the work of the Fairview Technology Centre in the rural Okanagan community of Oliver is helping to make the province a Canadian hate capital, Sol Littman of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre told a news conference yesterday.
Littman accused Fairview of providing users with access to more than a dozen sites that the Wiesenthal Centre - named for the renowned Nazi hunter - sees as violating Canadian hate laws.
They include sites for the National Socialist Movement of Illinois, the Heritage Front, Skin-Net, and the Euro-Christian Defence League.
Fairview owner Bernard Klatt was unavailable for comment yesterday, but said he's being victimized because he refuses to act as a censor.
Littman brushed aside critics who say the Internet is too fluid to be easily policed.
"Let's get rid of the notion that the Internet is such a big and diffuse system (that) there is no way you can regulate it or control it."
"The Internet is not unlike any other medium. It is a form of communication dependent on electronics that uses telephone lines."
But a member of B.C.'s new hate-crimes unit said yesterday he doesn't share Littman's optimism. Investigators have been hamstrung as they await case law to set out rules on policing the Web.
Sergeant Rick McKenna also noted that police are still waiting for the outcome of a Canadian Human Rights tribunal in Toronto into charges that a San Diego-based Web site bearing the name of Canadian Ernst Zundel promotes hatred against Jews.
Littman and David Cohen, dean of law at the University of Victoria, said Fairview should be prosecuted under Criminal Code sections that target advocates of genocide and those who incite hatred against identifiable groups.
Cohen also suggested determining if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can deal with the issue.
The Internet has allowed racists an audience far beyond anything they enjoyed in the past, said Littman.
"The Internet has permitted them - for almost no cost at all - to reach out to millions of people without any inhibition."
There was criticism of Fairview in 1996.
Fairview acts as a local Internet provider to legitimate businesses and groups in the Okanagan, a rural valley east of Vancouver.
At the time, B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh said he'd look into options for regulating offensive Internet material.
Dosanjh was unavailable for comment yesterday, but spokesperson Kate Thompson said any action on Internet hate would have to be done in co-operation with other provinces.
Many critics have suggested it's impossible to police hate material downloaded through the Internet from sites outside Canada.
But Littman said Canada should lead an international effort on the issue.
It won't be "fast and easy", he said, but he noted that international co-operation helped curb airline hijackings.