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Vandal suspect arrested

Thomas M Strain alleged to have targeted Capital Xtra boxes

The Ottawa police hate crime unit arrested a suspect Nov 11 following a four-month investigation into vandalism against Capital Xtra newsboxes.

Thomas M Strain, age 47, of Ottawa, has been charged with one count off mischief over $5,000 and four counts of mischief under $5,000.

He has been released on five conditions, including not coming within 500 metres of a Capital Xtra newsbox, having no paint in his possession, not going anywhere frequented by the gay, lesbian and transgender community, and following a 9pm-6am curfew.

Police started an investigation after Capital Xtra boxes were vandalized starting with the August Pride issue. Over the past four months, dozens of boxes were splashed with paint, had windows painted over and were painted with swastikas or “HIV.” On some boxes, power tools were used to bolt the boxes shut so that readers could not access the paper.

In repeated instances, the Capital Xtra box was heavily painted while other newspaper boxes on each side were left untouched.

The Ottawa Citizen reported the vandalism in a Sept 8 story. The next day, a Citizen editorial decried the assault on free speech.

“Ottawans can be proud to live in an open and inclusive community that abhors hatred and rejects discrimination based on sexual orientation,” wrote the Citizen. “Capital Xtra has the same right as any newspaper to publish, even if some people object to its content.”

In a media release, Det Will Hinterberger, lead investigator of the hate crime unit, applauded the assistance of Capital Xtra in the case.

“The hate crime unit recognizes the potential disproportionate harm caused by such offences,” said Hinterberger. “The targeting of any identifiable group is completely unacceptable.”

Strain makes his first court appearance Dec 8. He is scheduled to appear at 8:30am in Courtroom 5 at the Ottawa courthouse, 161 Elgin St. The courts are open to the public.

LITTLE SISTER’S GETS HEARING

The Supreme Court Of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal of a ruling that would have left Little Sister’s bookstore unable to afford to continue its long-running fight against censorship by Canada Customs.

“I feel really good about this decision,” says Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva. “It allows us to at least advance the argument.”

The current chapter in this fight stems from 2001 when Little Sister’s once again sued Canada Customs after officials seized a shipment of printed queer ideas and images on its way from the US, deeming the material obscene.

In July, 2004, a BC Supreme Court justice decided this case was important enough to the public interest to order the federal government to pay, in advance, most of Little Sister’s legal costs for the upcoming trial.

Without that funding Little Sister’s would likely have had to give up the fight. But in February, the BC Court Of Appeal overturned that decision, again casting a shadow of doubt that the case would ever be heard.

The Supreme Court decision to hear the appeal means there’s a chance now the fight against Canada Customs will continue.

“It’s going to be an interesting argument by our very, very good lawyer Joe Arvay,” says Deva. “We just have to get the Supreme Court to get the importance of what we’re doing.”