This blog article is the first known publication in Canada related to Firearms, Gangs and Extremists that specifically comments on the intersections of gangs, extremism, firearms law and Internet in Canada.
This article is written with knowledge (of the author) that national security teams across Canada have failed to address the alarming fact that para military extremist training camps have emerged all over western Canada in the last two years. These training camps use both firearms and improvised explosives.
Also, gang units and national security teams are aware of the connections between gangs and extremist groups throughout Canada but choose to not address the interplay between gangs and extremists.
This article is written with the intention to contribute to a momentum of ideas for addressing a real problem: Firearms, Gangs, Extremists and the Internet.
In Canada there are stringent licensing requirements for issuing firearms licenses and buying firearms. Canadian governments (federal, provincial and municipal) started a national discussion on banning all handguns, along with other changes to existing firearms laws.
In recent years, extremism and terrorism has become a concerning reality in Canada. There have been numerous attacks, and depending upon who you talk to there have been more attacks than we are able to count and track. Some extremist and terrorist attacks in Canada have included firearms, however, I have yet to see any data on whether these firearms were legally owned or not.
Gangs have also wreaked havoc with gun violence in communities across Canada for decades. There is little data, to my knowledge, that evidences legal firearms are used in these attacks, rather, it appears that the majority of gang gun violence is perpetrated with illegal firearms. That being said, there seems to be a growing trend that somehow active gang members and extremists are able to acquire gun licenses; none of the proposed changes to firearms law address this matter.
Recent Media Coverage
Vice media has recently covered a story of Vernon resident Kaz Nowlin who has been a member of several right wing extremist organizations, including Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”) and III% (“3%”). Kaz and others openly advertise online that they are legal firearms owners and demand that their membership engages in training to protect Canada from, primarily, Muslim terrorists. Kaz and his crew have been engaging in combat training, while attempting to deceive media into believing they only use ‘air soft’ guns. SOO and 3% are not the only ones engaged in para military training in western Canada; and there are groups that are even more concerning (this will be saved for another day).
The SOO have garnered fame within media as being debated as a community interest group. The first Canadian SOO President was an employee of the Manitoba Provincial-Government who was publicly known to be connected to the Hells Angels. SOO is a right wing extremist group that has gained permissions to fly gang colors by the Hells Angels. Other members of SOO are known to have close affiliations with Hells Angels as well.
Journalists have contributed to recruitment campaigns of the SOO and similar groups. Since then, SOO has experienced a high turnover in members. Many SOO members have defected and became 3% members in western Canada. The 3% is an American right wing militia group that now intends to stand as a vanguard against Islam; both SOO and 3% are groups rooted within a movement that targets and promotes hate against an ethnic and religious minority in Canada.
Extremist groups and gangs now recruit and advertise online. The Internet is the primary tool to access mouldable minds, and is often an effective recruitment tool for dangerous people. Social media platformsare riddled with pictures of gangs and extremists in Canada who brandish their illegal firearms (aka weapons) without fear of reprisal.
While Vice has highlighted an issue with para military training, the article is only meant as a spring board for further enquiry. There are many things that the article does not address, nor expose. It merely ricochets off the target.
There is much to say about firearms law, and this article is not intended to dive into this murky and often nonsensical area of law and regulation.
It is important to highlight that Canadian Governments are intending and hoping to make Canadians safer by decreasing the amount of legal firearms, which in effect does not achieve the governments stated goals. Rather than approach the issue by speaking to real experts in the areas of gangs, extremism and firearms law to determine how to best prevent further gun violence and attacks, the governments are targeting legal firearms owners. This is wholly unfair and seems to be motivated by the political aspiration of optics, to make it appear that the government of the day is sufficiently upholding public safety.
There are more effective methods to approach gang gun violence, extremism and terrorist attacks than by taking measures against law abiding firearms owners.
Across Canada, both federal and provincial governments have sanctioned the legitimization of gangs and extremists by allowing them to take forms byway of incorporated companies and societies. Several of these legitimized criminal and extremist groups are known to be engaged with gun violence or para military training, yet authorities do not act on this. Some examples of government sanctioned gangs include groups mentioned herein: Hells Angels and Soldiers Of Odin.
Governments should be addressing the root of gun violence and extremist/terrorist attacks by responding more diligently to the behaviors of those responsible for much of the gun violence: gangs, extremists and terrorists. Legal firearms owners are not the root of the gun violence.
There are accessible, tangible and practical methods to curbing gun violence in Canada. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Regulation and Rules may be established to prevent and revoke registration of federal and provincial incorporated companies and societies that are gang and extremist affiliated. Governments need to cease the sanctioning and legitimizing criminal and extremist organizations.
- Deny or revoke licenses to anyone who engages in any para military training with extremist groups (whether right wing, left wing or religious) for activities contrary to Canadian social policy including human and civil rights.
- Create Firearms Act Regulation that prohibit intimidation, threats or appearance of taking arms, or engaging gun violence, against any other citizen, group or nation; apply this to both community and cyber spaces.
- Create an effective reporting system for the Chief Firearms Office (“CFO”) and RCMP online that allows users to provide links and photo uploads of identifiable extremists and gangs who are brandishing weapons online; if not an online system, one that is more effective than the mere telephone system operated by CFO, as it is too logistically complicated to report online activity via telephone.
- Empower communities to effectively and legally respond to gangs and extremists. Create Canadian Internet Regulations that will deter gangs and extremists from using cyber spaces as recruitment and promotion because these groups pose dangers to our communities. Provide citizens, communities and incorporated non-government organizations with legal mechanisms to pursue injunctions and torts where gangs and extremists are brandishing firearms and other threatening behavior online.
- Develop checks and balance system to report police and authorities who refuse to investigate or take action when credible reports of gang or extremist activity are not acted upon. This can include tort liability, or any other mechanisms available to legislators.
If the root of the gun violence problem in Canada are criminals, gangs, extremists or terrorists, we should not be taking punitive measures against legal firearms owners, we ought to be focussing on those who are the problem.
I am one of a few people in Canada who have collected a small database of known extremists and gang members who do advertise para military training and brandish weapons online. To date, interest of authorities related to firearms brandished online by gangs and extremists is nil. This needs to change.
If the governments are serious about tackling gun violence they ought to address the roots of the problem.
It has been brought to my attention that Right Wing Extremist group, namely Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”), have been gaining publicity in Dawson Creek, BC.
Some community members are bothered by this, while it seems that local media, at least one non-profit agency and local RCMP appear to be responding in a way that exhibits their ignorance on right wing extremist groups, or even worse that they may support SOO. There are many reasons that the RCMP and the community ought to be concerned about right wing extremist groups that are recruiting new members.
I was born in Spirit River, Alberta, and lived in Rycroft as a young child. I spent much of my life at Moberly Lake and Chetwynd, BC. In fact, I began my academic career at the Dawson Creek Northern Lights College campus. I now hold a Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctor (Law) Degree. I am a registered professional with both the BC College of Social Work and the Law Society of BC (Decision).
I care about the communities in the Peace River District, which is my home. Members of the Peace River District communities helped me crawl out of a personal hell related to addictions, gangs and violent extremism. I understand hate groups and their strategies very well, as I have been there.
For those who do not know, I have been doing work for many years countering hate groups and white supremacist groups. In recent years, this has including contending with right wing extremist groups that claim they are not extremists and tout themselves as community interest groups, and more specifically the SOO. Anyone, including the RCMP, who state there is no reason to be concerned about this group has obviously not inquired into the activities of the groups members. The SOO have been linked to, and gained permissions from, the Hells Angels.
My sources report that the Hells Angels in BC, Manitoba and Ontario have established a network of affiliations with right wing extremists; this of course is not new information as the Hells Angels themselves have historically touted neo-nazi views and symbols. In recent years, it has become known that the Hells Angels are refortifying their links and granting permissions to right wing extremist groups and gangs to wear gang patches within the Hells Angels’ claimed territories (turfs); this is because these groups are often involved in drug dealing and their violent tendencies, which is good for biker business.
My academic research was centred on right wing extremist groups in western Canada, which has been cited by world leading scholars. Additionally, I have been consultant for media, governments around the world, law enforcement, academics and experts who work in the field of counter terrorism and counter violent extremism work. My work has been presented around the world to communities and world leaders.
Most recently, I was commissioned by the Canadian federal government to publish a paper for UNESCO about issues related to right wing extremists groups. In this paper written for policy makers, I address the increase of hate group activities, which include SOO. I address issues such as media being duped into essentially promoting groups like the SOO as community interest groups, rather than what they actually are. Also, how community professionals and agencies are also mislead about the nature of these groups who rely upon media for information.
