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One-year sentence for Saskatchewan man convicted of hate speech against Jews

ESTEVAN, Sask. — The former leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party was handed a one-year sentence Thursday on a hate speech charge after he called for the genocide of Jewish people in a video posted on the party's website and social media accounts.
Travis Patron, left, is seen leaving the courthouse following his sentence at Court of King’s Bench in Estevan, Sask., Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Patron, 31, the former leader of the now-defunct Canadian Nationalist Party, was sentenced to one year in jail after a jury found him guilty of hateful speech against Jewish people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mickey Djuric

ESTEVAN, Sask. — The former leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party was handed a one-year sentence Thursday on a hate speech charge after he called for the genocide of Jewish people in a video posted on the party's website and social media accounts.

Travis Patron, who founded the now-defunct party, was convicted of wilfully promoting hate by a jury earlier this month during a trial in Estevan, Sask.

Justice Neil Robertson of Court of King's Bench accepted the Crown's recommendation that the 31-year-old serve one year behind bars.

"The harm of this offence is to the entire Canadian community since the attack on one member or group is an attack on all Canadians," Robertson said in his decision.

Patron represented himself and was silent during the sentencing hearing, including when the judge asked if he had remorse.

He also didn't acknowledge a community victim impact statement from Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights organization, that was placed before him in court.

"Antisemitism isn't just history, it resurges again and again. This is deeply concerning to the Jewish community, as dangerous, racist, hateful words can often turn into dangerous, racist violence," said Mostyn in his impact statement.

"(Patron's) conspiracy theories have created an increased need for the security of the Jewish community because of the unknown impact on those he was seeking to radicalize with poisonous views."

On June 3, 2019, Patron uploaded an antisemitic video on the Canadian Nationalist Party website and its social media channels.

In the video, he called for the genocide of Jewish people, saying "what we need to do, perhaps more than anything, is remove all these people, once and for all, from our country."

Patron founded the party and led it into the 2019 federal election, arguing his group could provide "the cure" to "the parasitic tribe" — a reference to Jewish people.

He ran as a candidate in the rural Saskatchewan riding of Souris-Moose Mountain and earned less than one per cent of the vote.

The party disbanded earlier this year.

His video had remained up for 21 months before it was taken down, which the Crown argued was an aggravating factor.

"Here is something put into the public forum for an extended period of time," prosecutor Ryan Snyder said.

"He was using the (Canadian Nationalist Party) as a forum … and as head of the party … to promote that material. It was not in a dark corner of the internet where people happen to stumble upon it."

Statistics Canada released a report this year saying police-reported hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity rose 80 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 and accounted for the bulk of the national increase.

The highest increases in police-reported hate crimes were in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the report said, with Jewish and Muslim populations the most targeted for religion-based hate crimes.

Snyder said the court will not get repentance from Patron.

"You haven't heard anything (like), 'Gee, what I did here was wrong and I won't do it again.' And it's pretty aggravating," Snyder said.

Patron was also received one-year probation, one year less than what the Crown requested.It includes a ban on posting about Jewish people on the internet or other public forums.

Because he has been in jail since his arrest last year, Patron was credited for some time served, leaving 168 days left on his sentence.

In his decision, the judge said Patron lived a good life until recent years, when he adopted and expressed odd and extreme views.

"My hope is on release you will return to the right path," Robertson said.

The group Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said it's pleased with the sentence but worried about how long it took the justice system to deal with the case.

“The judge’s sentencing decision sends a clear message that promoting hatred against Jews has consequences in Canada, including imprisonment,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at the center, in a release.

"Patron is just one of many extremists who use online platforms to spread antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories, and such hate is having a real impact on the Jewish community’s safety.

"As we see hate crimes in Canada increase year after year, the country’s government and justice system must make combating hatred, and bringing perpetrators of such crimes to justice, a priority."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press