In the last couple of years there has been a spike in overt violent right wing extremist attacks in western Canada. These crimes are being committed by white supremacists. Both Alberta and BC have been plagued by bombings, weapons caches, assaults, rapes and murders, which are all connected to white supremacist individuals/groups. This recent spike in extremist action in the western Canada is concerning for all of us; whether we are impacted directly or not by these horrific crimes.
As our society progresses and develops the promotion of multi-culturalism and diversity, we are also facing increasing number of threats from the extreme right. It is important to bring attention to these alarming facts. It is also important to remember that there is hope and that social change is possible. Society can change and so can people. However, all to often it proven that the impacts of hate crimes last lifetimes. In my case, I have changed but the crimes I committed in the past have left people wounded and traumatized. That is something that can never be changed or taken back. However, I can participate in drawing attention to patterns that others may not have insights into about the extreme right that contribute to creating more healing spaces for both the victims and the abusers.
I am an example of hope, diversity and compassion that can be seen through my work as an anti-racist activist, and a re-formed violent right wing extremist. As a right-wing-skinhead who has committed hundreds of assaults during my time in the white supremacist movement, I believe that my experiences can benefit society by offering insight into hate crimes, and the patterns that surround these violent acts. Over ten years ago I was awakened to a path of redemption and social change through epiphanies at the height of my extremist action.
As an author for http://www.lifeafterhate.org (LAH), which is one of the many projects launched by through the Against Violent Extremist (AVE) network, I am not only engaged in activism and writing in order to get my story out there, but to also serve as an insightful source of education to employ others to identify and prevent hate crimes and extremist action. My involvement with AVE and LAH is motivated in compassionate solidarity. The direction of AVE/LAH is an ideological and pragmatic position that I believe will result into a wider and deeper understanding through collective insight for our global community. The members of these organizations are made up of former extremists, victims/survivors, scholars/researchers, and grass roots activists who believe in collectivity. Here is the summary taken from the AVE website:
“The Against Violent Extremism (AVE) Network is a unique and powerful new global force in the ongoing struggle to tackle violent extremism. Former violent extremists (‘formers’) and survivors of violent extremism are empowered to work together to push back extremist narratives and prevent the recruitment of ‘at risk’ youths.
AVE uses technology to connect, exchange, disseminate and influence all forms of violent extremism (from far right and far left to al-Qaeda-linked and inspired and gangs). It leverages the lessons, experiences and networks of individuals who have dealt first-hand with extremism. Through the website and YouTube channel, members can stay in touch, share ideas, collaborate, find investment and partners, and project their messages to wider audiences.
AVE was seeded and launched by Google Ideas at the Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin in 2011. It is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and is a unique private sector partnership between ISD, Google Ideas, the Gen Next Foundation and Rehab Studio.” (www.againstviolentextremism.org)
As I am completing my Master’s degree in Social Work at UNBC and my ten years of experience as an anti-racist activist, instructor, researcher, counselor, and advocate I am prepared to offer all I can in every forum possible to the direction of the AVE.
I am in the first year of having my writing published, both auto-biographic creative non-fiction and poetry. I hope to inform and inspire social change and social justice. I often speak to students, professionals and law enforcement about the realities of the threat of violent extremism in western Canada, while offering support and networking that fosters healing for those who have suffered due to violent extremist actions.
In the early days of my positive life transformation I was challenged by a counselor I was seeing to apply to social work school in order to challenge my belief structure. Since there are very limited resources and services available to former members of violent extremist groups, which includes gangs, I believe that fostering change through education will nurture the direction for clearing the path for those who come to their own realization that violent extremism only ends in suffering, for everyone involved, and want to evoke true change and liberation in their own lives.