The Future of the Heritage Front
The League for Human Rights has monitored and recorded hate group activity in Canada for 30 years, and our experience shows that groups with hateful platforms almost inevitably proceed to acts of hatred. The Heritage Front is a volatile group with a violent leader who is trying to mask his agenda in order to achieve his goals.
But as of June 1994, the Heritage Front seemed to be on the decline. Wolfgang Droege, Kenneth Barker and Gary Schipper were in jail, and the organization did not have enough money to pay a $5,000 fine. Droege himself was unemployed, on welfare, and needed legal aid to pay his lawyer. The Front hadn’t had a rally in months, and had largely fallen out of the headlines. George Burdi, who at one time had been an energetic recruiter for hate groups in Canada, had also left the public eye. Elise Hategan, once seen as the future of the Front, had been working with anti-racists to send Droege and others to jail and was now in hiding. To add injury to insult, a member of the Heritage Front had been beaten on the streets of Toronto in December 1993.
But in August 1994, the Front once again grabbed the media spotlight as it was alleged that CSIS had, in effect, bankrolled their activities starting in 1989. The revelation that Grant Bristow was an intelligence plant produced mixed reactions from racists and anti-racists alike. Although many within the Front claimed that he had done more good than harm, many were still shocked at the revelation. Bristow’s ties with WAR concerned Canada’s Jewish leaders, who expressed publicly that if the allegations were true, CSIS had lost control of its contact.
The startling allegations of CSIS complicity in founding the Front gave the group two straight weeks of free national publicity, but it remains to be seen if this will lead to an increase in membership or activity. Other neoNazi groups, most notably the Northern Hammerskins, have started to fill the void left by a moribund COTC and a slumping Heritage Front. It is quite possible that the Front has outlived its natural life span, and that other organizations are already starting to dip into its recruiting pool.
For five years, it was unclear how the Heritage Front paid for its operations. While Libya gave early support to the group, it seemed unlikely that they would have bankrolled the HF for five years. In addition, Droege’s own personal financial troubles made it more apparent that he was not successfully raising funds for the Heritage Front. However, if it is true that CSIS gave more than $250,000 to Grant Bristow. who in turn used the proceeds to finance Heritage Front activities, then with the expose of this source of income, it is likely that the annual $50,000 grant from Ottawa will not be continued. With such a large source of funding now gone, it is difficult to see how the Front will continue to pay for its operations.
As the actions taken against the Heritage Hotline and Heritage Front propaganda have shown, community co-operation, joint forces police operations and intergovernmental agency co-operation are essential parts of an effective response to the activities of the Heritage Front and to hate group activity in general. There must be strong deterrents against racist activity enshrined in the legal system, supported by the government and police. Inter-community and legal efforts can send a clear message to the Heritage Front that there is no room in Canada for racists and bigots. But beyond addressing Heritage Front today, education, quality research and training are crucial if the attraction of hate mongering racist groups is to disappear from this country.