Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Grandkids and Grandparents Day for us yesterday, De Dutch for lunch, miniature golf, golf range, soccer, monkey bars, stores, supper with the whole family.


I think of my own changing life situation. My career was in service to people and privacy was something I carved out within a socially demanding calendar.  I treasured solitude. My home and yard activities were a retreat from my office and appointments. Occasionally scheduled days at a cottage, away from routines replenished my personal supplies to re-enter my social commitments. Retired now for four years, and having sold my home to enter the downsized world of strata living, compels me to learn new ways, both to cope with a high density of neighbours and eager eyes and to generate solitude which my temperament and interests require. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The time was that I would leave early in the morning to attend an important business meeting. Now I leave at 6 am to get to the local lab before the rush so I can sit with geezers all holding their numbers, and waiting for blood tests and containers for a host of other samples. One old dude wets his finger from his mouth to clean some dried substance on his shirt from the day before. Another old gal appears that this is one of an endless string of joyless days. Between glances at interesting people, I am reading J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy.’ In a one room waiting room, the upgraded processing system blares out “number 10, report to desk number 1.” Even with some hearing loss, there’s no way that I missed that.  Desk one is ten paces away. I am still moving more quickly than the rest of this tribe.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I was alive to see JFK gunned down. I was 21 years of age, taking a year out of college to work and to get my bearings in life. I had a menial delivery truck job, picking up and delivering blueprints and photocopies. During one of those deliveries, as I exited my VW deliver van the shocking news of the assassination stunned me. It was like a punch to my belly. I had not attempted to sort out the President's politics, or filtered his profligate life style from his accomplishments as head of state. I remember only that even in high school the election of such a young looking man to so lofty a position inspired me. And now he was gone. It was 1963.

The sixties were a maelstrom of shocking events. Jack Kennedy, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy were all killed by assassins. Four significant leaders, with culture changing ideals and hopes. Their deaths wounded a couple of generations, bred cynicism, shaped lives. Perhaps the heaviest blow was the death of Martin Luther King, because unlike the other three, he championed the most worthy cause with the stature of a peacemaker.

It may be difficult, even impossible for newer generations accustomed to our multicultural communities to imagine the inequality and prejudice and injustice incurred by blacks in the United States of America. There were no African Americans in TV ads, and few in any TV or movie role other than token representations as servants and employees. No whites were allowed in white schools, or could drink from the same water fountain. In 1963 Martin Luther King delivered the 'I have a Dream' speech which changed the face of a nation. It is worth hearing once again. King's unqualified incorporation of biblical phrases and references reflect his preacher background but most importantly the foundation for the principle of equality and that we are all God's children. Of poignant interest in the section at the 12 minute mark in this 17 minutes speech of his 'I have a dream' statements. Here it is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Heh, dear family, welcome to Ice Cream Cone Day.

It's become a tradition in our family. My father, Edward, was 93 years old when he passed away three years ago. He would be 97 on March 8. Following the memorial service for our dad, my brother Murray gathered us all at his home. He and Diane spread ice cream flavours across the table. My dad's children, grandchildren and greatchildren helped themselves to cones of ice cream and more than one. That was the start of our now annual tradition.

Grandpa Unruh was an established ice cream lover. One small cone always tasted like one more to him and if we were with him, that became the biggest treat - a gigantic splurge of pleasure. Having more than one cone today we will be playing by Grandpa's rules.

So, today, although I and my two brothers and their families live in Surrey, British Columbia, St. Catharines, Ontario; and London, Ontario, we are all filling our cones and lifting them in a salute to Grandpa Unruh. I loved you very much Dad, even more than the ice cream.

For our evening meal in Western Canada, we will begin with Ice Cream, as much as we want, and then we will enjoy some savories, and perhaps a dessert cone after that.


"I am placing Joseph Brean's stellar piece about a man whom I came to respect so much when I watched him help people who had nothing to give him in return. He helped to get them their four children after four years of foster care. He is a hero, a gentleman, a man of mercy."

‘It’s the end of everything’: Defender of hatemongers, free speech fighting terminal liver cancer
Joseph Brean | 13/02/24 | Last Updated: 13/02/24 11:31 PM ET
More from Joseph Brean
John Major, for National Post
Douglas H. Christie has made a career of representing clients in landmark Canadian hate speech and war crime trials.

Douglas H. Christie, the so-called Battling Barrister, counsel to almost every prominent Canadian hatemonger of the last thirty years, from John Ross Taylor to Ernst Zundel, has advanced liver cancer and is not expected to live more than six months. He is not being treated, and has withdrawn from the defense of Arthur Topham, a British Columbia man facing trial on a rare charge of wilful promotion of hatred.

“If the doctors are right, it’s the end of everything,” Mr. Christie said yesterday from his bed at home in Victoria, B.C.

The illness marks the close of a remarkable legal career that has seen Mr. Christie stand up for freedom of speech, even in defense of the most vile propaganda and often illegal racist incitement, everywhere from human rights tribunals to the Supreme Court of Canada. As such, it leaves a gaping hole in Canada’s legal scene.

