Holocaust denier Keegstra dead at age 80

Holocaust denier Jim Keegstra, who lost ­a 12-year court battle that pitted his freedom of expression against Canada’s hate law, has died in Red Deer. He was 80 years old.

Holocaust denier Jim Keegstra, who lost ­a 12-year court battle that pitted his freedom of expression against Canada’s hate law, has died in Red Deer. He was 80 years old.

Keegstra was a former teacher and mayor of Eckville who came to national attention in the summer of 1983 when Canadians learned the public high school social studies instructor had for years been teaching his students about a Jewish conspiracy. Keegstra had taught that “treacherous” and “subversive” Jews were to blame for historic calamities, were trying to rule the world and destroy the Christian way of life. He claimed Jews created the Holocaust to “gain sympathy.”

But these hateful views were largely ignored by the school principal until the outraged parents of an Eckville student took the issue to the school board and the Advocate reported on it.

Keegstra was dismissed from his job and had his teaching certificate revoked after disregarding warnings to stop teaching students anti-Semitic content.

Political pressure began building to have him charged under national hate laws after a rookie rural member of Alberta’s legislature was also quoted in the media as doubting the Holocaust. On Jan. 11, 1984, Alberta’s Attorney General charged Keegstra for criminally promoting hatred against an identifiable group, although no successful prosecution had ever been made before under Canada’s 1970 hate law.

Keegstra argued this charge unreasonably infringed on his Charter of Rights guarantee of free expression, as well as his presumption of innocence. After two long trials, three hearings in the Supreme Court of Canada, and six trials and appeals in Alberta, which cost taxpayers about $1 million, Keegstra finally lost all legal avenues.

He was sentenced in 1996 to what many people saw as a slap on the wrist. After his lawyer argued that Keegstra had, otherwise, led a blameless life, always supported his family and community, was now impoverished and “vilified,” he received a one-year suspended sentence, one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.

One of his trial judges concluded that Keegstra could not be rehabilitated, and that the loss of his teaching licence was a more serious punishment than anything the court could impose.

With his classroom career over, Keegstra, who was born in 1934 in Vulcan, worked as a mechanic, then farmed with his twin brother John in the Rimbey area for some years.

He grew up as the son of Dutch immigrants who came to Alberta in 1928 and worked in various communities as hired farm hands.

Keegstra married in 1956 and apprenticed as a mechanic before going to university to become a teacher.

He taught in Cremona, Red Deer and Medicine Hat before moving to Eckville, were he was also a town councillor and mayor from 1974 to 1983 — when his notoriety cost him a re-election.

After giving up farming, he retired to a low-key life in Red Deer, where he was a custodian and handyman at Convent Park Apartments.

Keegstra died on June 2, and is survived by his four children.

Just Posted

Former prison employee pleads guilty to role in inmate escape

Corrections Canada employee smuggled cash into prison for inmate who later escaped

Gesundheit! Stifling a sneeze can cause injuries in rare cases, experts say

TORONTO — With cases of flu continuing to rise in Canada, there’s… Continue reading

‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

WASHINGTON — In what’s almost certainly a first in the lengthy history… Continue reading

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

TOKYO — Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens of… Continue reading

Replay Red Deer Jan. 14: Watch news highlights in pictures

Stories mentioned: Red Deer RCMP seize large quantity of cocaine: Read more… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Photo: Chilly work in Veterans’ Park

What a chilly job but somebody has to do it.… Continue reading

Boy, 15, one of three hit in Vancouver shooting

Police believe a man in his 20s was the target of the shooting

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month