Canada and the World

The far-right fallout

Sept. 11 has given white supremacist organizations a shot in the arm

WILL GIBSON December 3 2001
Canada and the World

The far-right fallout

Sept. 11 has given white supremacist organizations a shot in the arm

WILL GIBSON December 3 2001

The far-right fallout

Canada and the World

Sept. 11 has given white supremacist organizations a shot in the arm

WILL GIBSON

Having campaigned several times for Toronto’s city council with the slogan “For a white man’s viewpoint at city hall,” Don Andrews seems an unlikely sympathizer with Osama bin Laden. Andrews, who founded the Nationalist Party of Canada, certainly doesn’t want bin Laden—or anyone of non-European descent—living next door. But he does want to thank the presumed sponsor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The planes that toppled the World Trade Center have helped Andrews and other selfdescribed “racial nationalists” to advance their anti-immigrant domestic agenda. The fact that Canadian troops are serving in the war on terror in Afghanistan helps even more, he maintains. “We can bask in glory because once they lose some men over there, they’ll have to come back and close the borders and look at what kind of society they want to build,” says Andrews, who immigrated to Canada from Yugoslavia in 1952. “Overall, for the country’s culture and preservation of the European heritage, it is a good thing.”

It’s tempting to dismiss Andrews’s statements merely as wishful thinking. But the anti-immigrant message may in fact be reaching a somewhat wider audience. Paul Fromm runs the Canada First Immigration Reform Committee, a 2,500-member group calling for a five-year moratorium on all immigration to Canada. Fromm says there’s been a 10-per-cent hike in membership since Sept. 11. As well, he claims nearly 75 new subscribers have signed up for his newsletter, Canadian Immigration Hotline. “I think that’s a fairly good indication,” Fromm says, “that there is a real interest.”

Dave Rutherford, a Calgary-based talkshow host whose program is broadcast on radio stations across Western Canada and in southern Ontario, has also noticed a difference. While he has no firm figures, he says there’s been a substantial increase in

the numbers of callers who want to tighten up Canada’s borders since Sept. 11. Although some of them seem genuinely interested in reforming the system, others, he says, make him want to cringe. “Some people,” adds Rutherford, “feel it’s now OK to express their bigotry.” Other groups may be sensing a new audience for their messages. An unsophisticated flyer recendy circulating in Edmonton called for Western governments to “look out for our interests, not Israel’s.” It was from the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in Mill Point, WVa., and headed by William Pierce. Pierce—whom Andrews refers to as his “mentor in racial nationalism”—wrote The Turner Diaries, an infamous 1978 novel describing how white supremacists take over North America following a nuclear war and the mass genocide of Jews, blacks and non-Europeans.

One counterterrorism expert believes white supremacists pose dangers even more disturbing than fomenting hate. David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), sees the current climate of uncertainty as the perfect incubator for a double-edged campaign of terror by neo-Nazis. Racists could perpetrate acts of sabotage that are pinned on Islamic extremists while committing or inciting hate crimes of retaliation against Muslims.

Not only do white supremacists have the motive and opportunity, Harris believes they also have the capability to create chaos. “Are these guys a threat? Yes, a

deadly menace and they continue to be,” says Harris, president of Insignis Strategic Research, an Ottawa-based consulting firm that provides analysis on counterterrorism and espionage for industry and government. “It’s important, when correctly identifying Islamic extremism as our primary and foremost threat, we not lose sight of some of the close seconds in the race.” Such a scenario may, in fact, be behind the anthrax campaign that has killed five people in the U.S. The FBI now believes a domestic terrorist, and not one affiliated with bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, mailed the anthrax-laced letters.

One who shares Harris’s concern about white supremacists’ potential to create havoc is Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canada Arab Relations. “These groups are trying to undermine multiculturalism,” he says, “and have a vested interest in seeing some sort of clash of civilizations taking place.” Manuel Prutschi, national director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress, sees the bizarre logic behind groups like Andrews’s benefiting from bin Laden’s terrorism. He poses a chilling scenario that goes a step further: “I wouldn’t dismiss the notion of some kind of alliance to commit anti-Semitic acts.”

Prutschi’s fears about possible co-operation in a campaign between Islamic terrorists and Canadian neo-Nazis have some historical precedents. Andrews’s Nationalist party established links with Libya in the 1980s, twice sending delegations of Canadian racists to Tripoli on “fact-finding missions” sponsored by the Gadhafi government.

Wolfgang Droege, founder of the Heritage Front and one of the 17 Canadians who travelled to Libya in 1989, sees parallels between the struggles by bin Laden and those for “racial nationalism” in North America. “I’ve had dealings with Black Muslims, I’ve had dealings with Arabs, I’ve had dealings with people of various races, and I realize that some of these

people are as motivated as I am in working for the interest of their race,” he says.

Droege, who has a history—complete with seven convictions dating back to 1975—of using force to back his ideology, now claims to have renounced violence and condemned the killing of innocent people in the World Trade Center attack. But another member of the troupe that travelled to Libya—CSIS mole Grant Bristow—isn’t buying Droege’s newfound pacifism. Bristow, who spent more than

five years inside Canada’s far-right movement before being outed in 1994, remains convinced Canadian racists represent a real danger. “Their reaction about Sept. 11 doesn’t surprise me,” says Bristow, who now lives under a new identity in Alberta. “Let’s be clear about one thing: the right wing in Canada remains a threat.” (CSIS spokeswoman Chantal Lapalme issued the agency’s standard statement that it could neither confirm nor deny that any person or group was under investigation.)

For Fromm, the benefits flowing from the Sept. 11 attacks go beyond increasing

the membership of his committee. While he acknowledges most Canadians don’t share all of his concerns about immigration, he claims they have at least been sensitized enough to listen. And that, as much as the activities of avowed white supremacists like Andrews and Droege, disturbs Prutschi of the Canadian Jewish Congress. “Racism and hate are temptations that all of us are subject to, majorities and minorities,” he says. “The government cannot afford simply to transfer resources in the security establishment to the Islamist threat and forget about these other threats.” G3