Archive/File: fascism/canada/bc victoria.0293 Last-Modified: 1993/03/03 Monday Magazine, Victoria, B.C. Canada February 25 - March 3, 1993 Vol. 19 No. 9 How Hate Spreads And how a growing army of anti-racists in B.C. is marshalling to stop it. By Bruce Grierson A brick is thrown through a window in Rostock, Germany, a cross is burned on a Mississippi lawn, and somehow, the sound of the glass and the light of the flames are heard, and felt, in British Columbia, Canada. What is the physics of hate, that it can transmit itself, through any medium, from one head to another, across time and space? This is the story of the spread of the far right, the ideas and images everyone thought died with Hitler in that bunker in Berlin. In the last year in Victoria, the last outpost of the Empire, neo-Nazi activity has been the unsettling focus of attention from school yards to the inner circles of government. A mixed-race Fernwood couple has its car stickered with racist slogans. Swastikas are sprayed on brick walls. A group of white supremecists holds a secret gathering in Sooke. A high profile Holocaust denier, barred from entering the country, shows up anyway and speaks to a gathering at a downtown restaurant. The shock waves from a racist meeting in Vancouver -- and the anti-racist force that rose up to smother it -- carry across the strait. Poverty and strife cannot create hate, common wisdom holds, but they can set up the conditions to give it expression. While a deep recession persists, and the gulf between rich and poor widens, the net of social services grows thinner. Everyone looks for scapegoats. Meech Lake fails and then Charlottetown fails, following a referendum campaign punctuated by bigotry. "Canada's problems would be solved if we shot all the Native people and all the Frenchmen," pronounced a guy who stood up to speak at a No campaign rally in the Interior, and all around folks nodded their assent. In Vancouver, three Asians driving upscale cars had their windows shot out, in separate incidents. Racist pamphlets are generated somewhere and sent out like chain letters everywhere -- photocopies and faxes having turned every basement into a potential publishing house -- and anti-racist pamphlets are dispatched in response. The output of literature is huge, yet the size of the racist ranks cannot be precisely determined. Some probable overestimates are reported, and -- like the overestimates of the size of the Iraqi Republican Guard -- crank up the level of resolve. Allan Dutton, a Simon Fraser sociology prof and head of the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism, reports a significant increase in the number of calls to his own office. He regularly receives death threats, and messages from wingy anonymous callers warning of large-scale genocide, whole sections of the city doomed to be wiped out. A potent engine drives both sides of this war. It is wrath -- a force powerful enough to prevent the spread of fascism or, if handled improperly, fuel it. It was wrath that brought racist skinheads to the Century Plaze Hotel last month, at the bidding of Tom Metzger, to show support for the former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon and his white supremecist cause. (Metzger was billed as a speaker at a rally in Vancouver, but most observers doubt he ever left his home in California.) And wrath that prompted a countervailing force of 3,000 -- the largest anti-racism demonstration in the history of the province -- to show up downtown in protest. The peaceful demonstration turned scary when a splinter group a few hundred strong marched down the street to the hotel afterward, some carrying clubs and crowbars, demanding that the neo-Nazis be turned over to them. "Racism is a cancer," says Dutton, using a now familiar, but somehow still apt metaphor. "A few abnormal cells you can ignore. But when they become malignant, you've got a problem." What do malignant cells look like? Those who want an easy image will find it in the close-cropped, jack-booted skinheads, the poster boys of the far right. Their look is fairly standard: the spring collection of '93 will feature the same shaved heads, tattoos, nylon bomber jackets with swastikas or confederate flags or Celtic crosses, Doc Martens with coloured laces (white for white supremacists, red for neo-Nazis, yellow for cop-haters) that have made such a statement in Hamburg and Milan. (The shoelace code is no longer as reliable as it once was: some Docs wearers unaligned with white supremacy will sometimes wear white laces on a whim.) Indeed, false labelling has been a problem for a lot of the shaved-head crowd, who would no sooner wear a swastika than a mood ring. (It must be remembered that the skinhead subsulture is not, at its root, racist. The neo-Nazi movement co-opted it in the late 1970's.) Members of the anti-hate group SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) look to the average senior citizen about as threatening as their antagonists. For that matter, so do punks, who ought to be soul brothers of the racist skins (the punk and skinhead movements sprouted from the same lower-class British roots) but instead are preyed upon no less than hippies, or skaters, or gays. Neo-Nazi skinheads have no trouble defining the enemy: anyone who is different from them. In Victoria, the racist skinheads have two magnetic norths -- one near the corner of Bay and Fernwood streets, the other in Esquimalt, near the Tim Horton's on