Groups like the SOO utilize a recruitment strategy that garners controversial media discussions and then the group’s representatives tactically present themselves through rhetoric and what they call evidence of their good will. These tactics for recruitment are not foreign to right wing extremist groups. In fact fascist governments and hate groups have relied upon this sort of public image for a long time, This is what we call propaganda.
UNESCO has stated (in this report), and reiterated in my paper for UNESCO and others, media plays a role in perpetuating speaking platforms for hate groups, extremists and terrorists [also this report and this one have relevant materials too].
For those who do believe that Soldiers of Odin are inherently a ‘good will’ organization, I suggest you take the time to read this analysis of the group that I have provided and in this one (here). Experts have labelled SOO as a hate group (including Dr. Ryan Scrivens, Dr. Barbara Perry and myself). In spite of SOO’s statements that they are not a hate or extremist group, the origins and the banner of this group is inherently hateful. Additionally, SOO as an organization and it’s individual members have been at the very least affiliated with organized crime groups and do engage in harassment and intimidation campaigns. All of this plus they are actively promoting and disseminating hateful messages about immigrants, Muslims in particular.
I am very disappointed in the Community of Dawson Creek that includes non-profits, RCMP and local media for the public statements that present as supportive of this right wing extremist group.
I believe the citizens of Dawson Creek, and in the Peace River District, ought to take note that this group is not as it claims it is. It is possible that members of the community have joined the group with good intentions, however this group has been engaged in para military training and has been known to hold war preparation training camps based upon the paranoid view that Canada is under attack of a Muslim invasion.
The Soldiers of Odin are a hate group in the opinion of leading experts, including myself.
**For those who are interested in learning strategies of how to effectively respond these types of organizations, you may contact me for further information and support.**
Here is a list of all the articles from the Dawson Creek newspaper The Mirror (note that not one of these articles offers an in-depth analysis that provides a balanced enquiry of the criticisms of the Soldiers of Odin). For whatever reason The Mirror seems to be providing the extremist group with a recruiting platform.
Recently I participated in the Extreme-Dialogue project that provides a counter-extremist-narrative as an open source for people to use. However, these sorts of videos are not a ‘new approach’ to countering extremism. Alan Dutton began providing similar resources at Stop Racism.
These films were made with vulnerable exposure of emotions. I know some people will do there best to poke at me as a result, but for those people I say this: “Do not mistake my vulnerability as weakness.” I expect threats and backlash by people who are bothered by this work.
This version of the film is my personal favourite. I believe this was one of the first cuts by Duck Rabbit. This one truly speaks for itself i believe.
Interview Prep Session
I enjoyed most of the process of the production of this film, but their interview methods seemed a little concerning at first. On day one the forced me to sit down as they administered what they called a ‘pre-programming exercise.’
After they gave me my shock treatment they then moved to the Director, Pete. He never did seem the same afterwards but then again I realized much later that he is a member of a secret British society that makes people wear ties. So likely he was always kind of ‘off’ to begin with.
It seemed that DuckRabbit master of programming, Benjamin, grossly enjoyed administering the pre-interview prep upon the camera man Rajibul. The strength and resistance of this Bengali warrior did result in repeated sessions of shock therapy in order to get him in the proper state. It took hours for Benjamin to be satisfied at the result.
It was simply disturbing to watch Rajibul then get even with the man who birthed DuckRabbit out of his brainchild. Benjamin must have really made Rajibul angry to instigate such an intensive shock treatment.
Now it was time for the interview…
It took a bit of time to adjust to their interview process. I have been waiting a long time to expose DuckRabbit, but it seems they exposed themselves.
Shortly after making the video I was having second thoughts, until…
…the pressure was applied.
I discuss how and why I was recruited into the white power movement. Explanations of the doctrine and belief structure within white supremacist literature. Identifying the core elements of beliefs that there is a zionist conspiracy running the world and to blame for all societies problems. I also discuss the fact that the white supremacist movement includes ‘non-white’ people and some social dynamics of the violent extremist social networks. I also discuss some of the perspectives my white power mentor had guided me with. Lastly, the process of effectiveness and purpose of recruiting youth is summarized.
Second Interview Clip
This clip explores my healing process and revisiting past crimes including hostage taking and beatings. I talk about some of my connections to Cree culture (First Nations Culture). I talk about my kohkum (grandmother in Cree) and her impact on me. This video emphasizes the importance of compassion and love from others, the thing I was lacking throughout my life.
Third Interview Clip
In this video I talk about my exit from white supremacy and the threats I received after leaving. I also discuss issues of possible intervention strategies and issues around counter-extremism work. I also discuss the necessity of effective counsellors who are educated to the degree that they can unravel intensive right wing doctrine and systems of belief. This issues with finding these resources is that it appears that I am the only counsellor able to effectively unwind intensive far right wing belief structures who is doing ‘exit work,’ but there are others who have been doing similar work in context of critical race analysis and race relations; this information is compressively explored in my thesis or here.
Full length Video
The final product.
Since the launch of these films in Calgary, I learned that my story was discussed in a WhiteHouse meeting. Within hours President Obama published this Op-Ed in the LA Times. Obama said that he thinks it is important to include testimonies of former extremists to counter extremist messages.
I am honoured and I feel my work has been duly validated.
Reflections about misuse of Terrorist Legislation and ‘Indigenous Extremism’ from a Canadian Former Violent Extremist: “Picking fights will likely get you punched in the face”
Daniel Gallant is a BC writer, researcher and social worker. Gallant is identified as an expert media consultant and has presented both nationally and internationally to national security teams relating to extremism and terrorism. As an identified expert on deradicalization from violent extremism Gallant bridges his personal experience as a former violent extremist, professional counselor/social-worker and academic researcher. Gallant now has undertaken the study of law to compliment his activism and academic work in order to identify possible issues pertaining to terrorist legislation and indigenous rights in Canada. Daniel Gallant has been described as a fierce advocate who frequently and passionately writes and speaks about topics relating to his research and scholarship that others tend to shy away from.
In the last week there have been two Canadian terrorist attacks. The first on a military base in Quebec where two armed forces members were run-over with a car driven by terrorist, Martin Roleau, who was then subsequently shot and killed by RCMP. The following day soldier Patrice Vincent died as a result of the attack.
Within 48 hours later there was a tumultuous attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. A gunman jumped from a car then shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo where he stood on guard at the War Memorial grounds. There are a lot of questions being asked in media reports about the past investigations on these particular terrorists, who they were and why there was not extra measures taken to ensure public safety.
As security and law enforcement have stated repeatedly these attacks are different because they are ‘lone wolf’ attacks and these types of attacks are harder to track due to the fact that people are allowed to think and say what they want without impingement of those inherent rights in Canada. However, this response from Canadian leaders and security teams opens up other lines of inquiry that seem to be put on the backburner as our nation is mourning these horrific terrorist attacks.
The same day that Martin Roleau attacked a Quebec military base the Aboriginal People’s Television Network reported that Clayton Thomas-Muller, a First Nations activist with the Idle No More movement has been put under surveillance by Canadian national security teams. The same national security team that indicated they could not infringe upon the rights of Martin Roleau who was arrested and questioned last summer. Yet, it seems that government and national security teams are drawing their focus to First Nations groups without the same restraint that they are offering real terrorist threats.
I, the author of this article, also wear the hat of an academic researcher. In my research at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) I initiated an exploration into the question if there was an inappropriate application of terrorist legislation being evoked by government and national security teams against indigenous peoples in Canada. We must remember that Louis Riel, the leader of an indigenous rebellion who is now been recognized as a leader, was once labeled a terrorist and was convicted and sentenced to death for what was labeled “treason”. Legislation is consistently applied to indigenous peoples in an abusive and oppressive manner. The misapplication of terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples could be said to date back to the 1885, and likely even before that.
Oct. 23, 2014, BC’s Provincial Premier Christy Clark has publicly addressed an exoneration of six Tsilhqot’in war chiefs who were hung in the interior region of BC. In 1864 the Tsilhqot’in demanded that a road crew who were building pathways to the gold fields were attacked and killed over 20 people non-aboriginal people. The attacks were in response to the non-indigenous invaders who initiated a racist attack upon Canada’s first peoples, which included a purposeful use of biological warfare in the form of smallpox. Canadian Supreme Court Justice David Vickers acknowledged that the landmark land title case of the Tsilhqot’in, which ruled in favor of indigenous land title rights, was attributed to the stance that these war chiefs took and were later hanged. Premier Christy Clark made a speech that in BC’s legislature that these men were not treasonous traitors and exonerated them for the crimes they were hung for. These war chiefs are historical hero’s, not terrorists.
