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The Zundel Trial & Free Speech – Doug Christie

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In this booklet, C-FAR's Canadian lssues Series is publishing excerpts from defence lawyer Doug Christie’s spirited summation to the jury at the Ernst Zundel trial. This summation was delivered on February 25, 1985. Zundel had been charged under Section 177 of the Criminal Code for having knowingly published false news that was likely to be injurious to the public good. In his ringing defence, Christie seeks to establish: l) that credible reasons existed for much of what Zundel published; that is, he had justification and arguments for his point of view; 2) that he sincerely believed what he wrote and, therefore, did not knowingly publish falsehoods; and 3) that a diversity of opinions, however controversial they may be, is vital to a democracy and in no way harms the public good. Threading its way throughout the entire summation is Christie’s passionate view that, right or wrong, a man must be permitted to search for the truth and express his point of view. It is this fierce commitment to principle and to liberty that makes this summation an important historical document.

Of course, it will be argued that no freedom is absolute (we cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre). While that is true, if we are not to slide down the road to tyranny and state censorship, in every case the benefit of the doubt must be given to the defendant. lt should also be noted that Zundel nowhere advocated illegal or violent actions in the two pamphlets in which he was accused of violating Section l77. This booklet is published, not as an endorsement of Ernst Zundel’s interpretation of history, but to reaffirm the fundamental right to seek the truth and to express one’s findings, however wrongheaded or erroneous some people might find them. Doug Christie eloquently warns that the judicial vice that was tightened around Ernst Zundel could well be used to silence other opinions.  

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