Esquimalt Road (a curious choice, given the great likelihood of a police presence at a donut shop). The local skins have for years drawn inpiration from bellwethers like Ted Jones, a Fernwood skinhead who has led by example, distributing pamphlets and tacking up Aryan Resistance Movement posters and recruiting high school kids to carry the torch. (Most Victoria high schools have a token skinhead contingent, even if it's only a few kids). The skin's brand of civil disobedience tends to be of the fun-with-next-to-nothing variety: graffiti, broken windows, the odd punchup or flashed knife in a nightclub. It's pretty straightforward stuff. And, like their ideology, the skins' method of spreading the word is simple and direct. In a typical recruitment campaign, a couple of skins might pull up outside a high school grounds and crank up the tunes of, say, Screwdriver or No Remorse. It's riveting (though lyrically poisonous stuff -- British "Oi" music -- and in minutes they've got the kids' attention. Most kids don't bite. But a few, the loners, the peerless, hang around a little longer. The skins offer a haven of sorts -- a sense of belonging -- and a few pamphlets which the new emissaries then distribute in the schools among their friends, and racist messages are introduced into the student population the way flouride penetrates the white chalk on those TV commercials. So attractive is the power of belonging to some group, that in some cities native and Oriental kids have been lured into the cause, spreading hate messages directed partly at themselves. Though they were seen last summer roving in groups of eight or 10, the hard-core skins and bootwomen probably number no more than a few dozen in Victoria. And they are, arguably, more yapa-dog than Rottweiler. They will not talk to the media. They will brawl, occasionally, but they have been poorly organized and beset by their own problems and have failed to win much support. In the Victorian underground band scene, they have been more or less shut out. No local alternative bands play Oi music, and virtually all have aligned themselves against the racists. The skinheads have become a convenient outlet for the rage of anti-racists, both in Victoria and elsewhere. Yet the threat they pose is relatively minor. They are merely, as Alan Dutton puts it "the storm troopers," a rag-tag bunch who deflect attention from the more dangerous, though less visible, mouthpieces of the ultra-right. Spread an original Aryan Nations map of North America out on the table and the first thing you'll notice is a shoeprint-shaped region superimposed on the Pacific Northwest. Inside the boundary are parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and, above the 49th parallel, the southern half of Alberta and a chunk of B.C., from the border west to about Kamloops. The Aryan Nations "territorial imperative," at least as its racist leader Richard Butler imagined it, was to carve up America, separating races into homelands. The Pacific Northwest would be a whites-only enclave. "We believe in the geographic separation of races to ensure a safe and positive environment for all people," reads a leaflet distributed recently in Vancouver (and elsewhere) by the Aryan Resistance Movement (or A.R.M.), a white supremacist cousin of Aryan Nations and the K.K.K. David Duke, the notorious former Klan grand wizard-turned-politician, "was especially enthusiastic about the prospects for White Supremacism in B.C.," according to Stanley Barrett, author of 'Is God a Racist?', a careful examination of the far right in Canada. Indeed, Duke was spoted in Victoria last year attending a Pacific Opera Production of 'Die Fledermaus,' about the same time as a limo bearing Washington, D.C.
KLAN 1 plates was seen rolling through Duncan -- perhaps a coincidence. Though the K.K.K. presence in this province has waxed and waned since the B.C. chapter was established 13 years ago, Duke would likely be pleased at the degree to which White Supremacist cells have remained and spread their message of hate. Among the groups that are active in B.C., or have sent emissaries here in recent years: * The British Commonwealth of Aryan Nations (headquartered in Hayden Lake, Idaho), with a B.C. chapter in Langley. Accourding to Dutton, this group's long-term plan is to destabilize government through carefully orchestrated terrorism, ultimately seizing power for themselves. * The related Aryan Resistance Movement of B.C. (A.R.M.), headquarted in Surry, which undertook a heavy leafleting campaign last fall at some 14 mainland high schools. Also related is the White Aryan Resistance movement, which generates money for Tom Metzger to realize his vision. This group produces the magazine "WAR," which turned up recently on the UBC campus. * The Church of the Creator: headquartered in North Carolina, and its skinhead arm RaHoWa (Racial Holy War). * The Christian Identity movement, a religion of sorts that unites various extremist factions. * The White Knights of the K.K.K., which is reportedly recruiting on the Lower Mainland. In aggregate, such far right groups are as different as body warts, yet they tend to share certain traits: they are anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-socialist, anti-foreign aid, anti-gay (Tony McAleer and others have talked openly about killing homosexuals). They are "scientific racists" (who believe white people are genetically superior) and, more often, "theological racists" (who believe