I was able to identify reports from 2012 that indicated many First Nations people, groups and communities were added to terrorist watch lists. Moreover, it was reported to me by an RCMP superintendent that local officers were being trained by national security teams in order to deal with local First Nations extremists and their anti-industry allies. It was this conversation with RCMP that flagged initial concerns about the possibilities of the misapplication of terrorist legislation by the Canadian government that would, at minimum, synthesize attributes of further systemic racism and suppression of indigenous rights.
It also became apparent in this research and noteworthy that the federal government had put indigenous scholar Dr. Cindy Blackstock under surveillance as well due to her vocal and substantiated and valid Human rights claim against the federal government for it’s mistreatment of indigenous children in child welfare care. According to the 2006 wen;de research report the mistreatment in question has resulted in nearly an average of 400 child deaths each year. Historical oppression and genocidal programs have happened in Canada, and according to experts and scholars it is evident that it is still happening. Justice Murray Sinclair indicated that in recent years Canadian governments were involved in genocidal program against indigenous peoples in Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being openly chastised for his failure to respectively act on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. With a not-so-distant past we know that the Canadian legal system was forced to respond when a BC Judge was convicted and later died in prison for his abuse against vulnerable indigenous women. More recently RCMP are being openly scrutinized due to a report issued by an international Human Rights group that alleges RCMP members are raping and abusing aboriginal women in northern BC. The same region of the province where national security teams were training local RCMP members to respond to what they are labelled as extremists and potentially terrorists in the area.
This can be a very troubling dynamic for any person who understands systemic racism, oppression and human rights. The United Nations have recently reported that Canada is falling short in regards to issues relating to levels of trust with all levels of government. The reasons for the mounting distrust with our current government is due to the systemic abuse and ongoing disregard for indigenous rights to land title, indigenous education and a lack of response to systemic racism which does include the mass amounts of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
When looking to the historic track record of government and law enforcement in Canada there is insurmountable evidence of violence, systemic racism, oppression and genocidal programs launched against indigenous peoples. This is still continuing today. According to indigenous scholar Bonita Lawrence First Nations peoples are the only group in Canada who face a constant threat of military force for asserting their inherent rights. With all of these issues in consideration is it really appropriate to apply terrorist legislation to indigenous peoples who are merely attempting to assert their legal rights?
It appears that terrorist legislation is likely to start being applied and abused as another form of systemic abuse against indigenous peoples. There are practical and real ways that we can resolve political issues rather than attempting to utilize terrorist legislation as a colonial weapon against indigenous people, groups and community.
Concerns with Terrorist Legislation
It seems there is substantiated evidence to facilitate a conclusion that this is already in process. Clayton Thomas-Muller is but only one of many concerned citizens asserting indigenous legal rights in Canada while the government is attempting to label him as an extremist and or terrorist. Muller is not alone in these seeming misapplications of terrorist legislation. The BC Civil Liberties Association, which is a team of legal professionals who advocate against systemic abuse, have indicated the blanket investigations by CSIS and RCMP against normal citizens include First Nations and anti-industry protestors violates Constitutional Rights of Canadians. This is becoming an increasingly contentious issue since the attacks on Parliament Hill.
Twenty minutes after the attacks Prime Minister Stephen Harper purported that national security teams will soon receive expanded powers. Security specialists are now criticizing this response. Professor Roland Paris at the University of Ottawa said that Canadians should be on guard when it comes to their own government after the recent attacks.
Reflections of a Former Extremist
What has become concerning for me as a former extremist engaged with counter-extremist-narrative initiatives, as an academic and a current student of law is that our government may utilize terrorist legislation in an inappropriate manner, and perhaps even abusive application of terrorist legislation.
Researchers indicate that aggressive tactics will result in further entrenchment of extremist mindsets and this may result in the opposite effect than what was originally intended. If we want to decrease violent attacks the solution to further the tensions between government and active extremists, according to experts and critics, would be foolhardy and contradictory.
One thing to consider is that if we begin to utilize Canadian terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples and their socio-political allies there is a possibility of breeding extremists. Indigenous peoples have been under attack by colonial governments since European contact. They were imposed upon by a government entrenched in racial, religious and legal supremacist doctrines that are still in place today. Yet, it seems the collectivity of First Nations only intends to rightfully walk towards healing for all Canadians.
First Nations have proven to be respectful cultural groups that are more than willing to share land and resources. First Nations peoples have not declared war, nor does that seem to be an intention of any indigenous group. Indigenous peoples are participants in Canadian government, universities and law as professionals and human rights advocates. First Nations are also teaching Canadians how to heal, even in the most extreme cases such as myself.
Entire First Nations communities have embraced my path as a former white supremacist simply because healing is possible. I believe it is time for Canada to consider that the perhaps our government and national security teams should consider:
- a) that First Nations are at the heart of Canadian society and we need not attempt to criminalize nor be threatened by their inherent legal rights, which result in illegal surveillance and misapplication of terrorist legislation
- b) that perhaps First Nations culture holds a key to what the government considers to be counter-violent-extremist initiatives
- c) reconsideration of aggressive national security tactics and to consider safeguards of misuse of terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples
Perhaps First Nations culture should be embraced by the Canadian government as it is inherently non-violent, unlike the insurmountable evidence that suggestions Canadian government is abusive and violent. Perhaps First Nations could teach Canadians how to develop strategies against a violent abuser or terrorist. I do not suggest that First Nations should be leading national security, what I am suggesting is that we as a nation should consider our own actions and behaviors especially in regards to First Nations issues and national security. What can we do as a nation to offer our own citizens what they need in order to decrease the violence that is surely going to erupt if we continue down an aggressive path, do we really need to create enemies within our own borders?
I believe that Canada’s relationship with our First Nations peoples reflects and represents the direction that we are going as a country. The first relationship to exist in Canada was the European colonizers and indigenous peoples. This state of this respective first Canadian relationship will determine the direction of our national identity. The world is watching and the UN has responded. If we as a nation decide to apply a fear mongering approach and reject the inherent rights of indigenous peoples and remain determined to make them feel like an enemy within, then it is unlikely that the Canadian government will not be able to treat any citizens in a manner that is conducive with Canadian values. We do NOT need to create enemies. It is time our government works on improving relationships by listening to the people they are in relationship with. Grievances that violent extremists have will become more legitimate if Canada continues to trample on the inherent rights of Canadians, and this is especially true for First Nations.
Picking fights will likely get you punched in the face.
Exit Resources: Former neo-Nazis
“Prejudice is learned behavior, and so is tolerance…Interactive education about tolerance is the only key I’ve seen that will fit in the lock of this problem. I believe education has to begin with kids as early as elementary age…The entire community…need to band together”
~ TJ Leyden, former neo-Nazi
This article is going to introduce the reviews of three former white supremacists autobiographies: TJ Leyden, Frank Meeink and Arno Michaelis. I will also be reviewing other autobiographies of former white supremacists that come out, so far we are awaiting stories from: Angela King, Tony McAleer and Christian Picciolini.
This resource is intended to provide a public resource that considers the range and frequency of social change and identity transformation that human beings can achieve. Elements of the human experience such as resiliency and compassion are at the forefront of each one of these people’s experiences. I have had interactions with each and everyone of these people and it has been my observation that each one is brilliant and brave in their own way because they speak openly to the public about their life stories. Each one of us that has a public role and speak openly about our pasts risk public criticism, but in spite of the criticisms anyone may have, each one of us are vulnerable and offering that vulnerability to the general public in hopes that we can contribute to a better world; at least that is the trusted perspective of each one of us.
There is no doubt that I have a very analytical perspective and some people can be offended by this fact, but I hope that people do not mistake my directness for malice. I prefer to make statements that are sharp, and sometimes perceived as stabbing, only to encourage and challenge people and institutions. It appears to me that the network of former extremists and terrorists is in motion towards developing as a [sub] culture. I have observed social dynamics developing within the public work we do as individuals forming a collective direction, not all of which are beneficial dynamics. Collectivity can sometimes form into a negative institutional steady state. I hope to contribute my analysis to our collective in order to offer analytical perspectives that may otherwise go unmentioned.
First, I will offer excerpts from my graduate studies thesis, which include some basic interactions I have had with each of these people. I will then offer the process and findings of my research analysis of TJ Leyden, Frank Meeink, Arno Michaelis and myself. Following this article you will then be able to read my book reviews of each of these former white supremacists stories. Preceding this article I did write a comprehensive book review of Elisa Hategan’s book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence Service’s Greatest Cover-Up. It is my hope that this resource of exit stories is accessed by people in order to encourage others to change and to offer possible ways we as formers can keep engaged with further growth as individuals within the public forum.
