Panel members shared an open and honest conversation about how to break the cycle of hate and racism at a forum held in Calgary on Wednesday.
Among those who took part in the discussion was TM Garret, a former white supremacist who used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“It is shame and embarrassment… trying to understand the person I used to be,” Garret told Global News.
The speakers shared their perspectives at the13th annual GlobalFest Human Rights Forum.
Garret said he is not proud of his past but that he has made amends and now spreads a message of compassion as a human rights activist.
Garret said he left a life of hate behind in Germany and now tours across the world speaking about how to stand up against racism.
“The harm I have done, how many people I recruited through my literature and planting a seed,” he said, “I unfortunately planted a seed that many people have harvested, but it taught me something: if I plant a seed to make it good, I know that will grow too.
Garret addressed a crowd at this year’s forum alongside Tony McAleer. He too said he has undergone a transformation from when he used to be a violent extremist.
“I went from listening to Elton John and Queen to the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and it was only a matter of time before I got into punk and then to the skinheads, and when the music turned racist, I went all in into the world of white supremacy,” McAleer said.
He said his life without hate has allowed him to heal others and himself.
“I’ve thought long and hard about this, and in order for me to bring light in the world, I had to be in darkness,” McAleer said.
“We come from one of two places: love or fear,” he added. “We get to choose which one and we can inspire others to join in.
“If we do nothing, fear takes over and fear wins.”