the white race is ordained by God to rule). They stand united in the call for white power. You've probably never seen a K.K.K. cross-burning, and perhaps you never will, at least in Victoria. White supremacist groups are less overtly militant than they once were, emphasizing publicly, as Church of the Creator Ben Klassen put it: "We don't hate anyone; we just like white people." Their leaders are better dressed, better organized, and, in the main, better educated than before. They openly refer to themselves as "racists," the way connoisseurs of jazz might call themselves "purists." Like their skinhead foot soldiers, ultra-right groups seek converts among the disenfranchised, the confused and the angry -- blue-collar types denied jobs by the recession and affirmative action hiring policies, and looking for someone to pin the blame on. "Our racial heritage is our most precious possession," proclaims a leaflet from the Surrey-based A.R.M. "There's still time to thawrt the planned destruction of white culture." The sophistry of their arguments is predictable: They begin with a few statements most would agree are more or less true (the poor are becoming poorer; crime is on the rise; Vancouver is beset by Asian and Hispanic street gangs; affordable rental housing has diminished.) Then they identify a cause for the mess we're in -- specifically, in the case of this A.R.M. leaflet, Canada's immigration policies. "The multicultural melting-pot theory has been forced down the throats of people for decades in the U.S. and Europe. You can now see what years of forced integration has done to their cities. Forced racial integration doesn't work." And, for good measure, emotional appeals: "Do you care about the future of your children?" Exactly how many ultra-rights are among us is hard to say. Estimates of 10,000 or more in B.C. are regularly trotted out, but are probably inflated. David Lethbridge, head of the Salmon Arm Coaltion Against Racism, estimates perhaps 5,000 peopole in Canada are directly connected to white supremacist groups, with perhaps another 55,000 providing "soft support." "The soft supporters are of greater concern to us," says Lethbridge. "They don't belong to any membership lists. They don't wear robes. But they receive the literature and perhaps contribute money." An anti-Semitic publication produced by one organization alone -- the Council of Public Affairs -- has a subscription base of 12,000, Lethbridge says. Funding for the ultra-right comes from membership dues, purchase of literature, donations of wealthy private individuals in the shadows and, finally, some corporations. Jud Cyllorn, one-time astrologer for Bill Vander Zalm and now a bookstore owner in Vancouver, sent a copy of his racist tome 'Stop Apologizing' to every MLA and MP in the country at his own expense. "Here's thousands of dollars being spent to promote hate," says Dutton, "and this is in B.C. -- its home-grown." Apart from promoting or attending the odd Century-Plaza-like media-event, far right disciples tend to go about their business quietly, like crocodiles beneath the surface of a still pond. David Lethbridge had no idea what the right-wing Council of Public Affairs was up to in his town of Salmon Arm until he stumbled upon a notice for a leadership meeting. A little digging turned up a rogue's gallery of infamous visitors that the council, in step with the Canadian League of Rights (which Lethbridge calls "Canada's largest anti-Semitic organization"), had arranged to bring into town -- among them, Eustace Mullins, the Klan-connected speaker from Virginia; Richard Butler of Aryan Nations; Jack Mohr, leader of the Christian Identity movement; and a number of high-profile Canadians, including holocaust-deniers Jim Keegstra of Alberta and Malcolm Ross of New Brunswick. Through a spirited and very public campaign, Lethbridge and his anti-racism coalition have successfully halted much of the anti-Semitic traffic in that town. But in Salmon Arm, as in Victoria, racists find new ways to get the word out. David Irving calls himself a historian, possibly because few others will. The British author, convicted in Germany of denying the Nazi extermination of Jews (such a denial is against the law there) caused a brief stir when he showed up illegally in Canada and gave a speech at Victoria's Jade Palace restaurant in October. After a short hearing he was deported, cutting short his planned speaking tour. A video of the Victoria speech substituted for him at other stops on the tour. There's one reason Irving, and others who hold similar beliefs, have made Victoria one of their favourite Canadian stopover points -- and it's not the mild weather. It's Doug Christie. Under the banner of the protection of free speech, the "battling barrister" has gone to the stump for some of the ;most notorious members of the fringe and far-right. In 1985 Christie founded the Canadian Free Speech League, to raise money "for those accused of thought and word crimes in Canada." It was the Free Speech League that sponsored Irving's visit and other speaking engagements by such noteworthy characters as schoolteachers Jim Keegstra (convicted of willfully promoting hatred against Jews through his lectures) and Gary Botting (formerly involved with the Alberta Chapter of Aryan Nations) and Toronto graphic artist Ernst Zundel(whose conviction for knowingly publishing false news about the Holocaust was recently overturned). (Raising money through lecturing