Countering the Heritage Front

Countering the Heritage Front

The community reaction to the Heritage Front has been strong. The widespread rejection of Droege and organization is exemplified in the two case studies that follow. In each situation the Heritage Front was attacked in the area of recruitment and the groups responding to the Heritage Front moved beyond reactive demonstration to proactive community outreach and education.

Attacking the Hotlines – The Canadian Human Rights Commission

In September of 1991 Rodney Bobiwash then the Race Relations Co-ordinator of the Native Canadian Centre lodged a complaint with the Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations over the Heritage Front’s racist hotline messages. Bobiwash charged that the messages targeted and promoted hatred against aboriginal people. Messages in June 1992 threatened violence towards Bobiwash who asked police to investigate. One message recorded after the complaint was lodged claimed that the agenda of those opposed to the Heritage Front “is the annihilation of the White race. We will be basing our case on that premise. It’s no hogwash Bobby we are looking at the hate laws as they may be applied to you. Anyone can get scalped so get ready.”

Following these messages Bobiwash asked the Canadian Human Rights Commission to seek a temporary court injunction to stop the Heritage Front messages pending a CHRC hearing into the case in October l991. A related court proceeding brought about a shoving match between Heritage Front members and anti-racists outside the courthouse.

Throughout 1993 and 1994 Gary Schipper, Wolfgang Droege and Kenneth Barker constantly and deliberately violated a court ruling forcing them to stop transmitting hate messages. In June and July of 1994 all three men served jail time for contempt of court.

In August 1992 The Native Canadian Centre started Klanbusters, an anti-racist hotline. This hotline served to inform the public of the activities of neo-Nazi groups which affect the Toronto area. It included updates on the distribution of hate group recruitment materials the endeavours of White supremacist leaders and the activities of the Heritage Front and similar groups. The hotline urged listeners to report any racist occurrences. The Native Centre also published Klanbusters Update which provided information on hate groups and community action against racism. All of the actions of Bobiwash and the Native Canadian Centre have been effective challenging the Heritage Front both legally and from a community perspective. The League for Human Rights has been vocal in its support of these efforts and has contributed assistance to the Native Centre and to the CHRC whenever appropriate and possible.

Attacking the Flyers – Anti-Racist Community Groups

In January 1992 Citizens Against Racism (CAR) a grass-roots volunteer organization was formed as a response to the littering of the Riverdale neighbourhood with the Heritage Front’s racist and offensive flyers. Concerned Riverdale citizens filed complaints with the police and with the assistance of the League for Human Rights established connections with other community anti-racism groups such as the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Native Canadian Centre. CAR produced and circulated their own counter-flyer which gave information for Riverdale residents on whom to contact to lodge a complaint. In March 1992 CAR approached MP Dennis Mills and described the extent of leafleting in the neighbourhood. Following CAR’s recommendation a new anti-racist flyer was produced and circulated by Mills’ constituency office throughout the riding. The circulation of both flyers resulted in positive feedback and increased community awareness.

Joint Community Action

CAR broadened its efforts in March 1992 by organizing an Anti-Racism rally at Queen’s Park, to mark the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to specifically refute the ideas of the Heritage Front. In addition to a letter-writing campaign to former Ontario Education minister Tony Silipo regarding Paul Fromm, CAR was also active in the demonstration in June 1992 at Queen’s Park, to counter the Heritage Front’s planned rally in support of the jailed Metzgers. The League played a large part in both of the 1992 CAR rallies, participating in the planning, as well as providing speakers, publicity, and support. The Anti-Racist Response Network (ARRN) of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations is the vehicle through which the networking for community coalitions and rallies has continued, with the ongoing involvement of CAR, the League, the Native Centre, the CJC, Klanbusters, municipal and provincial committees, and many other concerned citizens.

Another major group active in combating the Heritage Front is Anti-Racist Action (ARA), a Toronto-based coalition of committed opponents to the Front. ARA is a street-level group often engaging in violent confrontation against the Front. While many are opposed to the tactics of the group, ARA has definitely had an impact on the Heritage Front. In confrontations in front of courthouses, counter-rallies in Ottawa and Montreal, and in anti-HF marches, they have made it clear to the Front that they will not be tolerated in Canada. In a more proactive ARA has also been an important presence in high schools, educating students about the Heritage Front and other White supremacist groups.

Countering Recruitment Activity

The Heritage Front and other hate groups single out students for recruitment. Junior high school- through university-aged individuals are often lulled into White supremacist activities through pamphlets, racist rock tapes and concerts, speeches, and through friends that have already joined hate groups.

Despite the success of many of these recruitment efforts, there are ways to recognize and combat racist advances among youths. Experienced members of human rights and anti-racist groups are increasingly being invited to schools to speak to students about hate activities. Through the promotion of multicultural programmes, joint efforts with police forces, and anti-racist training in the classroom, it is possible to stem the tide of White supremacist recruiting in the schools.

In 1993 the Human Rights Youth League was founded by B’nai Brith Canada as a non-violent response to hate group activity in high schools and universities. This multicultural group boasts members aged 14 to 24 throughout the Greater Toronto area, and opened a chapter in Montreal in July 1994. Through presentations on racism in schools, summer camps and other public fora, the Youth League provides a strong counterweight to the vicious hatred promoted by White supremacist groups. A Youth League colloquium planned for October 1994, supported by a grant from the Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat, will feature an anti-racist rock concert and a full day of lectures, speakers and discussion groups to develop skills combat prejudice and hatred.