If you know anything about the history of hate speech in North America, the name Ernst Zundel should be familiar to you. Zundel, who lives in Canada, calls himself a "human rights activist," but the human rights he appears to be speaking of are those of the Nazis and their present-day sympathizers. Zundel is an advocate of Holocaust revisionism, claiming that much of Holocaust history is exaggerated by Jews.
Zundel has a Web site, called Zundelsite, on a California-based Web server. But because he lives in Canada, Zundel's Web site content may be subject to Canadian laws. He currently is fighting actions by the Toronto Mayor's Committee on Community and Race Relations, which allege that Zundel is discriminating against Jews, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is acting on complaints against him under Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Zundel claims that Section 13 was passed to prevent hate speech in telephone answering messages, and doesn't apply to the Internet. "The [Human Rights] Commission is attempting to use an old piece of legislation designed for telephones to control the newest and most revolutionary and interactive medium ever invented", Zundel states on his Web site.
Donna Balkan, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, says that the Canadian government believes that Section 13 does apply to Zundel because the Internet uses the telephone, "either modem or fiber-optics", in its communication method.
The Zundel case is the first case involving the Internet and Section 13, she says, and is likely to be heard before a Human Rights Tribunal, a kind of judicial procedure, within the next couple of months. The Tribunal, made up of four persons, has the right to issue a "cease and desist order". Although the order would have no bearing on the people operating the server in California, it would have a bearing on Zundel, who is a citizen of Canada, Balkan contends.
To support the Tribunal's authority, Balkan cites two previous cases, one of which involves a hate group in British Columbia that had a telephone answering message that advocated murdering homosexuals. In both cases, when the defendants refused to comply with the Tribunal's ruling, they were found in Contempt of Court "and served some time in jail", Balkan said.
Interestingly, one of Zundel's arguments is that sites that rebut his own, give it legitimacy. One such site is the impressive Nizkor Project -- a site that focuses on the Holocaust and combats attempts to deny its existence.
But that's not the way Nizkor views Zundel. "He's pro-censorship when it suits him, anti-censorship when it does not", notes the Nizkor Web site. But Nizkor, which is principally dedicated to rebutting Holocaust deniers, does state clearly that it "opposes censorship in all forms".