An estimated 600 young people are involved in the neo-Nazi Skinhead movement in Canada. These include a hard core of some 350, plus an additional 250 who are, to varying degrees, participants or supporters. While their numbers were declining in the late eighties, that trend was reversed in the 1990’s. The cities with the largest contingents of Skinheads are Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, but activity has also occurred in recent years in Edmonton; Calgary; Winnipeg; Saskatoon; Regina; Quebec City; Halifax; Victoria, B.C.; Moncton, New Brunswick; and the Ontario cities of Kitchener, Windsor, Kingston and London.
Skinheads have been a part of Canada’s extremist scene since the early 1980’s. As in the United States, they have no national organization, operating instead in separate gangs with names like Aryan Resistance Movement Skins, Northern Hammerskins, and Final Solution Skinheads. Canadian Skins also figured prominently in some established racist and anti-Semitic hate groups, such as the Heritage Front, led by Wolfgang Droege of Toronto; the Nationalist Party of Canada, headed by Don Andrews; the Church of the Creator, which originated in the United States, and the Aryan Nations, headquartered in Idaho.
Older white supremacists in Canada have regarded the Skinheads as potential recruits to bolster their flagging numbers. Performances by Skinhead bands have drawn young fans to rural rallies at which they have been lectured by such longtime extremists as John Ross Taylor (who died in November 1994) and one-time Canadian Nazi Party leader John Beattie.
Some of the rally sites have been provided by right-wing extremists, as in 1990 when 200 white supremacists, most of them Skinheads, gathered at Ian MacDonald’s farm in Metcalf, Ontario. There they were treated to the music of the British Skinhead band No Remorse, while armed Skins in military fatigues stood by. In other instances, land has been rented without signaling its intended use, as at Des Laurentides, Quebec, in 1992. The event, “Aryanfest ’92,” was sponsored by a Canadian unit of the Ku Klux Klan and attracted 70 Skinheads, including members of the Montreal neo-Nazi group, White Power Canada.
The leader of the Canadian branch of the Aryan Nations, Terry Long, organized a 1990 event billed as the “First Annual Alberta Aryan Fest,” near Provost, Alberta. Neo-Nazi Skinheads, some of them armed, scuffled with Jewish protestors and assaulted a reporter.
Canadian Skinheads have been particularly active in the Heritage Front. The Front was formed in 1989 following a visit to Libya by 18 members of the extreme-right Nationalist Party of Canada. (The Nationalist Party members, jointly with 25 mostly left-wing Canadian activists, participated in a conference hosted by Libyan strongman Musmmar Qaddafi.) Some of the 18 subsequently broke away to form a new organization. About six of the original 18 were Skinheads, including Peter Mitrevski, Jim Dawson and Max French, who have since assumed elevated roles in the Heritage Front. The leader of the Front, Wolfgang Droege, is a former Ku Klux Klansman who has served time in U.S. and Canadian jails for drug and weapons violations and assault. Over the course of the group’s six-year existence, it has sponsored numerous rallies and demonstrations.
White Aryan Resistance (WAR), led by Tom Metzger of Fallbrook, California, has exerted influence over Canadian Skinheads through direct contact, propaganda and speeches. Metzger and his son, John, traveled to Toronto in June 1992 to address a Heritage Front rally of some 200 people, many Skinheads among them. In February of that year, Metzger’s associate, Dennis Mahon of Oklahoma, appeared at a Heritage Front rally attended by a similar number of Skins. Both the Metzgers and Mahon were deported from Canada. The name of an Ontario gang, the WARskins, suggests it has drawn inspiration, if not direction, from Metzger.
WAR’s newspaper has promoted the activities of Vancouver Skinhead Tony McAleer, who has run a telephone message hotline in connection with an operation he calls Canadian Liberty Net. In April 1994, a Los Angeles radio station tried to send McAleer and John Metzger – anti-Semites both – to Germany for a broadcast on the Holocaust. German officials refused them entry. McAleer’s Vancouver-area confederates include the Aryan Resistance Movement Skins and the Skinhead rock band Odin’s Law. The two groups share a Surrey, B.C., post office box.
Racial Holy War
George Burdi, the leader of the Skinhead rock band Rahowa (short-hand for Racial Holy War), has recently created a record company, Resistance Records, devoted exclusively to the recording and distribution of “White Power” Skinhead rock music. Although Burdi is from Toronto, his company utilizes a Detroit, Michigan, post office box in order to avoid Canada’s law against racist material.
