Free speech supporters jeered
By Malcolm Curtis
Times Columnist staff

A rally of 350 people chanted and jeered an elderly group attending a "free speech" meeting Friday evening at the Juan de Fuca public library.

About 25 people ran a gauntlet of protestors shouting "immigrants in, Nazis out' as they filtered into a private gathering of the Canadian Free Speech League.

The league, organized by Victoria lawyer Doug Christie, has been linked to anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups. [not true] The rally was sparked by the Greater Victoria public library board's decision, in the name of intellectual freedom, to rent a room to the league.

The protest, organized by 50 groups including the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island and various unions, aimed to send a strong message to the library board to change its mind.

Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Moe Sihota told the group he used to dismiss Christie and his group "as a bunch of wing nuts."

But Sihota, B.C.'s first Indo-Canadian MLA, said he changed his mind after the brutal Jan. 4 murder in Surrey of Nirmal Singh Gill, an Indo-Canadian caretaker. Five men with neo-Nazis skinhead connections have been charged in the killing.

Sihota suggested the free speech league, which meets irregularly and last gathered in Victoria more than a year ago, gives support to such racists. [not true]

"These people do not just have hate in their hearts and bitterness on their tongues," he told the rally, "they just might well have blood on their hands." [slander]

Steve Orcherton, Victoria Hillside MLA, said one of the speakers invited to the league's meeting should be reason enough for the library to change its mind. Eileen Pressler has been branded by an Alberta [B.C.] judge as the editor of an extreme, far-right magazine called the Council on Public Affairs Digest that is racist and anti-Semitic, said Orcherton.

Other invited guests to meetings Friday and at 7 p.m. tonight include Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel [not true], Doug Collins, former Vancouver newspaper columnist, and Paul Fromm, an Ontario teacher- fired after he attended a white supremacist rally.

Christie, dressed its a black, three-piece suit, shouted "out, out" when approached by a reporter for an interview. He said the library had been rented privately and declined further comment.

"I believe Canada is a glorious quilt of different people and I'd like it to stay that way," said Helen Wood, a Saanich teacher of First Nations children, explaining why she showed up. "I'm appalled that they would allow hatred to be spoken in that library when I take children of another color there."