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Doug Christie, defence lawyer in controversial cases, dies at 66

A Victoria lawyer who was considered a free-speech defender by some and hate-speech apologist by others died Monday.

A Victoria lawyer who was considered a free-speech defender by some and hate-speech apologist by others died Monday.

Doug Christie, 66, died at Victoria Hospice, at Royal Jubilee Hospital, with his wife of 31 years, Keltie Zubko, his sister, and his two children — daughter Kalonica, 20, and son Cadeyrn, 22 — by his side.

“The kids and I and his sister [were with him] and we’re so grateful,” Zubko said.

To family, Christie was much more than the man who garnered favourable or negative attention in the media — he was a loving father and partner.

“I think my daughter said it best, that everybody talks about his legacy as a lawyer, a public speaker, an inspirational speaker — a person who helped a lot of people who were down and out and couldn’t pay — but she said his real legacy was as a father,” Zubko said.

“I think father and partner, that’s how I feel too,” Zubko said.

Christie was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2011 and underwent chemotherapy. The disease apparently spread.

Christie told the Times Colonist in February that doctors had found cancer in his liver and that he was told he had about six months to live.

Christie is one of the most well-known and controversial lawyers in Canada. Defendants in his high-profile court cases include Jim Keegstra, the Alberta teacher who was fired for teaching his students that Jews were conspiring to take over the world and convicted of spreading hate, and Ernst Zundel, a Toronto printer who distributed a tract questioning whether six million Jews died during the Holocaust. Christie won the latter case, forcing a rewrite of the Canadian Criminal Code after the law against “spreading false news” was ruled unconstitutional.

He also successfully defended a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Christie has always been careful not to publicly support the views of his clients, insisting his cases were about protecting the right to free speech.

In his final interview with the Times Colonist in February, Christie said:

“I am very grateful I had the chance to battle for thought, to choose what I thought was the right thing,” Christie said.. “The power of the state is an absolute power and like all absolute power, tends over time to be corrupted.”

Christie expressed gratitude for the chance to earn his living the way he did, calling defence lawyers the only thing standing between citizens and state oppression.

“Without defence lawyers, you wouldn’t even need the courts — you would need only a police state," he said.

Christie was born in Winnipeg in April 1946. He graduated from the University of B.C.’s law school in 1970 and is the founder of the Canadian Free Speech League. 

Additional reporting by Richard Watts, Times Colonist