A Montreal neo-Nazi who was found guilty of wilfully promoting hatred against Jewish people has been sentenced 15 months in jail and three years of probation — one of the harshest sentences given for the crime in Canada, according to Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro.
Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 36, authored hundreds of articles and some podcasts in the far-right publication The Daily Stormer under the pseudonym “Charles Zeiger.” He was found guilty in the Court of Quebec on Jan. 23.
Sohier-Chaput called for “non-stop nazism everywhere” and mocked a holocaust survivor, though he argued it was “satire” in his March testimony.
He is also prohibited from owning any weapons, including knives, for 10 years following his release; accessing any social media; writing and publishing articles; being in the presence of people who express hateful ideology, including participating in protests that target people based on race, gender, sexuality, or religion; communicating with the editor of The Daily Stormer and any similar publication and from leaving Canada.
Sohier-Chaput will also have to undergo therapy to shed his “hateful ideology” and anger issues, said Judge Del Negro.
In July, the Crown and defence had jointly recommended Sohier-Chaput be sentenced to three months in jail with two years of probation — a recommendation Quebec court Judge Manlio Del Negro said “trivialized” the severity of the crime.
Sohier-Chaput’s lawyer, Antonio Cabral, said he was “very surprised” by the harsh sentence. He said he will submit a request to appeal the sentence Monday.
“We have someone who hasn’t committed infractions for the last six years, we have someone who doesn’t have a criminal record,” Cabral said outside the courtroom. “If that’s the judge’s opinion, I respect it. But I have a different perspective.”
Sohier-Chaput’s previous lawyer, Hélène Poussard, submitted a request for an appeal on the guilty ruling in February.
A pre-sentencing report — which evaluated Sohier-Chaput’s psychological state after the verdict — described him as a “socially shut-in” person with “limited introspection” who found “acceptance” in radical online communities and “showed a lack of remorse.”
It also stated that his ideology had not changed since his arrest in 2018 and that he maintains that “his actions were legitimate” though he is no longer active in those online communities. He has not taken steps toward rehabilitation, like seeking therapy or community service, and called him a “hate influencer.”
“What is most worrisome is the joy he took to writing, as he says, ‘things that we cannot say because of history,'” said the report.
At a sentencing hearing in July, Sohier Chapu apologized to those he had hurt, saying he was “now someone different.”
But Del Negro said Friday that the apology seemed “opportunistic” rather than sincere.
Del Negro cited the psychological report and a testimony from the vice-president of the Quebec chapter of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Eta Yudin, in his final sentencing. Yudin had pointed out that online hate has real-world consequences as hate crimes against Jewish people in Canada reached record levels in 2021.
The judge said that the lawyers’ joint recommendation was “unhinged” from the reality of the effects Sohier-Chaput’s action had had on the Jewish community, and a three-month sentence would “undermine the public’s trust in the justice system.”
“Hateful discourse has no place in this world,” said Del Negro, adding that hate speech goes against Canadian and Quebec values.
Due to the “aggressive and violent tone” of Sohier-Chaput’s writings and the “informed, structured, premeditated and systematic dissemination of hateful ideas,” Del Negro said he is “convinced that he must be isolated from society.”