“I don’t know anybody that’s willing to take these on with the type of commitment I think is necessary, because it certainly is a costly process, in time, in effort, and in reputation,” he said, and compared himself to Father Damien, a sainted 19th century Belgian priest who cared for people with leprosy in Hawaii.

You become associated with your clients and, as Father Damien found, eventually you become a leper

“You become associated with your clients and, as Father Damien found, eventually you become a leper,” he said.

Mr. Christie’s clients make up a rogues’ gallery of racism in Canada and their cases mark the limits of Canada’s uniquely compromising approach to the regulation of hate. They include John Ross Taylor, whose failed defense by Mr. Christie at the Supreme Court in 1990 remains the precedent on which hate speech cases are still argued, and Ernst Zundel, the Holocaust denier whose case saw the criminal law against “false news” struck down as unconstitutional.

As head of his Canadian Free Speech League, Mr. Christie also played an important intervenor role in the hate tribunal of FreedomSite webmaster Marc Lemire, in which the internet hate-speech section of the Canadian Human Rights Act was also judged to run afoul of the Charter right to free speech.

His first big hate case was against Jim Keegstra, a teacher and former mayor of Eckville, Alberta, who was charged in 1984 with promoting hatred by spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to high school students. The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the conviction because pursuing a defense of truth placed too high a burden on the accused, but it was reinstated by the Supreme Court, in a 1990 analysis that remains the legal benchmark.

“At that time, it was a novel proposition to prosecute people for what they said,” Mr. Christie said. Criminal hate laws had been on the books since the 1960s, but were effectively dormant, and Keegstra “was the first case in which the state felt it was entitled to criminalize persons on the basis of what they sincerely believed.”

Since then, Mr. Christie has been spoiled for choice. He represented Michael Seifert, a Nazi SS guard whom Canada extradited to Italy in 2008 for gruesome concentration camp murders, and Imre Finta, acquitted in 1990 in Canada’s first war crimes prosecution.

He saw disgraced native leader David Ahenakew through to an acquittal for his anti-Semitic comments, which was a cause of embarrassment for the Saskatchewan Crown. “It’s quite a mixed bag when you charge a visible minority person with a hate crime, because the only people who are supposed to be haters are white people,” Mr. Christie said.
TYLER BROWNBRIDGE / Postmedia News FIlesDouglas Christie

His most famous client of all was Zundel, a German who was barred from arguing the “truth” of his holocaust denial theories as a defense against a human rights complaint, and he later represented Zundel’s reactionary protege, Wolfgang Droege, whose Heritage Front brought racial violence to the streets of Toronto.

The roster also includes some quirks, such as the Ontario gentleman who does not believe the constitution permits the government to collect taxes from him.

Perhaps inevitably, Mr. Christie has been accused of being a fellow traveller with racists, and defending them because he shares their beliefs. As such, he stands as an extreme case study in whether it is fair to judge a lawyer by his clients.

In 1993, the Law Society of Ontario dropped misconduct charges over his defense of Zundel and Finta, but the chair of its discipline panel nevertheless issued a report saying Mr. Christie “made common cause with a small, lunatic, anti-Semitic fringe element in our society.”

He also sued a B.C. broadcaster, Gary Bannerman, in 1990 for saying that he has “aligned himself so many times with these perverted monsters that he has to be viewed as one himself.” Mr. Christie lost on grounds of fair comment, at both trial and appeal. Another libel suit was successful, to the tune of $30,000 in 1984, against a journalist who described Mr. Christie’s failed separatist political venture, the Western Canada Concept, as an “Alberta version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Anybody who knows me knows that I treat all people fairly and I don’t discriminate against individuals on the basis of any race, religion, etc.,” Mr. Christie said in the interview. “But to the vast majority who have only heard about me, they would definitely get that impression.”

In 2006, the Law Society of British Columbia found he committed professional misconduct by counseling a client to prepare subpoenas on his own, but the penalty was a modest fine and $20,000 in legal costs, as he had acted out of “stress and excessive zeal to help his client, rather than from desire for personal gain.”

Zeal has always been a mark of the Christie approach to hate defense.

He was literally the loudest person in the room on a fateful day in Ottawa in 2008 when revelations about investigatory practices at the Canadian Human Rights Commission blew the Section 13 hate speech debate wide open, and set the stage for its eventual repeal. Forced to deal with minor objections, Mr. Christie hollered that he had flown all the way from Victoria and he was not going to abide the CHRC’s “obstruction” of his cross-examination.

Otherwise, he has a soft and measured demeanour, eloquent to the point of verbosity on legal issues, and known for rhetorical flourishes. But for the trademark cowboy hat, he can seem almost professorial.

He pins much of the blame for Canada’s legal unease over hatred on multiculturalism, which forced judges into awkward balancing acts at the expense of fundamental values.

“I think it boils down to the fact that judges desire, in large measure, to be seen as tolerant and relatively popular, and the opinions of people like Mr. Zundel and Mr. Taylor are seen as intolerant and unpopular,” he said. “Therefore it becomes a difficult matter for a judge to hold in favour of someone who is publicly so perceived.”

Mr. Christie is married to Keltie Zubko and has two children, a son in law school and a daughter in engineering.

National Post