Following text are thesis [edited] excerpts from:
A “Former” Perspective:
An Exploration of the Disengagement Process from Violent Right Wing Extremism
Daniel Clayton Gallant
B.A. (First Nations Studies), UNBC, 2011
M.S.W., UNBC, 2014
This text is copyright of Daniel C. Gallant © and cannot be distributed, nor copied, without expressed written permission from author.
**[…] signifies edits
Relationships with FVRWE
*To receive permission or access to whole thesis document please contact Daniel C. Gallant.
My relationships with several FVRWE (Former Violent Right Wing Extremists; aka i.e. white supremacist racist skinheads) are included within this study. I had been introduced to these FVRWE over the last decade. First was my contact with TJ Leyden.
TJ was the first prominent voice to denounce the VRWE network as a FVRWE. TJ has been acknowledged to be a trailblazer of exiting the violent world that we shared. I had first contacted TJ in about 2005 when I was seeking information in order to disprove ‘the movements’ theories of a fictionalized ‘Zionist conspiracy.’ At that point I had already learned how and why race was a failed context of logic/reasoning. I emailed TJ after reading about him online. I read about how he changed his life and that he denounced the white supremacist movement. I emailed his social service initiative called StrHATE Talk…
I wanted to find some sort of literature, or at least an explanation that would deconstruct and prove the RWE doctrine wrong. I wanted hard facts to say that there was no such thing as a ‘Zionist-conspiracy,’ which is allegedly claimed to have an intention to obliterate the ‘white race’. TJ Leyden referred me to a cultic studies expert who then put me in touch with an organization in Edmonton, Alberta, that worked with former cult members. That agency then invited me to a global cultic studies conference that was held in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta. Coincidentally the conference was being held shortly after I began searching for this help. My journey began. I now understand this journey to be the process of surpassing the mere behavioral change of disengagement. The role of post-secondary education in my life in conjunction with First Nations’ culture, language, and ceremony has enabled me to integrate a degree of decolonial praxis into my healing journey (Gallant, 2014, p. 77-78).
I had not been in contact with TJ Leyden since I first contacted him nearly a decade ago, until recently. I was re-introduced to TJ through the social network AVE. After several online discussions with an executive at Google Ideas we had a lengthy phone conversation about my life and what I am researching. He informed me of the reasons why the AVE (Against Violent Extremism) network was started. He stated that the white supremacist movement has always had an online presence since the beginning of the internet… Moreover, my introduction to the Internet was through the white supremacist movement in 1996. Specifically I was introduced to Stormfront, which is a discussion board run by RWE (Right Wing Extremist) Don Black… I broadened my white supremacist involvement through online forums such as Stormfront…, and then later recruited youth in cyber spaces…[as I had indicated on the short documentary film Brotherhood of Hate] (Gallant, 2014, p. 79).
Arno founded an online journal of basic human kindness called Life-after-hate … I discovered Arno was the front man of a white supremacist hate rock band that I used to listen to and pump myself up with before I would get energized with hate and beat people on the streets. Arno’s…music was a passionately hateful charged system that fueled masses of [violent right ring extremist] youth across the world. Arno’s band sang anthems from an organization that I belonged to, World Church of the Creator…Arno’s band had record sales alone that exceeded over 20,000 copies in the 1990s… Now after many years, Arno and I were introduced [to one another] through AVE and Lah…I was excited to add Arno to my list of credible [former-violent-right-wing-extremists] for this study.
Soon after, Lah invited me to be an author for their journal. Now, after building some relations with Lah, and Arno, online and through phone conversations, we plan to meet, and hope to work together to educate people. Arno has a very similar perspective about the role of education, within healing contexts, as I do. He has a grass roots understanding, which I respect a lot. It is my hope that Arno and I can build a bridge between our individual experiences in the future that works towards curriculum development. Arno has turned his autobiography into an educator’s tool with the help of an American educator…
I was also introduced to Frank Meeink through the AVE and Lah network. With limited contact we have discovered some parallel directions and themes between our stories. Through this study I hope to bridge further relations with these three FVRWE and others. I also want to include two other names from Lah and AVE. Angela King…[a] declared feminist researcher, think-er, and do-er, Angela inspires me on a regular basis. I had hoped to include her work in my study. The only way I could fit her into my research without distracting from my topic at this point is by mentioning that her research does exist on the topic of gender, from a feminist perspective within the white supremacist movement…
The other name I want to mention is Tony McAleer. Tony is a Canadian who was a leader of the VRWE network in Canada and has since become a bona fide FVRWE…Tony is the only one of these FVRWE that I had met in the past, during my time in the Canadian white supremacist movement. We had met one time in Vancouver, BC, during the 1990s. Tony is also the only FVRWE I have met in person within AVE to date. I re-acquainted with him on April 4, 2013, in Vancouver, BC. Unfortunately Tony’s autobiography [has not come] out in time for this study. I hope to include both Tony and Angela’s autobiographies in future studies, after they are published (Gallant, 2014, p. 80-81).
Through the AVE…and other similar networks, we see that the emerging culture of [former extremists] includes former cult members, former extremists, and former gang members. This collective social network has already developed cultural nuances. For instance NGOs, online dialogues, discourse, and narratives could be seen as the beginnings of new era of counter-[extremist] dialogues/measures. Further establishing a cohesive culture of [former extremists] could prove to be an effective counter-[extremist/terrorist] measure.
I have identified autobiographies of three separate [former white supremacists in North America]: TJ Leyden, Frank Meeink and Arno Michaelis and I have included some of my published autobiographic narratives as well [for analysis in my study]. These authors are all [former violent white supremacist extremists]…Positioning myself within the AVE, as an author for Lah, research affiliate of Terror, Security And Society (TSAS), graduate studies researcher, educator, activist, and a member of the emerging cultural phenomenon of [former violent right wing extremists]. I hope to contribute to counter-terrorist discourse, particularly to fill in some gaps identified by Dr. John Horgan…who calls for qualitative research on the disengagement process from [violent extremist/terrorist action] (Gallant, 2014, p. 112 – 113).
It is my hope that this Exit Resource website will contribute to a broader understanding of the human capacity for social change and identity transformation. This will be the first article in a series of book reviews and analysis of stories of former violent extremists.
This Book Review is now published on Violent Extremist Exit Resources website.
“We’ll tear her to shreds.”
~ CSIS Toronto Region Investigator speaking of eighteen year old Elisa Hategan, whose affidavits implicated CSIS agent Grant Bristow in criminal activity. CBC’s The Fifth Estate, October 1994~
Race Traitor: The True Story of the Canadian Intelligence Service’s Greatest Cover-Up was a pleasure to read. Elisa Hategan has delivered an upfront account of her personal lived experience that definitively checks out with other sources within the public body of knowledge on this topic. A true account of government corruption, and security and law enforcement cover-up. The blatant role that the Canadian system had in establishing what could be said to be the most notorious neo-Nazi organization since WWII. It is noteworthy that Elisa starts her autobiography by explaining the difficulty she had in attempts to publish her book.
Publishing companies shy away from stories like this. In my own personal experience, publishing companies were resistant to my autobiography as a former violent racist skinhead. I am inspired to consider self-publishing, in a no-holds-barred way, much like Elisa. I want to start off by saying to Elisa directly:
“Thank you for your honest and courageous modeling, you are a living inspiration of true change. Your path is unique and beautiful. I commend you, and hope to honor your work.”
This story includes the detailed ins-and-outs of a CSIS conspiracy that involves the planted agent, Grant Bristow, within the Heritage Front. In fact, Elisa does what no one else would do. She brings together many of the fragments of facts to tell ‘the’ story in its most comprehensive form to date. Her facts are hard. Her sources are solid. She does a fantastic job of calling out poignant politicians, security agencies and law enforcement for their role in establishing one of the largest neo-Nazi organizations since WWII. This is a true account of CSIS and politicians who were involved in, and with, a Canadian domestic terrorist group. This book leaves many questions that should be asked in public spaces:
“How deep does systemic white supremacist ideology run in Canadian society?”
It could be said that former Heritage Front members are still at the center of the Canadian white supremacist movement. Many of its members are still in operation. The fact that CSIS funded, at minimum, some of the operations of the Heritage Front is troublesome, although, Hategan’s story reveals a grotesque abuse of Canadian tax dollars. Moreover, Elisa’s exposé on the cover-ups ordered by those at the top of security operations is very troubling. Her lived experience, combined with both her writing and research skills, presents an enthralling story that is raw.