Also known as “Reverend” Eric Hawthorne, Burdi, 24, has been a top figure in the Church of the Creator. The “church,” whose late founder, Ben Klassen, dressed a package of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hatred in religious garb, has had several hundred members in the United States, Canada, Sweden and South Africa. Evidence suggests many of these Skins remain active white supremacists despite the recent disintegration of the American parent organization. Burdi now heads the youth wing of the Heritage Front.
Resistance Records has released a professionally produced CD and cassette by Rahowa, featuring such songs as “Third Reich,” “Triumph of the Will,” “Race Riot,” and “White Revolution.” Burdi boasts of having signed a number of other Skinhead bands, including Aryan, from London, Ontario, Bound for Glory, and Max Resist & the Hooligans. The label is aggressively marketing its product through a telephone hotline and a professional-looking publication, _Resistance_.
Other publications produced in recent years by Canadian Skins include Canada Awake, from Ottawa, and The White Warrior, from Montreal.
Canadian Skinhead music has inspired countless acts of savagery by angry (and often drunken) Skinheads against minority group members. On June 6, 1993, shortly after attending a Rahowa concert at a Toronto area bar, Skinhead Jason Hoolands and some comrades went looking for a victim. They found Sivarajah Vinasithamby, 45, an immigrant who had taught math in his native Sri Lanka but was working as a dishwasher in Canada to support his family. Hoolans assaulted and repeatedly kicked his victim in the head in what the sentencing judge called a “totally unprovoked, vicious, cowardly attack” that left the victim brain damaged and partially paralyzed. Testifying in court, Hoolans described how he was drawn to the neo-Nazi Skinheads at age 14 by their appearance of pride, their military-style bearing, and the anti-Semitic and racist beliefs. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Canadian Skinheads have crommitted scores of other crims as well, a sampling of which follows:
While jogging in a Montreal park in November 1992, Yves Lalonde, 51, was beaten to death by a group of Skinheads who thought he was a homosexual. Four Skinheads between the ages of 15 and 17 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received three years of detention, the maximum sentence for offenders under the age of 18. (Three of the Skins received two additional years of probation; the fourth, one year.) The killers’ names were withheld because of their ages, in accordance with Canadian law. One of them was described in court as the “vice president” of a Montreal racist Skinhead gang.
Timothy Russell Biscope, 19, a Skinhead from Calgary, received a 19-year sentence for his part in the killing of a fellow Skinhead in northern Idaho in December 1992. Two Skins shot Johnny Ray Sharbnow, 29, a Michigan native, and enlisted the help of a third to dump his body in a remote location. The third accomplice, who led authorities to the site of the killing, said Sharbnow was shot in an argument that resulted when the car the four were driving to the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, got stuck in the snow.
Keith Rutherford, a retired radio broadcaster, was confronted at his suburban Edmonton home in April 1990 by two Skinheads angry over a 30-year-old broadcast in which he had exposed an alleged Nazi war criminal. Rutherford was kicked in the groin and struck in the face with a club, causing serious damage to his eye. Charged in the attack were Daniel Sims and Mark Swanson, both 19 at the time. Sims, who appeared in court in an Aryan Nations T-shirt, received a 60-day sentence after pleading guilty to assault; Swanson got eight months for aggravated assault. The Crown Attorney later appealed Sims’ sentence, and it was augmented to 18 months.
A Toronto Skinhead, currently serving prison time in the United States for a killing, is a suspect in a February 1991 robbery and assault on a fellow Toronto Skinhead that left the victim crippled. Jeffrey Paul Juczel allegedly beat and choked his victim, robbed him of cash and credit cards, and dragged him naked through the streets while continuing to beat him.
Daryl Sutton, A Toronto area racist Skinhead, was sentenced to prison in 1994 for the murder of David Murray Quesnel, 18, in a Toronto roominghouse after a night of drinking.
Concert Turns Violent
In May 1993, a planned concert by Rahowa in Ottawa brought out several hundred protestors. Following dispersal of the demonstrators, running battles broke out on Parliament Hill, resulting in assault convictions against a number of Skinheads, including Rahowa bandleader George Burdi, who was sentenced to one year in jail.
Canadian courts have held Skinheads responsible for a synagogue defacement in Toronto and the desecration of a Jewish cemetary in Hamilton, Ontario. Skinheads have also been linked to attacks on synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish institutions in Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Calgary and Moncton. (Anti-Defamation League, 19-23.)
Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.
Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.
Unless otherwise specified, the word “skinhead” within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.