engagements of high-profile speakers was also a favoured strategy of David Duke, who generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the K.K.K. through donations and book and tape sales.) Keegstra and Zundel became clients of Christie's along with former Western Guard Leader John Ross Taylor of Toronto (jailed for playing anti-Semitic messages on his answering machine) Malcolm Ross, and Imre Finta, the former Hungarian gendarme captain charged and acquitted in Canada's first war crimes trial. Christie, who works out of a tiny converted parking attendant's booth adjacent to the Royal Theatre, has associated over the years with an arm-long list of far-right groups, including the Canadian League of Rights, the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada (APEC), Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform (a Torono-based anti-immigration group), the Institute for Historical Review (a California-based revisionist organization), the Canadian Association for Free Expression. If Christie has earned himself a national reputation for defending the indefensible, he has also attracted the growing public suspicion that he's sympathetic of the views of the clients he defends. It was not surprising, then, to see Christie come to the defense of Tony McAleer, whose Canadian Liberty Net hot line had been slapped with a Federal Court of Canada injunction last summer, based on complaints that its operators were using it to spread hate messages. Christie, of course, argued the case as a Charter issue -- that the court's denying the use of phone lines is unconstitutional. The court still hasn't ruled on the case. After the phone line was shut down in Vancouver, it moved briefly to Bellingham, and is now operating again in Surrey, with Tony McAleer still at the strings, and a number of anti-racist groups carefully monitoring the content. Liberty Net has, since its inception in October of 1991, been a quick and efficient jungle telegraph of anti-Semitic thought. In an age when you can dial a joke or dial a prayer, it's not surprising that you can dial a racist message -- or leave one of your own, as have such folks as Wolfgang Droege of the Toronto-based Heritage Front, Janice Long (wife of Aryan Nations leader Terry Long) and Ernst Zundel. David Irving's Victoria speaking engagement was publicized on Liberty Net, as was Tom Metzger's supposed appearance in Vancouver. Tony McAleer claims to have organized the Century Plaza Hotel rally, via Liberty Net and word of mouth, for just a hundred dollars. Both sides can, of course, play the communications game. As the far right grows more sophisticated in its networking, anti-facist groups appear to be matching or exceeding the effort, fax for fax, phone line for phone line, electronic mail message for electronic mail message. Two weeks ago Victoria's fledgling Anti-Nazi Alliance set up the city's first anti-Nazi hotline, a magnet for information on local neo-Nazi activity and a source of aid for those in trouble. Anyone who thinks they're being followed, or needs help pressing charges against skinheads or neo-Nazis, can call the hotline at 598-9197. The phone line, founded by two young Victorians who prefer not to reveal their names for rear of reprisal, is staffed by volunteers who are in regular contact with, among other groups, the Anti-Fascist League in Edmonton -- which has been remarkably effective at driving neo-Nazis and racist skinheads out of that city. Both David Lethbridge's anti-racism coalition and Allan Dutton's B.C. Organization to Fight Racism work closely with the Montgomery, Alabama-based Klanwatch, a well-connected anti-racist information gathering agency, whose biggest contribution has been to get civil court convictions against the K.K.K., and key players such as Tom Metzger, all of which has financially crippled the Klan and tied up its leaders in litigation. In Salmon Arm, David Lethbridge's group will sponsor a conference next month to develop an anti-racist network throughout the province. In Victoria, organizers of a planned race relations committe hope to get municipal and provincial funding for a full-time co-ordinator's position. (Much hinges on a C.R.D. vote this Wednesday, Feb. 24.) In the town of Cassidey just south of Nanaimo, a man named Ken McVay is quietly making what may prove to be the biggest local contribution of all to the anti-racist effort. McVay, who worked the graveyard shift at a local gasbar until a car accident laid him up a month ago, has devoted the last year and a half to assembling databases within the Free Net computer network, part of an electronic service accessible to anyone in the world with a personal computer and a modem. A 52-year-old self-confessed "cyberspace junkie" and "creature of the nets," McVay came across Holocaust denial material while browsing one day on his system. "At first it seemed like some kind of ugly, tasteless joke," he says, "but I slowly came to realize that these bastards were for real." He began building a Holocaust archive, which spawned a second archive on fascist and neo-Nazi activity worldwide. "I started spending eight or 10 hours a day at the computer, putting in citations and giving authors credit, cross-referencing activities in Germany with the U.S. I worked harder when I realized it was pissing them off." ("They" began leaving hate messages and death threats in the system for McVay). The files now contain about 10 megabytes (about two million words) of