstrate that the company has an obligation to shut down Fairview Technology's access to public telephone lines, and how BC Tel can avoid legal liability for doing so.
Mr. Klatt's company has been identified by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre as being the link to World Wide Web pages which display the ideas and claims of anti-Semitic, racist and sexist organizations located in several countries.
Mr. Klatt has fended off criticism with the argument that he is simply facilitating free speech and is doing nothing illegal. He has said he does not intend to remove the hate sites from his service. Some of the people operating sites on or linked to his service have been arrested in other countries, most recently last month in France, and charged with spreading hate and uttering threats.
Mr. Klatt attempted to hold a meeting of far-right leaders, billed as a defence of free speech, in Oliver two weeks ago, but the mayor revoked his permission to use a town-owned hall.
The B.C. government has known about Mr. Klatt's operation for at least year, and although it repeatedly has said it is sending its special hate-crimes police team to investigate, it as taken no apparent action against Fairview, Mr. Matas said in an interview yesterday.
Mr. Matas said other telephone companies in Canada and elsewhere have taken action against controversial Internet service providers. However, Ms. Gagne said BC Tel was unaware of any such cases.
"We personally don't like Web sites that are racist in nature", Ms. Gagne said in an interview. "But we are not the provider, we are one step removed. We just provide telephone connection from the service provider to the Internet."
"It is like a telephone line. We cannot unplug it because we dislike what is said over the phone."
BC Tel has relayed complaints about Fairview Technologies to the RCMP for some time, but has received no direction or comment back, she said.