Into the Mainstream
Groups such as the Heritage Front often try to gain credibility by running for political office or by aligning themselves with less extreme individuals and organizations. In the case of the Heritage Front, such connections have been noticed between the Heritage Front and Paul Fromm, and the Heritage Front and the Reform Party of Canada. Both of these associations require explanation.
The Fromm Connection
Paul Fromm, a high-school English teacher in the Peel Board of Education just west of Toronto, is a longtime Canadian White supremacist. He was a strong supporter of Professor Philippe Rushton, whose theories on race and intelligence caused a great deal of controversy at the University of Western Ontario. Before his link to the Heritage Front, Fromm was associated with the Edmund Burke Society (an anti-communist, anti- immigration University of Toronto student group which he co-founded in the 1960s); the Western Guard (a White supremacist group which evolved from the Edmund Burke Society); Countdown (a publication started by Fromm in 1972 to promote his racist, anti-immigration, anti-communist stance); Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform (C-FAR), an organization founded by Fromm criticizing Canada’s foreign aid and immigration policies); and the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE, directed by Fromm and Ron Gostick, a Canadian distributor of extreme right-wing propaganda).
Fromm has held a formal position in the Social Credit party, has been a Metro Toronto Separate School Board trustee, and in 1981 was elected as treasurer of the federal Progressive Conservatives in Toronto. In a newspaper interview after his election to that position, it was reported that Fromm “‘believes in restricted immigration, thinks the boat people should have been sent to inhabit desert islands, and expresses the belief that a supreme race of intelligent people ‘is a good idea.” There was a public outcry, and Fromm was forced to resign from his PC-Metro post. Since then, Fromm appears to have devoted most of his time to C-FAR and to the Heritage Front.
Fromm’s earliest association with the Heritage Front was C-FAR’s co-sponsorship of the Front’s December 8, 1990 Martyr’s Day Rally for Robert Matthews, a member of the violent neo-Nazi group, The Order, who died in a shoot-out with the FBI in 1984. In a videotape of the rally, Fromm was shown saying, “We’re all on the same side. But we must know who the enemy is… We are quite right to honour heroes here tonight.” In later media interviews, Fromm denied awareness of the Heritage Front’s views.
On September 24, 1991, in the Toronto City Hall, Fromm and 12 other White supremacists including Wolfgang Droege and a member of the Aryan Nations disrupted a meeting of the Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations as Native leader Rodney Bobiwash was lodging a complaint with the Committee about the activities of the Heritage Front. As Bobiwash was speaking, Fromm yelled “Scalp ’em!”, and refused to apologize. He and the other White supremacists were removed from the meeting by police. The Peel Board of Education conducted an investigation of Fromm as a result of this incident, and recommended that the Ontario Ministry of Education review his teaching certificate.
On April 30, 1992, the Peel Board reprimanded Fromm and warned him to refrain from questionable activities. The League for Human Rights strongly urged the Peel Board of Education to relieve Fromm of his teaching responsibilities, and noted that “views such as those held and expressed by Mr. Fromm… stand to poison the atmosphere for students in a multicultural democracy.” Fromm is still licensed to teach in Ontario, and is still on the Peel payroll; however, after the Ministry of Education review and the Board warning and reprimand, he was removed from the classroom and assigned to teach adult education courses.
Infiltration of the Reform Party of Canada
“There is no room for racists in the Reform Party of Canada,” said Preston Manning, leader of the Reform Party, on February 28, 1992. This statement came after reports that at least four members of the Heritage Front, and possibly up to twenty neo-Nazis, were involved with Reform riding associations in Toronto. On March 11, 1992, Wolfgang Droege, Nicola Polinuk, James Dawson, and Peter Mitrevski, Heritage Front members (all of whom had gone to Libya in 1989), were expelled from the Beaches-Woodbine Reform Party riding association.
Polinuk and Dawson were to have become formal board members on April 2. Also expelled was Al Overfield, the man who had recruited them, who has associated with neo-Nazis for twenty years. Overfield was responsible for Reform Party security, and had twice hired Droege to help with security at Metro area appearances of Preston Manning. In 1971 Overfield, along with Paul Fromm and Don Andrews, was involved in a short-lived takeover of the Ontario wing of the Social Credit Party.
Wolfgang Droege has denied that the Heritage Front had a plan to infiltrate the Reform Party. However, observers at Heritage Front meetings have reported speakers’ recommendations for White power activists to get involved in more mainstream groups. Recent allegations involving CSIS have suggested that the Heritage Front had a vested interest in joining Reform.
Preston Manning announced after the 1992 expulsions that his party would be launching an internal investigation into suspected neo-Nazi membership in an attempt to determine whether other political parties, groups or individuals were in some way involved in the recruitment of racist members. According to Manning, “There is no way that anyone who supports a racist position could at the same time support our position on the Constitution, immigration or culture, because the whole heart of our position is to strip racial criteria out of those policy areas.” However, it is interesting to note that the policies of both groups stem from the idea that minorities are receiving unjustifiable special treatment under current Canadian legislation. According to Droege, “…Obviously there are a lot of similarities between the Heritage Front and the Reform Party… but we take some things a few steps farther.” The League for Human Rights has called on Manning, the Reform Party, and all political parties to re-examine their policies and criteria for membership.
It is tempting to dismiss the interest of the Heritage Front in the Reform Party as isolated. However, Zvonimir Lelas, recently sentenced to jail for desecrating Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue in 1988, was also dismissed from the Reform Party in March 1992, and a young member named Mark Kreuzer was expelled from the Calgary West riding in July of that year for distributing Holocaust denial literature. Kreuzer retained lawyer Doug Christie, notorious for defending White supremacists, to fight the expulsion. These incidents point to a tendency within some far-right groups to see the Reform Party as their natural political vehicle.
In June of 1992, Michael Lublin, an Orthodox Jew who was the director of community relations in Ontario for the Reform Party, resigned, alleging widespread racism and anti-Semitism within the Party. He also claimed that he had alerted the Party leaders of the Heritage Front infiltrators in August 1991, and that these claims were not investigated until the story broke in the press in February of the following year.
The Reform Party’s stance against ‘hyphenated Canadianism’, federal funding of multiculturalism, and changes to the RCMP dress code (e.g. allowing turbans), in part explains the attraction of groups like the Heritage Front to the Party. Although Droege condemns David Duke‘s attempts to be accepted in mainstream politics, his involvement with the Reform Party points to a similar search for credibility, one which has led him from radical groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Western Guard to the Heritage Front. Droege’s attempt to make a space for the Heritage Front in the Reform Party was a bid to make his views more acceptable through their exposure in a mainstream arena.
This bid having failed, the Heritage Front now refers to the Reform Party as the Conform Party, and criticizes its leadership while maintaining that the membership is sympathetic to the Heritage Front’s position. The August 1992 issue of Up Front insists that, “A significant number of active Front members, supporters, and sympathizers” remain in Reform, some holding party posts. Since the stunning success of Reform in the 1993 federal election, the topic of Right-wing extremism in the party has become more significant. According to leader Manning, Reform has redoubled its efforts to rid his party of neo-Nazis, saying that there is no room for hate in his brand of conservative politics. Several Reform officials and candidates have been forced to leave the party for offenses, including quoting Adolf Hitler in a public forum. It is encouraging to see Reform aggressively root out hatemongers within its ranks as the party seeks to change its image.