1. Myths About Hate Groups


The media and civil libertarians ignore the harm done by hate speech and defend hate speech by claiming that freedom of speech is an absolute right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, the Charter recognizes that the right to freedom of expression must be balanced by the protection of other equally important rights. Civil libertarians and the media need to recognize that freedom of expression is an empty right if identifiable groups are not protected from hate propaganda. How can members of a group exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly if they are the targets of hatred and are systematically attacked simply because of the colour of their skin, gender, religion, sexual orientation or ability? No one would claim that yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre should be protected. In fact, those who advocate the freedom to spread hate are the first to use libel law to silence their opponents. In mature democracies, freedom of expression comes with responsibility. The question at issue is: "Who sets the standards, hate mongers or responsible citizens through democratic institutions?"


It is often claimed that hate groups should be ignored because they do not create racism but are simply a reflection of a racist culture. While it is true that hate groups would not be tolerated if it were not for culturally-based racism, hate groups exist to create divisions between groups and to produce and reproduce ideologies that support racism, xenophobia and intolerance. In fact, hate groups are not just a reflection of a particular cultural world view, but are active agents in helping to maintain and spread racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and intolerance. Some hate groups are explicit about fostering racism, prejudice and violence as a means of orchestrating a future "racial war." For example, Racial Loyalty, the newsletter of the Church Of The Creator states that: "What is good for the White Race is the highest value; what is bad for the White Race is the ultimate sin." The subtitle of Racial Loyalty, states that it is the "Spearhead of the White Racial Holy War." The subtitle refers to the belief in a "race" war and propagates the notion that it is the destiny of the so-called white race to bring civilization to the world.


There is a myth that the best strategy for dealing with hate groups is to simply ignore them. It is argued that giving racists and homophobes attention simply rewards them for asocial behaviour and helps them attract youth. Some community groups have, in fact, lobbied the news media to ignore incidents of hate group activity and governments to boycott groups that track and monitor hate group activity. The mainstream media for its part has seldom devoted serious attention to the problem of hate groups and youth recruitment for fear of libel suits the deluge of letters and calls that come from racists who naturally object to adverse news coverage. Some government bureaucrats have also attempted to prevent discussion about hate group activity because it "causes fear" in the community and may prevent people attending multicultural celebrations. However, the overwhelming sentiment expressed by community leaders and experts in the field is that exposure, not concealment, is the best strategy to combat organized hate to undermine their ability to recruit youth and commit further violence.


It would be of great relief to monitory communities and groups that track hate groups, if legislation, government programs and law enforcement alone could prevent hate motivated violence. Unfortunately, hate crime legislation in Canada is weak and education only works when people are ready to learn. To make matters worse, hate groups are well funded and are successfully recruiting alienated young men and women. As a result, the main line of defense against hate groups has been the individuals and communities that are outraged by the reemergence of racist and fascist groups that want to deny non-Europeans entry to Canada and want to restrict citizenship rights to "protect European values and culture". Hate groups feed on fear and intolerance. Leaving hate groups to law enforcement agencies will not result in the elimination of the climate of intolerance growing across Canada. In fact, law enforcement agencies, hate crime units, and the legal system can only deal with the most extreme forms of hate after a law has been broken. Law enforcement agencies can not "expose or oppose" groups or leaders of groups to protect a community nor can they help neighbourhoods respond to hate through community rallies and anti-racism events. Indeed, victims of hate amy, in fact, be reluctant to contact police agencies because of the negative perception of law enforcement agencies.


Focusing on just a few of the most sensational aspects of the hate group movement has created a myth that members of racist hate groups are simply a collection of uneducated high school dropouts kooks, loonies or fools. However, as Barret (1987) and Aho (1990) show membership in racist hate groups is not correlated with low intelligence or low levels of formal education. According to Barret (1987: 35-39) study of the racist right in Canada, fully 62% of the members of hate groups he interviewed had attended university, college or had technical school training. Aho's (1990: 139-146) detailed study of the racist right in the United States confirms Barret's findings. Research shows that hate groups recruit from every occupational level and they target bright, educated young men and women. For example, the White Aryan Resistance Movement is designed to draw blue collar workers while CAUSE attracts lawyers. The presence of professors, teachers and lawyers in extreme right groups is not a new phenomenon. From the Anti-Asiatic Exclusion League of the nineteen hundreds, to the fascist parties of the 1930s, to modern "free speech" leagues, members of racist groups are drawn from every stratum of society. Racism and bigotry are often not about ignorance and fear but are based in profit, power and control. How effective is cross-cultural and diversity training alone when groups and populist political parties world-wide profit from creating bigotry and fear? The result of research is not entirely positive.


