Beach and East York residents protest local paper

It sounded like a regular community newspaper.

Shortly after Genet Rady moved her downtown hair salon to the Upper Beach, she bought a year’s worth of ads in the Your Ward News. But when her first customer picked up a copy in her new Gerrard Street salon, Rady got a shock.

“Do you read that newspaper?” he asked.

Started in 2007 by local music promoter LeRoy St. Germaine, the Your Ward News has a history of provoking headlines, usually by ranting against politicians in the Beach and East York.

But St. Germaine’s paper turned a corner this year. Since March, Your Ward News has been wrapped in neo-Nazi style ads for a group calling itself the New Constitution Party of Canada, and has prompted several hate crimes complaints to Toronto police.

It also prompted Rady to try and pull her ad.

“I went there, I had a big argument,” she said. “Finally, I just decided I don’t want the money, just get rid of this ad.”

“They didn’t take it off.”

Peter Grudzinski, who runs a local cleaning business, had a similar experience.

“I told him two times already to just discontinue,” said Grudzinski. “I don’t want money back – just quit, simple.”

Besides customer complaints, Grudzinski and Rady got calls from East End residents who are tired of getting the Your Ward News delivered to their doors.

One of those residents is Scott Fraser, who started phoning such advertisers with some friends and neighbours this March. They call their group East Enders Against Hate and For Responsible Advertising.

“We’re not the government, we can’t censor anyone,” said Fraser.

“We’re letting businesses know who they’re working with, and who they’re supporting.”

Warren Belliveau, a friend of Fraser’s, said the East End group has about 300 members so far, and most of the advertisers they’ve spoken to have wanted to get out of the Your Ward News once they learn what it is.

“We’re not against free speech, we’re not trying to prevent him from publishing,” said Belliveau, noting that they are avoiding any direct confrontation, such as pickets, that could lead to violence.

“In our view, what we’re doing is counter-speech.”

In April, Your Ward News started paying for door-to-door delivery by Canada Post.

One local postal worker objected, but legal experts hired by the Crown corporation found Your Ward News did not meet its threshold for “non-mailable matter.”

According to the Canada Post website, “non-mailable matter” includes any mail that is illegal, obscene, or fraudulent, including “articles that are obscene, indecent, immoral, or scurrilous.”

Local MPP Arthur Potts has asked Canada Post’s CEO to reconsider, saying that while he respects freedom of expression, he disagrees that a government agency should deliver the Your Ward News.

Scott Fraser agrees.

“The idea that it’s a censorship issue to me is just a distraction from the more substantive issue of the content of the paper,” he said, noting that the paper doesn’t rely on Canada Post to get published.

After the latest edition published a quote calling him a “n****r,” Fraser complained to Canada Post.

Fraser said he was told there is no way to opt out of Your Ward News alone, though he could cancel all unsolicited mail, the delivery of which Canada Post considers a public service.

“I asked, ‘Are you saying that in order to get this public service, I have to put up with being racially harassed from time to time?’”

“The answer was a sort of shrug and ‘Talk to the ombudsman.’”

Patrick Clohessy, who writes a blog called Your Wards News Watch, said he’s not a big fan of Canada Post deciding what is mailable or not.

“But at the same time, I’m against Nazi propaganda being sent out as unsolicited junk mail to everybody in the neighbourhood,” he said.

Clohessy started his blog after reading an October column by Your Ward News contributor Michelle Erstikaitis, in which she endorsed two white supremacists in city elections.

One, Christopher Brosky, served 16 years in prison for the racially-motivated murder of a man in Texas. During his recent campaign for a seat in Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Brosky gave a TV interview wearing a swastika around his neck.

The other, Paul Fromm, made a failed bid for mayor of Mississauga last year. Fromm lost his Ontario teaching licence in 2007 for giving racist speeches and joining neo-Nazi rallies, including events hosted by the far-right Heritage Front and a party on Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Asked how the Your Ward News is funded, St. Germaine said most of its revenue comes from donations, and it doesn’t need advertising to stay afloat.

St. Germaine welcomed the campaigns to phone his advertisers, saying that while Your Ward News has lost a few hundred dollars a month in ad revenue, the campaigns caused a “massive surge of thousands of dollars a month of donations from free speech advocates.”

As for residents who do not want the paper delivered to their door, St. Germaine said it’s impossible to pick and choose houses using Canada Post.

“If a thin-skinned, brainwashed recipient is offended, they can chuck it in the recycling bin,” he wrote.

Members of East Enders Against Hate and For Responsible Advertising say that besides Your Ward News, they are concerned about door-to-door ticket sales for St. Germaine’s Beaches Blues Festival.