Elisa’s ability to include comedic interludes throughout the story was superb. I have never literally laughed out loud while reading, until I read Race Traitor. Elisa captures the reader with her vulnerability. She is real. An authentic voice that is amplified through her fact based presentation of Tory corruption within the Canadian government, security forces and law enforcement.
In my opinion the most important facts embedded this story include the following points:
- insights into the process of radicalization and deradicalization
- most people in the movement come from fairly ‘normal’ lifestyles and backgrounds
- in the highest ranks of hate groups and white nationalist movements there are working relationships between violent right-wing extremists and other ‘non-white’ groups and individuals, which may result in a lack of perceived threats from ultra-right factions by the general public
- the most important people who supported and assisted Elisa’s exit were anti-racist activists, a journalist and members of the American Indian Movement
Book Review Author’s Bio:
I myself had spent nearly a decade in the white supremacist movement, shortly after the Heritage Front fell apart. Little did I know that an 18-year-old girl, a journalist and a handful of committed anti-racist activists would dismantle the terrorist group that the Canadian government funded and helped to create. Since leaving the white supremacist movement well over a decade ago, I have achieved two university degrees and have researched the historic relationship between the Canadian government and what we now call violent right wing extremist networks. My area of research also includes the analysis of former violent white supremacists autobiographies. It is my opinion that Elisa Hategan’s autobiography is the most important autobiography of this category to date.
The grim reality is that white supremacy, racism and anti-Semitism runs deep within our Canadian Society, and Race Traitor reflects how deep that is. This is a must read for every counter-extremist/terrorist scholar and researcher in North America; especially for those who are studying extremist/terrorist disengagement and deradicalization in the North American context. Scholars who are studying right wing extremist networks need to focus on the context that our society breeds right wing extremists, quite literally. This is not only my opinion, but is shared and reflected through several North American scholars who specialize on this subject; furthermore, this point is driven and exemplified through Elisa’s story. Elisa Hategan deserves national attention and acknowledgement for her sacrifices that resulted in dismantling the largest terrorist network in Canadian history, which was in part funded and founded by the Canadian government and CSIS.
Race Traitor is a must read for anyone concerned with CSIS’s operations, systemic racism in Canada and corruption of both government and law enforcement. I believe that every First Nations activist and like-minded allies would benefit greatly by reading Elisa Hategan’s story. Further insights into structural racism could be gained from this story.
I have recently established an organization that works towards developing deradicalization resources for those who have disengaged from violent right wing extremism. Deradicalization means to unlearn and re-constitute one’s worldview and self-identification; moving away from a violent right wing ideology to a non-violent and less schismatic worldview. Challenging the fundamentals of right wing worldview is a long process, one that I know intimately. My work and life are centered around educating the public on how deep white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology run within Canadian society and culture. I believe this book, by Elisa Hategan, is a powerful contribution into the conversations that need to be had amongst those involved within counter-violent-extremism. Elisa Hategan is a primary example of true deradicalization that supersedes any other current former white supremacist autobiography I have read.
Scholars should take note of this autobiographic story as a poignant insight into gaps within scholarship on right wing extremist networks; we as scholars often buy into the myths and stereotypes of what a white supremacist is and does; like the general population. Race Traitor gives us an insight that breeches the common perspectives of who is in and around the ultra-violent right wing. Elisa’s literary contribution offers us some core challenges to re-consider from what is commonly believed about white supremacy and anti-Semitism.
This book is also great for anti-racist activists who want to learn more about the twisted, manipulative and coercive nature of the extreme right ideology and networks that plague North American society. Progressive critics of Canadian society, security services and the overall establishment may benefit from reading this book. The contentious facts contained within the book are verifiable. The facts Ms. Hategan presents can be cross-referenced with other sources. As I have already had a working knowledge on the topic at hand, both through old personal contacts and research experience, I know the facts in this book are solid. The book is clearly a ‘tell all’ about Elisa’s experience and dynamic relationship between CSIS and the white supremacist network in Canada. Elisa offers a state of vulnerability and authenticity, which reflects her resiliency, self-reflective and reflexive nature. She is a bold strong woman filled with courage that is only contended by her own demons.
Lastly, while reading Race Traitor, I thought to myself it is no wonder why the Canadian government and intelligence communities focus their counter-extremist/terrorist efforts towards both First Nations and Muslim communities. Looking at the ideological connections and direct social networks shared between the Canadian government and the extreme ultra-violent-right-wing may just be ‘too close to home’. Perhaps with more digging, Canadians will see how deep the roots of archaic and schismatic worldviews of our society go; views and behavior that contradict our stated policies of inclusive multiculturalism and human rights.
Elisa was sixteen years old when she was recruited into the Heritage Front, one of Canada’s most infamous white supremacist groups. As Elisa points out, the HF was infamous for trying to change the brand and face of the white supremacist movement in Canada. People such as David Duke, Wolfgang Droege and others were strategically changing the identifiable brutish reputation of the extreme far right. A new face to the white supremacist movement was being promoted in order to manipulate recruitment into the violent and racist network. The newer face of the violent right wing movement claims to be made up of revolutionaries fighting a courageous war of ideals; the author does a great job at showing that this self-righteous and self-imposed proclamation is just yet another white lie.
This brings to surface another core issue I discovered halfway through the book. This story reminded me of an old ‘made for TV’ movie I had watched several years back. It was called White Lies (1998). Elisa’s book reminded of the movie. I hadn’t never thought about the movie since I had seen it years ago. The movie was a poorly written and failed production. The tale of a young middle class ‘white girl’ who was recruited by a white supremacist organization as a magazine writer. From my recollection the only differences between Elisa’s lived experience and the story of the girl in the movie, played by Sarah Polley, was that the character in the film came from a middle class home and had sex with white supremacist skinheads. Other than that, this movie was Elisa’s story. After further inquiry, I discovered that the CBC produced TV movie, White Lies, was loosely-based on Elisa’s lived experience. Moreover, the CBC had not compensated Elisa in any way. I discovered that CBC fictionalized a lot of things in order to avoid paying for the story rights.
I send out a big boot to CBC for exploiting this woman’s, or at the time might I say “girl’s,” story. I appreciate the CBC in many regards and value the news provided by the semi-progressive broadcast network, but this is an abhorrent scenario that should be resolved. I was thoroughly disappointed when I learned about this history.
Elisa’s experience as a young recruit brought her into the heart of the Canadian white supremacist movement. She hung around Wolfgang Droege, who was born in Austria and had previously spent time in a USA prison for a failed attempt to overthrow the Dominican government. In 2005, Wolfgang was shot to death by a drug-using associate, not a surprising end for a man who lived a violent and hateful life.
Elisa also spent time in the home of Ernst Zundel, who has been on the run in almost every country he has lived in. He is a hate-monger who considers himself a ‘revisionist scholar.’ A revisionist who constructs a fictional argument that attempts to claim the number of people who died, as the result of the totalitarian Nazi regime in WWII was false. Unfortunately these holocaust deniers are grotesquely fueled by a perverted sense of direction that propagates hateful anti-Semitic propaganda. Young Elisa forged close relations with these grotesque people; she was a socially isolated child and they were emotional predators that spoon-fed her hate.
Elisa tells her story of being lost and alone, a child who was marked by these manipulative and coercive leaders. Boldly, Elisa informs us that her case was not common within the circle she ran with. In fact, she tells us that her experience was the anomaly. She was the only street kid she had met, especially to be groomed for leadership. The majority of the members of this extremely racist movement were people who lived relatively ‘normal’ lives prior to joining the Heritage Front; this is an important insight for those academics familiar with the radicalization process and hate crimes stats. Of course she tells stories of brutish, violent and ignorant skinheads, crusty old hateful people and the manipulative and abusive nature of men who operated like a cult; The Heritage Front was a political cult.
A Lighter Flavor
Elisa talks about some of the inner workings of the Heritage Front. I was glad to read that she included that there was a color-coded system used by the racist skinheads. Bootlaces and suspenders codified their self-identified standing within their gangs, along with racist tattoos. Elisa also offers some comedic pun elements that lighten up the heavy load of the books content. As a reader this brings in some humor in order to make the reading journey of her horrible experience a little more palatable.
First Nations Community
Interestingly enough, Elisa did not initially seem to buy into the lies that were being fed to her when she was recruited at sixteen years old. She was bold enough to question the information that these de-bunked leaders were throwing at her. This speaks to Elisa’s resiliency and the strength of her character, which is echoed at the end of the book.
