The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Hate Propaganda and Anti-Semitism: Canadian Realities

Racism and hate propaganda have long been part of the Canadian experience. Many European settlers and clerics held, and propagated, the view that Aboriginal peoples were intellectually or morally inferior to white Europeans, or that they were damned because they were outside the limits of the Eurocentric religious vision. These views were often used to justify the abuses perpetrated on Native peoples. Some of those abuses continue to this day. This campaign of dehumanization, detribalization, and marginalization has been enormously effective. It has largely prevented those who committed the abuses from being punished, and has resulted in profound despair amongst Native Canadians. The high rates of suicide and alcoholism in many Native communities are a direct consequence of the racist attitudes that have prevailed for almost half a millennium.

In addition to the racist attitudes towards the First Nations, there was rampant anti-Semitism in Canada's early history. This is not surprising considering that the early immigrants to this country brought with them the intellectual baggage of Europe, where Jew-hatred was a way of life. Regular attacks on Judaism and the Jewish community appeared in "Semaine religieuse de Quebec" and in other religious publications, and the infamous anti-Semitic forgery,

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was promoted by various religious leaders in Canada. From 1910 through the 1940s prominent Canadians like Edouard Plamandon, Adrian Arcand, Goldwin Smith, Henri Bourassa, and Mackenzie King were associated with virulent anti-Semitism, taking such stands as justifying Russian pogroms against the Jews, openly praising Hitler, and denying safety in Canada to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. During this period many other minority groups were also victimized by hate propaganda, most notably the Sikhs and Chinese.

Canada also witnessed the rise of hate groups during the pre- war years. The 1920s and 1930s saw the development of the Ku Klux Klan and the formation of the Western Guard and Aryan Nations (Barrett 1987). Such groups promoted hatred against, among others, Catholics, Blacks, and Jews. It was not uncommon in those days to see signs along the beaches or other 'restricted' areas in Toronto or Montreal that read 'No Dogs or Jews Allowed.'

There was a postwar decline in overt racism and anti- Semitism in Canada. However, with recent increases in immigration, the reduction of systemic racism in the immigration regulations, and the development of policies of multiculturalism and bilingualism, there has been an upsurge in hate-group activity and hate propaganda.

Recently, the Klan has been implicated in the anti-Mohawk agitation in Quebec; Klan propaganda has been distributed in some Montreal schools and the Eastern Townships; anti-immigration white-supremacist telephone 'hate lines' have attracted attention in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto; racist skinheads have rallied regularly and have been implicated in or convicted of a number of racially motivated crimes; there have been various KKK-style cross-burnings; and Holocaust denial has become a new form of anti-Semitism in schools and public venues across the country There is evidence of active recruitment by racist organizations of young people in high schools.

The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith began documenting reported incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment in 1982. Over the last several years there has been a dramatic increase; the 1993 total was the highest in twelve years, and represented a 200-per-cent increase since 1988. In 1994 there were 290 reported incidents of harassment and vandalism, representing a 12 per cent increase over 1993

This was the highest number-of such incidents reported by the League in thirteen years of documentation.

The League's annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents serves as a barometer of racism in Canada. Members of the Black, Chinese, and South Asian communities also report an increase in racism directed towards their communities, and both the increase in the number of cases before the Human Rights Commission and the courts and reports from various multicultural and anti- racist organizations, as well as statistics from recently created police hatecrimes units, corroborate our findings.

Yet another disturbing trend has emerged in recent years. There are more reports both of anti-Semitic workplace harassment and of the indefinable feelings of marginalization and alienation that occur when systemic discrimination exists. This kind of anti-Semitism is much more difficult to document and to resolve than overt incidents, but the emotional stress and personal anguish are palpable.


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