Canada’s enduring legacy of power, politics and racism

Canadians, of all political stripes, are not any less racist than their American neighbours

Pop quiz time.

1. At an election rally, Ku Klux Klan member J.F. Bryant is joined onstage by a confident young lawyer, who rails against those who speak other languages. Who was the young lawyer?

2. A politician travels abroad to meet a murderous, anti-Semitic fascist boss. The politician rhapsodizes about the fascist leader, calling him “eminently wise,” a “mystic,” and “deliverer of his people from tyranny.” Who were they?

3. A leading, prominent member of the clergy – one called “the spiritual father of a modern nation,” who was subsequently beloved by politicians of all stripes – writes that Jews are “traitors in our midst,” that his people are the true “chosen,” and that blacks, indigenous people and other minorities are “inferior elements” and “cancerous growths.” Who was the clergyman? Who were his powerful admirers?

4. A writer of many acclaimed books gives a sold-out speech at the most exclusive hotel in the land. Security at his event is provided by neo-Nazi skinheads. And he tells his audience, which includes local school trustees, that he is a “hardcore disbeliever” in the gas chambers at Auschwitz that killed 1.1 million Jews, Roma, Poles, dissidents and gays. Who was the writer? Where did he give his speech?

5. A revered founder of a political party calls for forced sterilization and segregation of people with “sub-normal” intelligence and morality. In his thesis, this man even says poverty is caused by “any[one] from high-grade moron to mentally defective” – that is, those of low moral character who are a burden on the public purse. Who was he?

6. In a 28-page booklet, the future leader of a western nation – and a future political party leader – demands that immigration not be permitted to “radically alter the ethnic makeup” of that nation, opposed gay rights, and (later) described a decision to permit Sikhs to wear turbans while serving their country a “needless concession to a Canadian minority.” Who wrote the booklet?

7. Which political party leader declared that “homosexuality is destructive to the individual, and in the long run, society”? What was the party affiliation of an elected legislator who said non-whites should be fired if their presence offends a customer? The partisanship of a candidate who said: “You know, we are letting in too many people from the Third World, the low blacks, the low Hispanics. They’re going to take over …”?

8. A leader’s top adviser says he doesn’t want his kids going to school with Jews. He approves of campaigns to deny the vote to blacks. Who does The New Yorker say is now one of his closest friends?

9. Which party leader’s top adviser started a media firm that publishes articles about why they “hate Jews,” and whose correspondents seemingly agree with anti-Semites about “the Jewish question,” and who approvingly quote neo-Nazi leaders?

I could go on, but space is limited. Here are the answers.

The young lawyer in number one? John Diefenbaker, railing against the French.

The leaders in number two? Prime Minister Mackenzie King, talking about Adolf Hitler. (And King’s Liberal government kept Jews fleeing the Holocaust out of Canada.)

In number three, that was Catholic priest Lionel Groulx, after whom subway stations and streets are named in Quebec, and Liberal Leader Claude Ryan and PQ Premier Rene Levesque, who worshipped him.

The acclaimed writer in number four? That was British “historian” David Irving, speaking at the Chateau Laurier in 1989. I was there, as a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen. I asked the hotel’s management whether they cared about renting their famed facilities to neo-Nazis. They told me they didn’t.

In number five, the identity of the leader who favoured Nazi-style eugenics and sterilization of what he saw as his inferiors? That was Tommy Douglas, founder of today’s New Democratic Party.

The authors of that little racist booklet referred to in example six? That was Stephen Harper, future prime minister, and Preston Manning, future leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. They wrote the Blue Book, which became the basis for Reform Party policy.

And number seven? That’s an easy one. Those racists were all Reform Party candidates or MPs, some of whom went on to be MPs for the Canadian Alliance or the modern Conservative Party.

And number eight? That’s Donald Trump’s just-removed adviser, Steve Bannon, who The New Yorker says is a close friend and “talks regularly” with Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary.

That last one? That’s a more recent example. The media organization is called The Rebel, and it was partly founded by Hamish Marshall in 2015 – and The Rebel Media have giddily published racist and anti-Semitic material for quite a while. And Marshall was the guy who led the leadership campaign of none other than Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer.

Final question in our little pop quiz: as we observe the tragedy unfolding in the United States, before and after Charlottesville, as we conclude, as we must, that Trump is a white supremacist, do we really think that we Canadians are superior to our American neighbours? Do we really think we Canadians, of all political stripes, are somehow less racist?

Answer: We’re not better. We’re not less racist.

Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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