I was astounded to learn that she stood in solidarity with First Nations during the injustices of the Oka Crisis, prior to her recruitment into the Heritage Front. I believe this further speaks to Elisa’s inherent progressive thinking, which through my own perceptual lens considers is probably due to the fact that she, like me, understands what it means to be beaten down; thus, can at least in part empathize with people who have been systemically abused by the colonial racist Canadian government.
Identifying with the political plight of First Nations peoples has been poignant in my own process of transformation, after leaving the violent white supremacist movement in Canada. Of course, the chief manipulators in this story prey upon Elisa’s young mind and try to convince her that First Nations peoples are drunkards and losers. Interestingly enough, the climatic point of the book for me was when the American Indian Movement (AIM) were the only people who offered her effective protection and support. In both my own personal story and Elisa’s story it seems that the people who were abused the most by the Canadian government and RCMP were rescuers who had a deep understanding of structural racism. Thus, in my experience I know there is a lot of respect offered to people who reflectively consider their role as an overt oppressor and work towards making a profound change to expose racist corruption and to engage public conversations about historic and contemporary racism in Canada.
Elisa’s account of the Heritage Front’s involvement in the global context is what I consider to be one of the most profound aspects of her literary contribution. She explains that the white supremacist movement was directly tied to Khadafy’s regime. Most people would not understand, know, nor even heard of this. The Libyan dictator seemed to adore the Canadian white supremacist movement, most likely due to anti-Semitic ideology. Khadafy was responsible for inhumane treatment of Jews in Libya, like his predecessors who implemented laws that identified the Jews as a race, and then systemically abused them. To most people this is shocking to learn about, but those who have an intimate history with violent right wing doctrine and networks know that there are many relationships forged in the name of anti-Semitism. I argue that the core thread of right wing ideology is the fictionalized Jewish conspiracy that the world is led by an alleged ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government). Most people do not understand the historical roots of the information they are taught that leads to anti-Semitism. Elisa’s autobiography reflects that indeed, anti-Semitism is at the core of the white nationalist movement.
Elisa tells us that Ernst Zundel had a young Orthodox Jewish boy, David Cole, visit him every couple of weeks. This broaches that very important misconception people have of the white supremacist movement. What most people believe about neo-Nazi, and white nationalist, networks is not the way these groups actually function. Hitler’s Nazi regime had many alliances with Japan, some Muslim militias and other armies; all of which were anti-Semitic at their core. Moreover, the current right wing extremist network is fraught with seemingly contradictory connections that confuse most people, until they learn how these ideological threads of anti-Semitism operate as alliance vehicles. These are an insidious and very real threat that threads extremist and terrorist organizations together all around the world. Elisa offers her insights into the inner workings of the Heritage Front and how this CSIS funded domestic terrorist organization was connected to a global network of anti-Semitism.
The white supremacist narrative at its core is anti-Semitic and is built upon a legacy of racist stereotypes that blame Jews for the problems of the world. Scapegoats are necessary because the ideology of the extreme right wing is built upon deception and coercive information that does not withstand the application of progressive critical lenses. The archaic racist science and ideological lineage of the far right wing doctrine is reinforced by contemporary mainstream belief structures. This can be seen throughout Canadian history and the foundations of the Canadian government. Canada has a long historical function of applying racist social policy, which is still a contemporary mainstay, and relationships with what are now referred to as extremist right wing groups.
Elisa Hategan’s book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence Service’s Greatest Cover-Up offers an invaluable perspective that does effectively counter all of the hate she previously promoted.
My name is Daniel Gallant, and I am a graduate student from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). My discipline of study is First Nations Studies and Social Work. I have worked as a counselor, group home supervisor, researcher, educator, and have been published in university presses, literary journals/magazines, radio, and peer reviewed journal throughout Canada, USA, and Germany. In addition, my social justice advocacy and activism work has gained national attention through radio, television, print, and online media sources. My passion for transformative pedagogy can be identified in my role as a researcher, practitioner, educator, writer, and activist.
My graduate research identified themes of disengagement identified within autobiographic stories of former-violent right wing extremists. This research is as important as it is unique for several reasons. First, it is a qualitative thematic analysis of creative non-fiction stories, which was developed in order to fulfill a gap in an underdeveloped area of research as identified by global counter-terrorist scholars. This study does not only fulfill an undeveloped gap within scholarship, but is further unique due to the methodological analysis and my socio-cultural position as a researcher and former violent right wing extremist. The design of my research is an auto-ethno-graphic study that illustrates a theoretical lens and analysis based within my personal connection, as a researcher, to the group I am studying.
Each former-violent extremist in this study had successfully disengaged from violent right wing extremist action; disengagement being defined as stopping violent extremist behavior. However, each of the individuals experienced more than mere disengagement, each individual had also achieved a shift of cognitive paradigm and social transformation. Each individual in the study has worked with marginalized, oppressed, and/or persecuted minority groups. Each individual has been recognized to be, at minimum, an ally to marginalized/oppressed/colonized groups, identified as such by the said group(s). My research was funded by Public Safety Canada through the Kanishka Project, which is a memorial research fund for the Air India bombing.
I have identified a list of thematic commonalities amongst the former violent right wing extremists in my study. This list adds some insights into potential resources that I recommend to be developed into progressive social change for former right wing extremists and others. Through my critical lens I articulate that right wing extremist ideological threads are rooted within the collective social consciousness of Canada and the USA. I establish this through personal experience, social policy and scholarship. Moreover, I explicitly challenge the dominant ethno-centric-mono-culture of North American society to consider how and why right wing extremist ideology is perpetuated through our socio-political structures.
A lot of scholarship indicates that progressive social change can most effectively be actualized and/or transformed if we shift pedagogically. In a global society that is now connected through the Internet it worth considering factors beyond the scope of my research that focalizes upon the role of technology within contexts of social transformation and cultural progression. New social network are emerging and current social networks within society are acculturating through technological advancements. I believe that as researchers it our duty to not only maintain ethical locations in social research, but to also facilitate collective education that does consider our global unification in a manner that addresses hegemonic and schismatic designs of the institutions in which we are located; this includes the sometimes controversial counter-terrorist/extremist scholarship. Given that the terms terrorism and extremism are culturally relevant terms it is worthy of acknowledgement that critical socio-cultural/political discourse(s) do have their place within this field.
If we as researchers, educators, and scholars do not contribute to progressive social learning we may be doomed to repeat age old, and sometimes archaic, social patterns. One area that I address through my graduate research is with First Nations in Canada. There are potential pitfalls in counter terrorist/extremist research and scholarship that could emerge from delving into context of First Nations extremism, or what may constitute as extremism. Needless to say extremist ideology and action can occur in any cultural group, but we as Canadians understand that First Nations people have faced assimilation, colonization, genocide, and ethnocidal projects administered by the state, church, academy, and society at large as a dominant ethno-centric force that maintains, even today, apartheid over First Nations populations.
Two years ago Google Ideas, “think/do tank”, Director Jared Cohen brought former-violent extremists together with survivors of extremist violence. As a result of SAVE, Jared Cohen established the Against violent Extremism (AVE) network that connects survivors of extremist violence with former-extremists, NGOs and media. AVE is currently Directed by Ross Frenett, he also works with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). I was introduced to AVE and Google Ideas after SAVE. I then contacted Jared Cohen directly. He immediately put me in contact with Ross Frenett, and others within the AVE network.
Since my introduction to this social network I have learned that my experience as a former-violent extremist is not an isolated circumstamce. I now have ongoing social connections with others who have experienced similar things and face some parallel challenges, more importantly there is bridging and social healing transpiring in relationships between former-extremists, survivors of extremist violence, governments, and NGOs. Moreover, a collective voice to concerns that I, and we as a collective, have in regards to public safety concerns, policy directions, information/intelligence on active extremists, and resource development for formers and survivors alike.
I was invited to New York City to the 2013 by Google Ideas to a Summit they developed on Conflict in a Connected World (CICW) at the Conrad Hilton, as a member of the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network I was asked to present at a working think/do lab group at the CICW Summit.
On day one of the Summit I was re-acquainted with another Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS) reserach affiliate, Mubin Shaikh; as AVE members both of us were excited to share some aspects of work with others from activists, government, military, media, and other think tanks from around the world. I was introduced to TSAS by means of using a Google search on counter-terrorism research. Both of us presented a combination of our graduate research, use of social media within our counter-messaging-narratives, and activist work. The outcomes of our think tank labs included directions for development of cyber tools that could assist in tracking and building a centralized extremist database to identify issues faced when responding to extremist-messages, and potential of establishing sustainable counter-narrative messages.
