The Vancouver Sun
Saturday, March 28, 1998
page A8

BC Tel urged to pull plug on service used by racists

A lawyer for B'nai Brith says the phone company can legally cut the service.

by Stewart Bell

A lawyer for the human rights group B'nai Brith is in Vancouver trying to convince BC Tel to pull the plug on an Internet service used by racists and hate-mongers.

BC Tel should cut off service to Fairview Technology of Oliver "because of the fact that they give access to hate-group promoters", David Matas said Friday.

The phone company confirmed that a meeting has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday between Matas and a BC Tel lawyer. Vancouver anti-racism activist Alan Dutton is also to attend.

Matas said he has prepared a written submission for BC Tel's lawyer that argues the phone company, as a private. enterprise, can legally deny service to Fairview.

"It's basically that they can do it and they should do it. Legally nothing stops them. There are standards that suggest that they should do it", said Matas, senior lawyer for the Winnipeg-based group.

A BC Tel official said Friday cutting off an Internet service would be like disconnecting a telephone line because it was being used for offensive conversations.

"Although we personally don't like websites that are racist in nature ... we don't have the authority to disconnect the site based on our own opinions", media relations manager Michelle Gagne said.

"We can only take action at the request of law enforcement agencies like the RCMP."

But Matas, one of Canada's top human-rights lawyers, sees it differently. "This is a private enterprise and they're not obligated to keep Fairview on the Internet."

Racist, anti-Semitic and ultra-right groups around the world use Fairview to spread their messages of hate and intolerance on the Internet. The company is owned by Bernard Klatt.

The site has prompted one Jewish group to brand Oliver - an otherwise idyllic wine-making and fruit-growing community in B.C.'s southern Okanagan - "the hate capitol of Canada".

The profusion of neo-Nazi messages making their way on to the Internet via Oliver has led to debate over whether the Internet should be censored when used for purposes offensive to most people.

Klatt refuses to restrict those using his business, saying: "I make no apologies for content".

Copyright © 1998 by The Vancouver Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.