August 20, 2017 11:29 am

Canada’s racist movement: a history of violence

ATF agent John Osburg with weapons and flag seized in 1981 from Canadian and U.S. racists planning Operation Red Dog, a coup on the island of Dominica.

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Public attention to Canada’s racist movement swells in the aftermath of events like Charlottesville and the Quebec City mosque attack, but it has long been there, lingering in places like Stormfront, run by former Klansman Don Black

On the Canada section of the U.S. white nationalist Internet forum Stormfront, you can buy “Not Muslim/Jewish” buttons as well as t-shirts that read, “Stop Immigration Now” and “It’s not illegal to be white … yet.”

“Diversity is a code word for white genocide,” reads a post in a thread titled, “Canada is over.” Another post seeks recruits for an Ontario group called the White Nationalist Front. “Long live the white man. Sieg heil,” a post reads.

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Public attention to Canada’s racist movement swells in the aftermath of events like Charlottesville and the Quebec City mosque attack, but it has long been there, lingering in places like Florida-based Stormfront, run by former Klansman Don Black.

As a hate crimes investigator in Ontario and B.C., Terry Wilson has probed the Canadian franchises of groups like the Hammerskins and Volksfront. “These are well-organized, internationally-connected hate groups,” said the retired police detective.

Violence is central to far-right beliefs, said Wilson, a former member of the B.C. Hate Crime Team. “Most, if not all, far right groups believe that violence is the way to start racial holy war, which will restore the white persons’ position as the rulers of the world.”

Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege (right) with Aarne Polli.

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During the 1920s, Ku Klux Klan chapters opened in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in the ‘70s, the Western Guard rallied around slogans like Keep Canada White, Jews Out and Hitler was Right.

Inspired after meeting former Klan boss David Duke in Louisiana, Wolfgang Droege and James McQuirter resurrected the Canadian KKK on Toronto’s Dundas St. in the early 1980s under the motto Racial Purity for Canadian Security.

To advance their goal of a white Canada, Droege and McQuirter helped organized a coup d’état, joining forces with Black and a team of mercenaries to overthrow the government of Dominica in the eastern Caribbean. “Our purpose was to make a lot of money for white nationalist circles,” McQuirter said.

Undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents infiltrated the plot, codenamed Operation Red Dog, and arrested Droege and Black as they were loading weapons onto a ship in New Orleans. McQuirter was arrested in Canada.

Mike Howell, captain of the ship hired to transport Droege and his team to Dominica for the invasion. He tipped of the ATF.

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From his prison cell, Droege played penitent. “I would like to return to Canada, and to my home and live a more positive and productive life,” he wrote to the trial judge. But upon his deportation to Canada, he resumed his attempts to build the far right.

Initially, he wanted to unite the KKK and Aryan Nations into a single national organization he proposed calling the Society for the Preservation of the White Race. Instead he decided to name his new group the White Heritage Front.

Launched in 1989, the Heritage Front aimed to infiltrate mainstream Canadian politics and end non-white immigration. It complied lists of enemies, threatened to kill opponents, and randomly attacked minorities, notably a Tamil refugee who was left paralyzed.

“The end game was a race war in which they would take over part of the country and turn it into a whites-only territory,” said Elisa Hategan, who was recruited into the Heritage Front as a teenager but later turned against racism and fed information to activists and police.

The collapse of the Heritage Front was hastened by its security officer Grant Bristow, who turned out to be an undercover agent planted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Droege went on to become a drug dealer until his murder in 2005.

That same year, Ernst Zundel, a Germany Holocaust denier who lived in Toronto and had assumed a leadership role in the Canadian white supremacist movement, was deported as a national security threat. He died in Germany on Aug. 6.

German right wing extremist Ernst Zundel sits in a court in Mannheim, southern Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005 at the beginning of a trial to face charges including incitement libel and disparaging the dead. German authorities have confirmed that far-right activist Zundel, who was deported from Canada and served jail time in Germany for denying the Holocaust ever happened, has died.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Probst

For the past dozen years, the racist far-right has been fractured, without a prominent national leader or organization. But it has survived, and now it’s angry at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, emboldened by President Donald Trump and amplified by social media.

“Nowadays, they’ve jettisoned the Klansman’s robes and the Hitlerite uniforms for shirts and ties, and they’ve moderated their language,” said Warren Kinsella, who exposed the racist movement in his book Web of Hate and recently authored Recipe for Hate. “They learned that from David Duke. And starting in the mid-90s they embraced the Internet with a vengeance.”

Wilson said the Canadian racist right was “very strong” but different from its U.S. counterpart. While the American far right has vocal leaders, Canada’s hate crime laws give pause to racists with leadership aspirations, making them cautious.

“Every time a far right leader goes public, the police focus on him or her. Inevitably the public leadership is very short lived and they fall out of favor,” he said. “Therefore in Canada the leadership is very much behind the scenes, but that does not say there is no leadership.”

Stewart.Bell@GlobalNews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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