My presentation covered a number of topics under my activism based work as a former-violent right wing extremist. My presentation included:
1) Interventions I have facilitated in response to youth being radicalized and recruited by white supremacists online. I have facilitated these interventions through social media by building my databases and providing that information to authorities that have then intervened and has resulted in decreasing and ceasing social media interactions between youth and hate groups.
2) Exposing white supremacists through profiling their online extremist activity.
3) Exposing a globalizing extremist network, diversified right wing spectrum that has gone largely unnoticed, and pluralism of ethnic groups involved and working with white supremacists. This network of pluralism in the extremist spectrum includes white supremacists who convert as extremist Muslims and extremist Hindus; this is also seen in the inverse where visible minorities join white supremacist organizations. As absurd and ridiculous this seems to be on the surface there is an intentional function of this dynamic and an ideological thread that ties these extremist groups together. This is a somewhat confusing and discombobulating circumstance that most people would not understand. Thus, speaks particularly to the value of including former-violent extremists into the dialogue of social policy in order to offer a bearing and resource to policy makers, government, and law enforcement in order effectively respond to extremist narratives and violence.
4) Exposing alleged former-violent right wing extremists such as the Canadian Airborne Commando 2 former-Cpl. Matt Mckay. I explained that I had invited former-Cpl. Mckay to participate in an intervention I was facilitating. The intervention was seemingly successful. Afterwards former-Cpl. Matt Mckay then began changing his position and indicated to the youth that it felt to much like the ‘old-days’ and should go target and kill an identifiable minority. Former-Cpl. Mckay then linked the youth with an active white supremacist hate group in the following months.
5) I presented about a case of a youth I had recruited over fifteen years ago from Dawson Creek, BC who was attending the College of New Caledonia in Prince George had began implementing his bomb plots to start bombing First Nations communities. As a result of my intelligence this man was not only convicted one time, but twice for manufacturing explosive devices; the latter charge was in 2010, in Prince George.
6) Issues with reporting hate crimes to local authorities in Canada, particularly in both BC and Alberta. I presented several examples of cases and the responses to these particular issues. I also summarized my experience in the differences of working with municipal police, RCMP to National Security and Military Police. As a result of this case it was recognized by our think tank lab that this issue seemed to be a global trend. Thus, we have identified a potential experimental tool that will be developed in the coming months in order create a database that will be accessible to me and others within the AVE in order to pressure appropriate responses from policy makers, governments, and law enforcement.
7) In conjunction with issues relating to the resistance of local law enforcement in BC and AB to respond to hate crime activity effectively, I also provided a summarization of the futility of a local Prince George project entitled Anti-Racist Protocol. This was a multi-level initiative that was to be accessible to the community to respond to hate crime activity, but was a failed and inaccessible resource even though promised to be otherwise by municipal government, provincial government, RCMP, and a local NGO. Moreover, I brought this to the attention of municipal and federal leaders who then deferred me to the RCMP and to trust their judgment. The discussion around the CICW Summit in context to my presentation was that others in Canada, and abroad, also faced similar challenges. Thus, dialogue around government and law enforcement accountability were further discussed.
8) Lastly, I presented that former-extremists lack resources after disengaging. There are no disengagement/de-radicalization programs available, no appropriate social services, nor funding available to establish such entities.
- I being an emerging Social Worker and experienced counselor and social service manager can fill some of these gaps. Moreover, my intention to go to law school was encouraged in order to effect long term goals of an emerging cultural group of former-violent extremists in Canada and globally. With hundreds of members in the AVE network we see that this is a growing trend. Disengagement is identified as a stage of terrorism-extremism. Thus, we will see more formers emerge.
- I have identified a need to build a scholarship (or alternative-like option) fund for former-violent extremists, whether from the far right-left or gangs, in order to contribute a stronger presence that will influence social policy. Already in the AVE, there are two of us in Canada who are engaged in social policy activism on a national level, graduate research, scholarship, and grass roots activism. The collective force of the AVE has brought an amplified credibility that will not be silenced by the political rhetoric of uninformed law enforcement and politicians.
Some of the other presentations at the Google Ideas CICW Summit included cyber tools such as:
1) Role of Social Media: social media offers a wide range of uses to counter extremist ideological messages, promotion of violence, government and corporation corruption; many other forms of information/intelligence sharing, and activism.
- Statistics were presented on how often social media tools such as twitter are utilized to expose conflict in countries that are being censored. This shows how valuable the role of social media tools are within context of human rights around the world. Discussion on how the Internet should be a human right around the world in an intriguing debate and should be further discussed in developed countries.
- The role that alternative media has played in exposing truth about dynamics within conflict areas that effectively unravels propaganda campaigns of particular government, rebel groups, and totalitarian forces.
- Blogger Analytics: example were offered of how small scale bloggers can become essential to National Security threats and intelligence through innovate reporting, even by amateurs. Some very intriguing and insightful example was presented. Bloggers who were able to discover new weaponry being manufactured in the Middle East to unveiling government corruption.
- Online uses to counter cyber bullying and threats. Stories were shared of how activists, bloggers, journalists, and hackers are repressed, censored, and victimized:
i. A story of a blogger from the Middle East who was kidnapped and tortured for his blogs.
ii. A blogger from Thailand who utilizes blogging and alternative media to counter bullying in a socially repressive society.
iii. One gay activist from Iran discussed how society and policy force queer communities to live double lives and to remain in ‘hiding’.
iv. One hacker told a story about his heavily secured computer and home was broken into by thieves and stole his computer equipment. He ended up hacking into his own computer while thieves were using his computer. Once he identified the location of his computer he was able to get it back.
2) Internet software tools offered by Google and Google Ideas:
- DDOS Protection: a software tool that is offered by Google that will prevent a website from DDOS cyber attacks. This resource can assist and stop websites from being shutdown or tampered with by malicious cyber attacks.
- Investigative Dashboard: a tool for investigators, journalists, etc. that has accessible databases on organized crime networks around the world. With this tool tracking financial trails is possible from country to country. This tool can assist with exposing and whistleblowing on corruption with military, government, and corporations.
- Anonymity Tools: there are a number of software tools to assist and facilitate anonymous activity online. This can be helpful for those engaged with alternative media sources, investigating potentially sensitive and dangerous individuals and networks, and a wide host of other applications.
- Google Proxy Tool: This new tool will allow those in countries with Internet repressive policies to by-pass government censorship online. By means of an individual in a repressed nation can connect to someone’s computer in a country that does not censor Internet access. This can be extremely powerful tool for those involved in alternative media, whistleblowing and necessary human rights activism. Of course the applications offered by this accessible software built right into your web browser and can be connected by two simple clicks is only limited by the users themselves.
In addition to the wealth of resources that were introduced and presented at the CICW Summit, it was also an amazing experience to network and connect with others. I was able to network with individuals from the USA, Thailand, Canada, and the Middle East that I will surely be engaging with for future projects; most likely more unpaid, but extremely necessary work.
This experience also gave me insights into the importance on educating youth in my own community on how accessible the wider world actually is. It is very possible and even likely for any individual to select a passion they have and to follow that through as a developed skill set in order to contribute to online social movements.
The two most important statements from the CICW Summit that resonated with me. First was that the online world is “reality.” I have often heard that one of the troubles with cyber spaces are that people lie and pretend to be who ever they want to be. This reminds me of how many people I have met in real life who pretend or hide who they really are. The Internet is no different. The latter was that the private sector can respond much more quickly to extremism/terrorism than any law enforcement or government can. Private sector responses can include a number of responses like research, counter-narratives, intelligence, and development of tools.
Networking at Social Event
Google Ideas and the Gen Next Foundation who participated in the CICW Summit hosted an amazing social event. At this event I was able to make some amazing connections. The primary contact I want to speak to is a member from the US Department of State (US-DOS) who used to write for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) magazine. I have now been in contact and will continue to nurture a relationship with US-DOS and SPLC as much as possible. I have been compelled to continue my activism over the last half a decade by the inspiration I have gotten from the work of the SPLC; never in my life had I thought I would make a direct connection to the SPLC.
Other connections include other bloggers who have now inspired me to engage with a more professional, innovative, and sophisticated investigative process and delivery for my social media articles. I am truly inspired by the work of the world leading counter-extremist and whistleblower bloggers I have met.
