|Neo-Nazis are best simply ignored
The Ottawa Citizen | April 28, 2009
In 1965 and 1966, the Canadian Jewish Congress helped organize the fledgling Canadian Nazi Party. That sounds crazy, but it's true, and I wrote about it in Shakedown, my new book about Canada's human rights commissions.
In a letter to the editor in the Citizen last week, the CJC's current co-president, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, called my book's description of the CJC's role "fiction." He said all the CJC did for the Nazis was buy them a bottle of rum.
It's true that the CJC did buy drinks for Nazis in the 1960s. That's pretty strange in itself, and I'd like to hear more of Rabbi Bulka's thoughts on spending Jewish charitable donations that way. But the CJC did a lot more than that: they hired an ex-cop named John Garrity to go to work for the Canadian Nazi Party.
Garrity helped organize that rag-tag band of losers, though they never amounted to anything except for fodder for the press.
There were only a dozen active Nazis when Garrity joined them and they weren't really a political party. He called them "harmless misfits," and they were -- their leader, John Beattie, was a nervous, gaunt, unemployed 24-year-old clerk who spent much of his time dodging angry Jews who tried to beat him up. (One of Garrity's jobs was to help Beattie escape street fights.)
Garrity brought more than just rum to the Nazis. He brought with him pretty much the only organizational talent the group had. They put him in charge of membership. Garrity called himself the "Heinrich Himmler" of the party, and a "Nazi leader for the Jewish Congress."
I'd like Rabbi Bulka's thoughts on that, too.
Of course, Garrity helped his paymasters at the CJC, too, giving them information about the names of party members and donors. And when Garrity finally quit the Nazis, he wrote a tell-all about his adventure in Maclean's magazine.
Garrity larded that report with personal insults toward Beattie and the Nazis. But he did acknowledge that they had never done, or even contemplated doing, anything illegal. All of the violence he witnessed was directed at Beattie, usually by Jewish vigilantes. "Sadly, it is the ... anti-Nazi extremists who, in their attempts to destroy Beattie, provide him with most of the publicity he craves. If it weren't for the riots and the assaults and the public protest meetings they hold, there'd be no real news in Beattie," Garrity wrote.
And that is the importance of this story and why I put it in my book about human rights commissions. Beattie hadn't done anything illegal. He was just a loser who believed in a discredited ideology. But the CJC wanted to bring in political censorship laws and I believe they needed to build up the threat to persuade Parliament to abridge Canada's freedom of speech.
Garrity puffed up a group of Nazi nobodies into a national menace, first through organizational support and then through spectacular media publicity. And, sure enough, Parliament enacted section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which censors offensive speech.
That's become a pattern. Twenty years after the Canadian Nazi Party vanished, CSIS, Canada's spy agency, inserted an operative named Grant Bristow into another rag-tag racist group called the Heritage Front.
Unlike Garrity, Bristow didn't play second-fiddle.
He became the boss, turning the Heritage Front into Canada's leading white supremacist group. This time it wasn't just Jewish money that was spent propping up neo-Nazis -- all taxpayers paid for it.
Which brings us to the present day -- and back to Rabbi Bulka and the section 13 censorship law. Canada's largest customer of section 13 is Richard Warman, who has been the complainant in all but two cases heard by the tribunal this decade. The CJC was so impressed that they gave Warman an award.
But, in a stunning human rights tribunal ruling last month, Warman himself was rebuked for posting anti-Semitic comments on Stormfront, a neo-Nazi website, including a message calling Jews "scum." Warman has stated that he was attempting to gather information on real Nazis, but the tribunal called his actions "disappointing and disturbing," and ruled that he risked encouraging more hateful messages himself.
Warman's actions appalled the tribunal, but apparently not the CJC. Just as the CJC did with Garrity, Nazi opponents continue to stir up neo-Nazi incidents -- as if there aren't enough real threats to Jews as it is.
Perhaps Rabbi Bulka can explain that one, too.
Ezra Levant is the author of Shakedown: How our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights.