Libyan agents began forging ties with the leaders of Canada’s extreme right in the late 1980s. Twice, the Gaddafi regime brought delegations of Canadian “white nationalists” to Tripoli, where they were feted and given cash.
“The common ground was the hatred of Jews,” said Grant Bristow, who went on one of the trips in his capacity as an undercover Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent. “That was the basis of the relationship.”
The Libyan support for Canada’s racist right is a reminder that long before Col. Gaddafi began his brutal crackdown on the Libyan opposition, triggering a NATO military intervention, he had been an international menace, fomenting violence and unrest.
Even in Canada.
In 1987, the Libyans invited the Nationalist Party of Canada to send a delegation to an event marking the first anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Tripoli, said the Toronto-based party’s longtime leader, Don Andrews.
President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes on Col. Gaddafi’s compound after Libyan agents bombed a German nightclub, killing American servicemen. The dictator survived but his adopted daughter died.
“I knew they needed the white faces for Libya’s one-year celebration of the Reagan bombing,” Mr. Andrews said in a recent interview. “I knew we’d be used as propaganda but I thought, ‘Sure, why not. We don’t mind that.”
Based out of a house in east Toronto, the Nationalist Party was Mr. Andrews’s latest far right group. Before that he had headed the Western Guard. “White People,” read one of his flyers, “Canada belongs to us.”
He said the Libya trip was mostly just a free vacation in the desert but the Nationalist Party also opposed “foreign aggression,” such as the U.S. air strikes. He sent a delegation of 13 to Tripoli. The Libyans paid for the trip and gave the group US$700.
Two years later, Mr. Andrews was invited to send another delegation, this time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the coup that brought Col. Gaddafi to power. Mr. Andrews sent Wolfgang Droege, the co-founder of the Canadian Ku Klux Klan. He had just been released from a California prison. Also on the trip was Mr. Bristow, who was posing as a racist while he spied on Mr. Droege. “We sent 17 the second time,” Mr. Andrews said.
In an interview, Mr. Bristow called it “the great Libyan adventure.” The Libyan government paid for everything. He said Mr. Droege saw the trip as a chance to lobby Col. Gaddafi’s regime to fund the Canadian racist movement.
“Droege was hoping to set up a long-term relationship with the Libyans,” recalled Mr. Bristow, who now lives in Alberta under the name Nathan Black. “He was looking at maybe there could be some stable, substantial movement funding from the Libyans.”
As documented in Warren Kinsella’s 1996 book Web of Hate, the delegates flew to Rome and then to Malta, where they boarded a ship to Libya. “We got taken off the boat and moved to a place that we jokingly referred to as Camp Gaddafi, which looked like it was a foreign worker type compound for oil workers or something,” Mr. Bristow said. “It had a swimming pool, almost like guest villas.”
The Nationalist Party delegates visited the Tripoli market and the ancient Phoenician trading post at Subratha. They toured the house bombed by U.S. warplanes, which had been converted into a museum.
“There wasn’t exactly a lot to do,” Mr. Bristow said. “It’s not like the Mai Tais and Margaritas were aplenty there. It would basically be your Mormon version of the all-inclusive.”
On the day of the revolutionary celebrations, a problem emerged over what to wear. The Libyans wanted the delegates in uniforms but Mr. Droege refused. “Droege said, ‘No, we’re not going to wear some sand n—ers’ uniform,’ ” Mr. Bristow said. “He said it’s not going to happen.”
In the end, the Canadians agreed to wear the uniforms, which were simply green pants and t-shirts. But the dispute exacerbated a rift in the Nationalist Party, and Mr. Droege began planning to form his own breakaway group.
Mr. Droege was souring on Libya. He had been unable to meet any officials to solicit funds, and he was troubled to learn that Col. Gaddafi was supporting Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. “This made the regime anathema to him, from a racist ideology point of view,” the Security Intelligence Review Committee wrote later in a report.
The main event was held at the Tripoli stadium. “It was your usual contingents of people with a variety of uniforms on from various Third World banana republic-type countries,” Mr. Bristow said. “You know, the Congo and places like that that sent some army people to march through the stadium in solidarity of Muammar, some speeches and that kind of grand spectacle.”
Before the delegation returned to the ship for the voyage back to Italy, a Libyan agent gave them $1,000. It was a disappointing outcome for Mr. Droege, who had envisioned a lucrative financial pipeline. “It didn’t work out the way Droege wanted it to,” Mr. Bristow said.
But even that meagre Libyan donation soon evaporated. On the return flight from Rome, the plane stopped in Chicago, where Mr. Droege was arrested for violating his parole conditions, which prohibited him from entering the United States.
The Libyan money paid his legal fees. Mr. Droege was escorted to the border and returned to Toronto. Within days, at least partly because of what happened in Libya, he formed his own racist group, the Heritage Front.
Mr. Droege continued to talk about getting money from the Libyans, and wanted to identify Libyan agents in Montreal so he could sell them information on Jewish groups in Canada. But it never happened.
Penetrated from the start by Canadian intelligence, the Heritage Front collapsed and Mr. Droege became a full-time drug dealer. In 2005, Mr. Droege was murdered by a delusional addict named Keith Deroux.
And with him died what Mr. Bristow called the Libyan Friendship Society. But he does have one memento, a photo he took of Mr. Droege standing next to a policeman in Malta. “We thought it was very funny, the only time when Droege was ever really friendly to a cop.”