Google Ideas and AVE Offer Me Gifts
I want to offer a quick story of how integral Google Ideas and the AVE have become a part of my life. First and foremost, these collectives offered me freedom from isolation both in real-life and virtual spaces within context to my research, activism, and writing (creative non-fiction, scholarship, and blogs). In regards to my research Google Ideas and AVE have connected me to the federal government and has resulted in receiving some research funding. Without this funding I would have had to drop out of graduate school. My social experience has been plagued with poverty and adversity. Without strong socially privileged connections it can be debilitating attempting to acquire funding for post-secondary education, university in North America is most accessible to those who are socially privileged.
More personally the CICW has allowed me to leave Canada for the first time legally. Not only was this travel experience rich as a cultural experience it also offered me new networks and even more importantly solidify old connections. I was also able to introduce a friend of mine who runs a youth alternative media source, Gen Why Media, to the CICW Summit. Fiona Rayher is engaged in very necessary projects. One project in particular she is working on is called Fractured Lands. This documentary is about a young lawyer and emerging First Nations leader, Caleb Behn, and how his traditional territory is being impacted by oil and gas industry.
Specifically this documentary educates about the process of frac-ing in northeastern BC, which is only one process of many that has been devastating the environment and people. I was honored to share the network and connections I have been gifted to another strong leader. I am grateful that Fiona Rayher joined the CICW Summit. Her presence is timely as the Summit focused on digital conflict, censorship, and extremism. With the events happening in New Brunswick where First Nations peoples are being threatened yet again by military action, much like the Oka Crisis, brings into context as what constitutes as being extremist-terrorist action and messages.
As a former-violent extremist who has had ties with two separate terrorists in Canada and as a researcher, activist, and writer I boldly proclaim that First Nations are NOT inherently extremist just because they oppose and counter the dominant societies collective efforts to exploit and pillage environment and humans in a colonial force. There are many examples of how Canada as a nation, even in my life time, have repeatedly systemically violated, abused, and murdered First Nations peoples so severely that I am often deeply disappointed and disturbed that I was born into a social class that persists to exploit environment and people for profit; and will go to extreme measures to do so. I am hopeful that there will be dialogue that differentiates First Nations legal right to protest over land claims etc, and not be targeted under counter-terrorist legislation.
Lastly, another gift I received from the Google Ideas CICW Summit was a re-introduction with some people who had deeply impacted my life as a youth. I had ran away from home at age twelve because of the traumatic environment I was raised in. I was physically and sexually victimized as a child. After I left home I survived and supported myself through criminality. As a result I ended up incarcerated for eighteen months. I was then forced into a foster home for six months. I was housed with an amazing family, Jill and Dave Thomas. I left at the end of those six months, never to talk or see the Thomas’ again.
Two years ago I did a facebook search for the Thomas family. I located and contacted Jill through facebook. She was ecstatic and very confused. She told me that years after I had moved out they always assumed I would die on the streets. Then one day the RCMP showed up at the dental office where she worked. When I lived with them she had me in for dental work. She said the RCMP then requested my dental records. She inquired if they had found a body. The RCMP refused to confirm or deny any events and demanded the records. She gave them the records and reconciled with the fact that their foster son had died. Needless to say the Thomas family was shocked when I sent them a facebook message nearly two decades later. We became facebook friends and in frequently talk online with an intention to meet up one day in the future.
Well the day came. I posted a facebook status about my attendance at the Conrad Hilton hotel in lower Manhattan in New York City for a Google Ideas CICW Summit. Jill and Dave Thomas just happened to be in New York City at the same time. After twenty years of not seeing on another, and nearly fifteen years of thinking I had died, we got to hug and drink coffee together at the Conrad Hilton. This gift I offered just speaks to the full circles my life continuously offers.
Through Google Ideas and AVE, as mentioned earlier, I was granted funding for my research. That funding has assisted me in completing my graduate degree but also gave me another gift. It provided me with an opportunity to pay for tattoo cover-ups. I have covered one swastika tattoo on my arm, and am now in process of covering a giant swastika on my stomach. The tattooist is Rene Botha at LiquidAmber Tattoos in Vancouver. Rene is a superbly talented artist, amazing musician, and a beautiful person. She has an inspiring story and vast experience both personally, professionally, and creatively in her anti-racist contributions. As a result of my tattoo cover-ups I was offered to begin filming a documentary on my social transformation and the work that I do as a former-extremist, researcher, writer, educator, and activist. We will possibly be seeking funding for this coming project in the near future. If it were not for Google Ideas this would not have been possible.
The reason this connection to Google Ideas and AVE is important for me as a northerner is that we do have active white supremacists both on our streets and in online spaces. These individuals have pushed back in response to being exposed and have tried to openly deny their violent ideological positions; however, they have continued with their online presence and promoting violent ideologies in our communities.
I have been told by Prince George Mayor Sherry Green, former Public Safety Canada Minister Vic Toews, provincial representatives from Embrace BC, and RCMP to trust local law enforcement. However, local law enforcement and the specialized hate crimes team has proven to me, and from the feedback I have heard, the community is not happy with the fact that law enforcement only responds when pressured by media, which has often been a result of my advocacy work. Yet, people are not surprised of this because of the tarnished reputation of the RCMP due to racism, excessive force, and gender discrimination.
In my academic perspective this seems to be structurally tied to a dominant socio-political worldview that results in subtle outcomes of hegemonic systems and marginalizing responses. If the city of Prince George, the Province of BC, and the federal Government of Canada whole heartedly believed in the directives they proclaim we would not see a sort of white-privilege” that seems to exist for ‘white’ terrorists and violent extremists. Actually the federal governments choice to repeal Section 13 from the Human Rights Code indicates that quite blatantly they believe that white supremacists right to free speech is more valuable than an effective piece of legislation, namely Section 13, that has had a 100% conviction rate for Lawyer Richard Warman.
For me as a Canadian citizen it reminds me that the same authorities who have dropped the ball on missing First Nations women are the same authorities that are effectively disregarding racist extremists. In a country founded on apartheid policies in order to control the ‘Indian-Problem’ we do not seem to have advanced all that far.
That being said I commend the government for acknowledging its role, The PM’s apology speech, in facilitating genocidal and assimilation programs against First Nations people. The fact that I can publicly say what I think does show how progressive our democracy has become in contrast to yester-year. This however does not in any way negate the very issues I am contending as a researcher/academic, advocate, writer, and educator. The responses from governments and law enforcement in the north are nearly indicators that we as a society have to do a lot more work. Extremist messages need appropriate responses to counter violent action and ideologies.
I am being identified as a leader in a global context to some of these issues. I am hopeful that local authorities will recognize this and begin to work with me rather than attempt to bully and intimidate me into acting in a manner as they see fit, which essentially downplays the threat of violent extremists who believe they are at war with our society. What people sometimes fail to realize is that our society is based upon white supremacist law and culture. A culture of dominance does breed violent demeaning worldviews towards those who are often ‘other-ed’ and marginalized.
Decidedly, I am considering application to study law rather than pursuing doctoral studies due to the apathetic response from law enforcement and governments in context to extremist action; and some of the concerns I have with the status quo within the academy. It seems that unless you are from Southeast Asia, Muslim or First Nations it is ok to commit acts of extremist violence. Perhaps it is systemic ignorance that leads to the ineffective and apathetic approach to investigations and prosecution of hate crime activity.
Furthermore, all of the recent hate crimes charges against extremist white supremacist group Blood & Honor in Vancouver, BC, which includes a Filipino man who was lit on fire, beating of an aboriginal woman, and a brutal assault on a black man were failed hate crimes; all hate crimes charges were dropped. This means less sentences if these people are in fact convicted.
I have followed and profiled each one of the individuals charged with these hate crimes and offered my data to RCMP. Moreover, one of the ex-partners of a racist skinhead charged with one of these mentioned hate crimes informed the hate crimes unit that I had more information for them, which could help substantiate the hate crimes charge. Of course the hate crimes team did not contact me and in fact have attempted to take an authoritarian stance in regards to my activism.
What they do not realize is that no matter how much they try to ignore me my work will continue and until authorities respond appropriately and honor they own stated proclamations in the media and advertised campaigns I will not stop. I am here for the long haul. I will complete law school and I will begin to advocate against the inherent racism and gender discriminatory culture deeply rooted within the RCMP. I will become a force that will affect international pressure upon them until they begin to respond to right wing extremism/terrorism in appropriate manners.
There are many solutions that can be implemented within the systems in order to understand the very things government and law enforcement are exemplifying that they do not actually understand. Acknowledgement of the structural issues needs to be acknowledged then addressed. Moreover, accountability of honoring their own words must be delivered especially in context of public safety and potentially national security.