The festival is registered as a non-profit corporation, and St. Germaine said that in the last 20 years it has supported disadvantaged youth with tickets, food, and T-shirts, as well as raising cash for worthy causes.

Vanessa Milne, a member of the East Enders group, said a Beaches Blues Fest canvasser came to her door about a month ago to sell tickets, and offered a reduced price if she made a charitable donation.

In his hand, he held what he said were hand-written letters by Toronto street kids. Milne had her doubts and declined to buy tickets or make a donation.

As for the free speech questions raised by St. Germaine’s newspaper, Milne, a journalist, took a different stance.

“I support free speech,” she said. “But for 50 years, we’ve had hate speech laws, and free speech at the same time.”

“They co-exist. It’s crazy to say this is about free speech, and if we don’t have this, there’s no free speech.”

“To frame it that way is giving this guy an argument that he doesn’t deserve.”


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17 comments

If we are going to have free speech then even the people who say things you don’t want to hear must have free speech as well, The hate laws in Canada should not exist at all. I read the paper in question and you have wrongly reported that the paper called somebody a nigger, it reported that “The TV station owner had”
The liberal left has been very vocal in trying to kill this paper to the point of starting a harassment campaign against it’s advertisers who, being small businesses have caved to the non stop phone calls and visits from scary members of the liberal left obedience cult.
If thee Beach Metro is going to report on this story they should at least be honest in said reporting and not lie the way this article does.

Lawrence McCurry, Media Critic

Beach Metro also failed to report that they are the only other competitor in terms of a neighbourhood paper. Why did you fail to report that you are in a direct competition with the paper you are mis-reporting on here???

Lawerence McCurry was the campaign manager for Arthur Smitherman, a right wing extremist who has run for city council twice and who is also a Your Ward News columnist.

Yes I was and calling Arthur Smitherman a “Right wing extremist” is just one more LIE, which the obedience cult of the far left seem to have no problems doing.

Interesting that you failed to report your involvement with YWN columnist Smitherman. What are you trying to hide Lawrence?

That’s just ridiculous, the guy wrote one article for the paper. I intend to write something as well just for you mr. No Name.

Oh Lawrence…you aren’t a media critic. Calling the advertisers to inform them of with whom they are dealing is the very essence of free speech. You obfuscate things by who said what…in the same way that paper tries to dodge responsibility ( so they can avoid the law ). The point is he was called out as a “n*gger*” in the paper.
You actually are going to tell me you support this rag and having it delivered by Canada Post? Go ahead… stand with them. At least say it. You can join them in their very small, very pathetic club.

And if you really believe that garbage why not use your real name and stand behind what you say???

And if you believe that the Canada post carrier union should get to censor what you read or don’t get to read you are not living in the same Canada I am.

Its free speech. Deal with it! I can’t stand our Councillor and how she goes about using her office budget to sponsor local events, without telling citizens that the funds are from her office budget. The citizens are under the belief that she is donating this money. Its papers like this which reveal this stuff. Yeah they are also crazies but there is some truth to the stuff they say.

“In his hand, he held what he said were hand-written letters by Toronto street kids.”

Here’s a link to several Your Ward News articles calling street kids “vermin”, “violent, aggressive, and use drugs”, and “unmotivated slackers”.

And that is a fine example of how the left obedience cult deal with free speech they don’t like. Threats, Lies and intimidation.

Classic Liberalism:
” I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”

New Liberal Left:
” I disapprove of what you say, And I will publicly shame you, Lobby to have you censored and demand you be fired from your job ”

Hey AAAARNOLD! Ad hominem attacks are the last resort of the desperate purveyor of
pernicious pejorative.
Also, Arthur Smitherman is not a right wing extremist, as you implied, but, I suppose, if you keep saying it, along with whatever other insidious montra that helps you to pigeon hole someone then you can rest well, knowing that you have helped to spread misinformation. The piece people are objecting to was not spewing Nazi propaganda, but merely making light of a fact, that being that Pierre Trudeau actually did parade around in a Nazi uniform. Although I do not believe that he was a nazi, it is certain that he and his good bud Rene Le Vesque were both card carrying members of the Communist party before the big time show in Parliament.
As for an Ex heritage front member writing articles, as long as he is not spreading hate his opinion is as valid as anyone. BTW, for anyone with a long memory (that would be me) the Heritage front was formed by CSIS in order to discredit the Reform Party. Not a conspiracy theory,but a fact, so you can stop invoking 911 as a means to destroy someone’s character.

Yet its ok for the Councillor to claim that she is donating to neighbourhood association events (see BHNA for example) and reap the free publicity a month before the election, when in reality she was actually using tax payers’ dollars.

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