text. Much of it was typed in by McVay himself, who has developed tendonitis for his efforts. The benefit of McVay's work is that anti-racist groups who have access to the Free Net system can share and build on his information. A couple of Victoria Free Net users, who discovered him through the system, have talked about trying to subsidize McVay in his work, perhaps buying him an optical scanner to spare his typing fingers. Free Net has been available since November in Victoria. Last week the downtown library opened up the first public access terminal. And so the communication networks hum, and the stakes rise on both sides. Allan Dutton believes that Tony McAleer, the Tom Metzger frontman, has suffered "serious credibility problems" as a result of the botched rally at the Century Plaza Hotel. "He'll have to do something violent (to get back that credibility) or be replaced," says Dutton. "We're worried." Many of the anti-racists have braced themselves to fight on the same level. "The anti-Nazis are committed to using extra-legal tactics -- and violence -- against the Nazis," one of the founders of the Victoria anti-Nazi Alliance proclaims. Following the storming of the Century Plaza hotel, the Trotskyist League, which participated in the anti-racist "after-rally," published a triumphant account of the squashed racist demonstation -- the "victory we won in the streets." An anti-racist, anti-sexist leaflet circulating in town at the moment makes some similarly ominous noises. Issue through the offices of the "John Brown Anti-Klan Committee" in San Francisco, the flyer includes a little passage called "Kicking the Cops Out": "There can be no illusion about the purpose of the police. They are just another instrument of the racist ruling class to keep the rest of society from threatening their power. They are not a neutral force, and do not exist to protect us. They are tools of the state essential in keeping power in the hands of white male corporate America. We cannot and will not accept this." The danger inherent in such scenarios seems clear. Militants like the Anti-Klan Committee, who inhabith the finges of the anti-racist movement, do little for the cause. They are largely perceived as vigilante squads, no less frightening than their foes. To hold the upper hand, the anti-racist side will have to be organized and disciplined, leaning on the strength of their numbers, the solidity of their arguments. ("Violence is the last resot of the incompetent," says James McQuirter, the Canadian Klansman later jailed for, among other things, plotting to overthrow the Dominican Republic. "A lot of these racist groups thrive on the image of respectability," says David Lethbridge. "They want to be debated seriously. But to make any such debate lends them a credability they don't deserve." To make that point, Lethbridge did something which earned him a lot of discrediting press. Showing up for a meeting of the Council on Public Affairs, Lethbridge and a student noticed someone videotaping them from inside a nearby car. They approached the car, turned around and dropped their pants -- creating footage destined to be shown repeatedly at council gatherings. The messages Liberty Net traffics in are more subtle now, its users careful not to promote hatred against an identifiable group. They do not want to see the phone shut down. Of course, even if Liberty Net were to be closed, the ultra-right would still find ways of communicating with one another, and with the as-yet-unconverted. Understandably, those who are repulsed by what they say have trouble defending their right to say it. Indeed, the free speech debate has been among the stickiest issue legislators and anti-racist groups have faced. Can you avoid the spread of hate without putting up barriers to free expression? Can you tighten the criminal law without impinging on civil liberites? Can censorship be defended in a democracy? Allan Dutton believes that the messages peddled by the far right are exclusive, rather than inclusive, and therefor anti-democratic by definition. "Racism is about power and privilege," says Dutton. "These people (white supremacists, anti-Semites and the like) are facists. They want to deny people -- deny you -- dmeocractic rights. True democracy, believes Dutton, can only occur when the power balance has been redressed. "The way to overcome racism is to ensure the full participation of everyone. If we don't make sure we have full protection for people, they won't have an equal footing. You have to start from the premise of equality. After that comes freedom of speech." The media pepetually struggles with the question of whether to report the views of extremists, thus giving them a forum for their views, or shut them out and ignore their ranting. One school of thought holds that given an opportunity to speak, noe-Nazis and white supremacists will hang themselves, with goss historical inaccuracies, pretzel logic or their own caustic bigotry. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a better way to discredit the Christian Identity movement than by allowing its leader, Jack Mohr, to speak his peace, as he did in the documentary film 'Blood on the Face.' "We're in the opening stages of World War Three right now," said Mohr, "Our military knows that there's a force of at least 35,000 Viet Cong operating in the wilds of British Columbia. [Research assistance by Andrew Jackson.] =30=
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor