ORGANIZING RULES: A Strategic Guide to Combating Hate Groups
Dale Cornish and Alan Dutton, Editors
Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society
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Printed in Canada
Published by the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society
POB 2783 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 3X2
Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
Main entry title:
1. Canada - Hate Groups
2. Canada - Racism
3. Canada - Social Movements
4. Canada - Canadian Society
“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small. The most difficult things in the world must be done while they are still easy, the greatest things in the world must be done while they are still small. For this reason sages never do what is great, and this is why they can achieve that greatness.” ( Art of War , Sun Tzu)
After a thorough examination of fascism in Canadian history, Louise Betcherman concluded that: “During the thirties Canadian fascists had been permitted, in the name of freedom of speech, to spread their message of hate unhindered, but post-war revulsion over Hitler's enormities led to legislation to combat overt racism. Fascist movements and racism did not vanish, but withdrew to await a more welcoming climate” ( The Swastika and the Maple Leaf : 1975; 147).
It was just a few short years after Betcherman's pronouncement that Canadian fascists took to the streets once again, having become convinced that a “welcoming climate” was at hand and that Canada was theirs for the taking. Throughout the early 1980s in Toronto and Vancouver, the Ku Klux Klan emerged once again from the shadows to help build a new and improved white supremacist movement that could withstand the challenge of Canadian hate crime law. Even the conservative press in Canada could not ignore the resurgence of the Klan and newspaper headlines began to scream that fascist groups had re-surfaced and that Nazi groups were once again recruiting youth in both small towns and major urban centers throughout the country.
The resurgence of violent racist and fascist groups caught Canadians by surprise. Academics as well as government and law enforcements agencies were slow to realize the danger to public safety and to democratic institutions posed by right wing domestic terrorist groups such as the Western Guard, National Party, Canadian League of Rights, Ku Klux Klan and Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Aryan Nations. Anti-fascist and anti-racist groups were also ill prepared to support the targets and survivors of violent hate groups or to effectively respond to hate group recruitment having been lulled into believing that it could not happen here again.
One of the first government agencies to recognize the growing threat of domestic right wing terrorism was the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). By the late 1980s CSIS had begun to recognize that white supremacist groups in Canada were planning and directing “the use of serious violence as a tactic to achieve their stated political objective[s].” The political objective of white supremacist groups was, of course, to commit genocide, overthrow elected governments and to create a white racial state. According to CSIS documents, white supremacist groups were also showing a “growing sophistication in weaponry” and that there was a growing threat of the “co-ordination between extremist groups in Canada and internationally.”
CSIS was clearly concerned, as were law enforcement and intelligence agencies throughout other industrialized countries, that right wing terrorists groups had become a serious threat to those who were not Christian, Northern European or able bodied and to national security itself. CSIS was particularly concerned that white supremacist groups had begun to infiltrate mainstream political parties in Canada. In fact, CSIS was well aware that white supremacist groups had infiltrated both the Reform Party of Canada and the Social Credit Party of Ontario. CSIS had information that one of the largest hate groups in Canadian history -- the neo-nazi Heritage Front -- had organized security for Preston Manning, the leader of the Reform Party of Canada on more than one occasion. CSIS claimed that Paul Fromm -- a school teacher from Ontario, had contacted a member of a British Columbia Reform Party of Canada constituency association in the Lower Mainland to arrange a celebration of Hitler's birthday. While the Reform Party was notified of the threat of neo-Nazi infiltration attempts, many months went by before the most prominent neo-Nazi organizers were expelled from the Party. But anti-racist researchers feared that not all the neo-nazis were identified or expelled from the Party.
What can be done about well-financed racist and fascist groups that attempt to take over mainstream political parties? What can be done when racist skinheads parade in downtown Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto yelling “White pride!”, “White power!”? What can be done when young white Canadian youth make a business out of promoting white power bands like Odin's Law in Surrey, BC or the Toronto-based RAHOWA (the acronym for Racial Holy War), or when the Knights of Ku Klux Klan begin to recruit youth in your town or neighbourhood? What can be done when newspaper columnists like Trevor Lautens of the Vancouver Sun argue that 500 racist skinheads in Canada are no cause for alarm and that better hate crime laws are not needed? What can be done when mainstream newspapers promote anti-semitism?
There is no simple solution to racism and bigotry or to any other complex socio-economic problem. But there are ways and means to help expose and oppose racist and fascist groups. Exposing and opposing hate groups is critical to combating hate groups since many attempt to conceal their real objectives and operate under the pretext of freedom of expression or patriotism, or some such ruse. By exposing and opposing hate groups, their activities are brought to light, community-based coalitions can be formed to support the targets of their hatred and the recruitment of youth into hate groups can be prevented. How a particular community responds to hate group activity depends, however, on the resources that can be mobilized, the public perception of the problem and the proposed solution and how public attention can be focused on the negative consequences of anti-democratic forces for all Canadians. There is no cookie cutter approach to organizing, but the following chapters offer insight into the response of a number of efforts to counteract racism and hate group activity in Canada.
There have been many successful anti-racist and anti-fascist coalitions in Canadian history. But much of this history has not been well documented or brought to public attention. Groups involved in the day-to-day struggle of organizing communities, schools, and neighbourhoods have little time to chronicle their struggles, strategies and victories. Certainly, the mainstream media has been extremely negligent in providing information about community-based initiatives to fight hate. For much of the mainstream media, anti-racism is just one side of the coin with racists and fascists on the other. Are not racists just excersizing their freedom of expression and association and would not any restriction inhibit the right of the media to present the news? Does not democracy depend on the free flow of ideas, even if minority groups suffer and are prevented from excersizing their rights because of violence and intimidation?
In fact, much of the Canadian media until quite recently has seen racist groups as more newsworthy than opposition to those groups. As a result, few outside of the city of Winnipeg appreciate what the Western Anti-Racist Network and United Against Racism have accomplished working with youth and few outside the city of Toronto appreciate what Anti-Racist Action has accomplished in that city. Even fewer know what youth in Provost, Alberta accomplished and how they stopped Aryan Nations organizing in their town.
The absence of accurate information about anti-racist organizing is a major problem in combating hate groups since everyone must reinvent the wheel. To make matters worse, each community that is targeted feels isolated and vulnerable. The present handbook is intended to help address this lack of knowledge and to provide assistance in combating hate group activity. The handbook is based on years of exposing and opposing hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations in both small communities and large urban cities throughout Canada. The argument of the handbook is not that government and law enforcement are not needed. The reverse is true: Good laws are badly needed. The argument of the present handbook is that real sustainable change must come from community-based and community-driven initiatives and that governments should actively support those initiatives instead of feeling threatened by them.
The first chapter examines several case studies of anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing against hate groups in Canada. The chapter does not pretend to discover a general model for responding to hate groups that can be used in every part of the country without regard to particular conditions. There is no cookie cutter approach to successful community organizing on any issue. Instead, it is hoped that by presenting a range of anti-racist strategies and tactics that have been employed by different types of groups facing very different conditions and problems, a number of useful general strategic guidelines can be developed for application by groups concerned by the rising tide of hate and violence.
Chapter two provides a summary of those guidelines for non-violent community action. It is argued that we should not fear exposing hate mongers because of the concern that public attention will only create further support for racists. In reality, ignoring hate groups gives them tacit license to practice hate. A lack of opposition to hate group activity is interpreted by those on the far right as a sign of support; that the wider society supports racism, homophobia and bigotry and is not concerned with the immediate victims of hate. Silence in the face of hate also adds to the sense of alienation that the targets of crime experience and to their frustration with seemingly uncaring and unresponsive government agencies. In fact, ignoring racist and fascist groups and allowing them to organize outside the glare of public attention will ensure that hate groups will increase in size and number.
Chapter three presents an outline of the types of security precautions undertaken by pro-choice activists in Vancouver, British Columbia in the wake of the shooting of an abortion provider in the city. Security precautions are often taken for granted by activists until they face attack, but steps to ensure the safety of individuals and groups are critical to successful coalition building. The chapter includes a checklist of security steps for specific situations.
Chapter four examines the legal remedies available for fighting hate in Canada. Hate crime legislation is weak in Canada and amendments to the Criminal Code are past due. An examination of legal redress by the Southern Poverty Law Center based in Montgomery Alabama is provided to illustrate what groups have been able to accomplish in other jurisdictions.
Chapter five examines anti-racist theory and concepts. To effectively combat hate groups, it is important not only to expose and oppose them, but it is also important to develop a language and understanding of hate groups as a new and growing social movement. The use of racist concepts and theory have hampered efforts to combat racism and have compounded the problems of working effectively with the mainstream media. The chapter offers suggestions for responding to assumptions about the nature of hate groups generally made by reporters and news agencies.
The handbook ends with a glossary of terms, a comprehensive bibliography, a list of resources for anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing, and guidelines for dealing with racial violence. Readers are advised to contact the organizations listed in Appendix A for professional advice on how to deal with hate groups, security issues and how to support the targets of hate. Readers are also cautioned that the information provided in this handbook is not meant to be legal advice and that legal council and community groups with specific experience fighting hate should be consulted.