CSIS and the Heritage Front

Recent Developments: CSIS and the Heritage Front

On August 14, 1994 Bill Dunphy reported in the Toronto Sun that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been giving money to Grant Bristow since the late 1980s. Brislow, the former intelligence chief and co-director of security for the Heritage Front, allegedly used this money to finance the organization’s campaign of hatred. Dunphy’s story also alleged that Bristow directed a Heritage Front harassment campaign to incite violence between the Front and anti-racists. This programme apparently involved illegal access to the answering machines and voice mailboxes of anti-racists.

The following week produced equally stunning revelations and allegations. The Globe and Mail reported that Bristow, who resigned from the Front two months before Dunphy’s story, received between $50,000 and $60,000 annually from CSIS. Gerry Lincoln, the editor of Up Front, confirmed that Bristow gave start-up money to the Heritage Front. In fact, the total amount of money given to Bristow could be in excess of $300,000.

Lincoln also said that Bristow, who joined the Nationalist Party in 1989, helped found the Heritage Front in 1989; the suggested timing of the alleged early payments corroborates this fact. It appears that Bristow was hired by CSIS to infiltrate the Canadian far-right. A Winnipeg Free Press editorial on August 19 noted the irony of CSIS creating an enemy only to destroy it. The Heritage Front hotline boasted in August 1994 that “CSIS created something that can’t be stopped. White Canada should be grateful.” Gary Schipper called Bristow a “tremendous asset to the organization.”

Bristow allegedly used his money to finance networking trips for Heritage Front leaders from across Canada. Lincoln professed that Bristow was a major asset to the Front, saying “the positive things he did for us outweigh any negative things…l’d like to have 10 more [men] like him.” These remarks were made on August 16, the same day that Anti-Racist Action held a rally at Toronto’s City Hall to condemn the alleged collaboration between CSIS and the Heritage Front.

The Toronto Star reported that CSIS used a Heritage Front mole to spy on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the network was preparing a segment on racism in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Star reported that classified documents in their possession substantiated these allegations. CSIS responded by demanding that the Star return the papers or face penalties under the Official Secrets Act.

In fact, NOW, a Toronto weekly, had reported in May 1993 that Heritage Front members were approached by CSIS agents about the possibility of becoming informants. Droege made public the names of the two agents, but neither would confirm Droege’s account. When the HF leader filed a complaint with CSIS, he was told that “CSIS is an intelligence gathering operation and that Parliament wants to have certain information about specific groups.”

Alleged targets of other investigations by CSIS included the Reform Party and Canada’s Somali community. In addition, Bristow was revealed to have been a volunteer security guard for Reform Party leader Preston Manning during rallies and speeches. On August 28, 1994 a Reform spokesperson stated on CTV that the former Tory government used CSIS moles, inclucling Bristow, to spy on an opposition party. Allegedly, infiltration of Reform in Ontario was one of Bristow’s priorities in 1991 and 1992; Manning now wants a parliamentary investigation into whether Bristow was spying on his party on behalf of CSIS.

On August 24 and 25, 1994 the Canadian Jewish community was shaken by two allegations. First, it was reported that Bristow spied on the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). Then, the CBC reported that Bristow had given inforrnation on both the CJC and B’nai Brith Canada to White Aryan Resistance (WAR), a violent neo-Nazi hate group dedicated to the idea of an armed race war in which “Aryans” will prevail. Tom Metzger, the leader of WAR confirmed that he had received this information from Bristow. Both Jewish organizations agreed that CSIS was, through its support of Bristow, endangering the lives and safety of Canadian Jews.

Solicitor General Herb Gray could not confirm nor deny Bristow’s involvement with CSIS, pending the outcome of an investigation by Security Intelligence Review Committee public hearings starting on September 13, 1994. However, on August 25, CTV reported that Brian McInnis, a communications advisor to former Solicitor General Doug Lewis, had leaked the secret documents to the media. After weeks of allegations, McInnis’ admission became the first concrete evidence of CSIS involvement with neo-Nazi groups.

McInnis was quoted as saying that “apparently some good came out of what I did,” citing that there was “no need to create” the Heritage Front. It is unclear as this report goes to press whether he will be charged with any criminal offences, although McInnis has stated that he does not want his legal troubles to overshadow the issue of CSIS involvement with neo-Nazis. More than 70 anti-racist activists demonstrated in Toronto on August 27 to protest CSIS involvement with the Heritage Front and to pressure Ottawa not to press charges against McInnis.

Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly given to Bristow by the Canadian government, he has never served as a crown witness for any prosecutions; nor have hate-related charges been pressed against the Heritage Front. In light of five years of hate activities by the Heritage Front, it is as yet unclear what CSIS got from its investment in Bristow. Frank Dimant, Executive Vice-President of B’nai Brith Canada, stated publicly on August 25 that if all the allegations are proven to be true, then “CSIS has clearly overstepped its mandate, and appears to have lost control of its own operations.” Concerned Canadians are still awaiting the results of the SIRC investigation into the allegations.