A dangerous myth is that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan do not exist in Canada. Many students in British Columbia are taught, in fact, that racism was eradicated in Canada after the Second World War and hate groups are simply a US or Western European problem. If there is racism in Canada it is a more gentile and subtle type that is fast disappearing with advanced education. In reality, Canada is home to some of the most virulent hate mongers in the world. Canada is one of the top five exporters of Holocaust denial propaganda to Germany where to deny the Holocaust is a criminal offense and German authorities have lobbied the Canadian government to take action against the export of hate material to Germany, but with little effect. Canada is also home to hate sites on the Internet, hate Bulletin Board Services, the headquarters of one of the world's largest production companies for racist magazines and CDs and had the most sophisticated telephone hate message system in North America until it was shut down by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. There is a mountain of evidence that not only are hate groups common to Canada, but they have a very long history in the county stemming back to first colonization. To believe that hate is simply a problem that is imported to Canada is dangerous because it ignores the conditions that produce and reproduce hate in our own homes, communities and country.


It has been erroneously assumed that hate groups are not well organized nationally or internationally. As Kinsella (1994) shows, however, there is a "web of hate" in Canada with international connections. To give just a few examples of this web of hate: Tony McAleer of the Canadian Liberty Net based in Vancouver, BC flew to Auschwitz with John Metzger, the son of infamous Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance based in Fallbrook, California to air a live televised show to challenge the history of the Holocaust. To their credit, German authorities arrested McAleer and Metzger and deported them. When Surrey, BC based Odin's Law held a concert in a local community hall in September, 1997. Pictures taken at the event clearly show California and New York state license plates. The Toronto based Heritage Front has also held several meetings featuring Dennis Mahon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan based in the US mid-west and Tom and John Metzger of California. Canadian authorities arrested and deported the Metzgers only after they had spoken to a sell-out crowd. A growing number of Canadians also make annual pilgrimages to the Aryan Nation compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. In 1996, Charles Scott then resident in Chilliwack, BC, was honoured by Aryan Nations as "man of the year" for his racist recruiting. Finally, Paul Fromm, a former Ontario school teacher who was fired in February, 1997 for breaching an agreement to not associate with white supremacists, has spoken on a number of occasions at gatherings attended by well-known racists. The presence in Canada of a white supremacist social movement with important international ties necessitates a wholesale re-evaluation of contemporary anti-racism theory and practise. In fact, hate groups in Canada produce an alarming quantity of very sophisticated newsletters, journals, books, computer bulletin boards, and web pages of far better quality than anti-racist organizations.


Hate groups are assumed to be either strictly racist, anti-First Nations, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-immigration or anti-union. In fact, hate groups are opportunistic and will expand into areas where they can garner support, recruit new members, or raise money because of tensions or divisions within a community. An obvious example of the ability of hate groups to capitalize on current issues is Aboriginal land title. Hate groups are flourishing in the towns and villages dependent on resource extraction throughout Canada. Anti-Native hate groups argue that Aboriginal land title is a "special right" that creates "super citizens" and that recognition of legal entitlements leads to so-called race-based laws and apartheid. Hate groups argue that Aboriginal rights will take away jobs from "ordinary" Canadians and will eventually subvert democracy. Rather than simply a marginal perspective, the arguments of the Heritage Front, the KKK and a host of other white supremacist organizations regarding Native title have entered the mainstream through some mainstream political parties.

But hate groups do not just target just people of colour, or Jews, but actively support the most extreme elements of anti-choice groups. A number of former members of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, have direct ties to anti-choice groups. The leader of the Northern Foundation, Anne Hartmann, plays an important role in Realwomen. Barry Wray and Ernie Britskie have picketed the Everywoman's Health Centre in Vancouver. Wray's brother, Dan, was the Grand Titan of the BC KKK in the 1980s and he now is associated with the Pro-Life Association based in Melville, Saskatchewan. Dan also contributes to The Interim - the Campaign Life Coalition's newsletter. Barry Wray, Al Hooper (another long time member of the BC KKK) and Tony McAleer, a former skinhead recruiter, proprietor of the racist Canadian Liberty Net and manager of the racist rock band, Odin's Law, were charged with assault in 1990 an incident in which a passerby objected to them handing out Aryan Nations propaganda. Realwoman BC President Peggy Steachy has also spoken at events with Dan Wray. One meeting was held at the Croatian Cultural Centre and sponsored by the La Rouche organization and Life Gazette. Steachy is the editor of a pro-life newsletter based in Surrey, BC.


There has been a serious lack of research, media coverage and education about hate groups in Canada. This has resulted in the various myths examined above. Canadians will not take concrete steps to help eliminate hate until they understand that hate is real, alive and well in Canada and that there are non-violent solutions to racism and hate group activity. The following pages examine the guidelines that we recommend for effective community response to hate group activity.