A former teacher and two-time Mississauga, Ont. mayoral hopeful is the international director of a group that sympathized with the motivations behind the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting on June. 17.
Paul Fromm was a school teacher under the Peel Region Board of Education until he was removed from the classroom in 1997 and was stripped of his teaching licence in 2007 because of ties to racist organizations and activities.
Fromm is the executive director of the Canadian Association for Free Expression; a Mississauga-based group that has fought against anti-hate-legislation, immigration policy and laws to protect gay rights.
But, he also serves as the international director of the Council of Conservative Citizens — the organization whose white supremacist writings were cited in suspected gunman Dylann Roof‘s so-called manifesto posted online ahead of the rampage at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Fromm a neo-Nazi on its website and posted a picture of him standing before a Confederate flag holding a copy of a book called Jewish Supremacism written by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
Global News attempted to contact Fromm by phone and via Facebook, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
A Facebook page linked to Fromm, under the name Frederick Fromm, contains several recent posts discussing the Emanuel A.M.E. shooting — in which nine innocent congregants of the historic black church were gunned down after a Bible study — and Monday’s decision to remove the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism in the southern U.S., from outside the South Carolina state capitol building.
In one post, Fromm discusses his phone conversation with National Post reporter Douglas Quan and his connection to the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The page also had images of the same apartheid-era South African and Rhodesian flags that were seen on Roof’s jacket, in a photograph that circulated after the shooting. A post on the page criticized media for “sullying the symbols and heritage of White Europeans” and “malign(ing)” the Confederate flag.
A video posted June 17, the same day as the Charleston shooting, referenced the June 8 shooting of Edmonton Police Const. Daniel Woodall, while issuing a warrant at the home of Norman Raddatz.
Fromm, in a video taken in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, referred to the hate crime unit Woodall worked for as a “hate squad,” saying it was “the political police and should have nothing to do with policing.”
He appeared to sympathize with Raddatz having a team of police “storm” his home.
Raddatz, after opening fire on Woodall and the other police officers on site, later shot himself inside his house as it burned down.
Fromm considers himself an advocate for free speech, having spoken in defence of late New Brunswick professor Robert McCorkill who, in his will, wanted to leave $250,000 worth of rare coins and artifacts to the U.S.-based “white supremacist, anti-Semetic” organization the National Alliance. A court ruling prevented that from happening. An appeal of the case was heard in New Brunswick last week.
Right-wing extremist groups still a concern in Canada
Richard Marceau, the general counsel and senior government adviser for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), was also involved in the McCorkill case, and knows all about Fromm.
“Paul Fromm… is not new to the scene of less than benevolent individuals,” Marceau told Global News. But he explained Fromm is by no means the only one perpetuating hate.
The CIJA has staff dedicated to not just closely monitoring hate speech and acts of hate but also protecting Jewish institution and communities from acts of hatred.
“Unfortunately our community has lost any illusion that this kind of toxic and nauseous ideology will disappear and that’s why we’re vigilant,” he said. “We’ve made progress in the last few years, but don’t rest on our laurels.”
Statistics Canada noted a 17 per cent drop in the number of reported hate crimes across Canada between 2012 and 2013.
Of the 1,167 police-reported hate crimes in 2013, 585 were motivated by race or ethnicity while 326 were driven by religion.
But, that statistical improvement is not great as it may seem, according to Alan Dutton, the national director of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society.
He’s critical of how Canada regards right-wing hate groups and the way in which the legal system deals with them.
“We don’t address it in terms of radicalization,” he told Global News on Tuesday. The government has focused on “one aspect of domestic terrorism and radicalization of youth” — activity motivated or inspired by Islamist groups such as ISIS or al-Shabab — and isn’t “looking at the broader picture that has been developing for generations.”
While some jurisdictions have had successes in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, Dutton said the government is “intent on blaming young Muslims for hate crime and domestic terrorism and they ignore the problem of radicalization of white youth into hate groups.”
He said this is an area in which authorities have to be “vigilant” as right-wing hate groups prey on “disenfranchised” youth — much like ISIS does when it lures young foreign fighters and supporters to Syria and Iraq.
“With unemployment as high as it is for young people sometimes they go to these groups… some of those groups are extremely anti-immigrant and blaming immigrants of various nationalities for the problems that we are facing.”
PLEASE NOTE: An earlier version of this story indicated Paul Fromm was fired by the Peel Regional School Board and had was stripped of his teaching licence in 1997. The school board fired Fromm in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the Ontario College of Teachers revoked his licence.