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.
I was recently interviewed about the Soldiers of Odin taking foot in BC. I see this as very problematic, in spite of the groups desire to claim they have no ties, nor intention, similar to that of the group they claim to be a part of. This, of course, is illogical; and in my opinion demonstrates how full of shit these guys are.
I decided to write this first letter to my fellow Canadians, and the latter to Soldiers of Odin as a whole.
Daniel Gallant is a registered Social Worker who studies law, and has been acknowledged as a leader on topics pertaining to right wing extremism in Canada. Daniel spent nearly ten years trapped within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, and has since dedicated his life to undoing violence, racism and hatred. His work has been presented to, acknowledged by and referenced by world leaders, governments, leadings scholars, global organizations, and law enforcement.
Dear Fellow Canadian Citizens,
Don’t believe the hype.
Soldiers of Odin (S.O.O.) are not here to protect you, nor your communities. This group claims, and may even believe, they are working for the greater good. But, this is clearly not true. I would like to tell you a few things about their organization.
First, S.O.O. is the by-product of the European white supremacist network. The group was designed in Northern Europe by hate mongers that aim to ‘cleanse’ neighborhoods from ‘immigrant hordes’. The group’s primary purpose is to engage in war and instill terror into its enemies, as that is a nature of war; for furthering context Soldiers of Odin were formed to target immigrants, Muslims and Islam. However, the Canadian leaders of this group want us to believe they have nothing to do with, nor are they alike or kin to, the hate group that birthed their organization, a little over one year ago.
Basically the Soldiers of Odin will do whatever it takes to hide behind every mask they can. Plainly speaking, if the group has no kinship with its white supremacist roots, then why did they join under the flag, and trademark, of the Soldiers of Odin. There does not appear to be any logical and rationale that could make this a plausible truth.
Soldiers of Odin began in Europe, formed by white supremacists, about a year ago. Now under that same flag, Chapters of the organization have spread throughout Europe and North America; all hailing anti-immigration sentiments and embracing right wing rhetoric. But, the Canadian chapter wants the citizens of Canada to be permissible and complicit in their inherently racist organization. This way they can both hide and fulfill their organization’s purpose. Hiding in plain sight.
WHAT IS IN A ‘NAME’
Soldiers of Odin are making claims that do not hold up to even the most basic logic testing.
For instance, let’s for a minute consider the name of the organization, “Soldiers Of Odin”, in itself demonstrates what the group is, and sets out to do. Odin is the god of war that honors those who die in battle to protect their race and soil. This is the odinist way. Anyone who claims otherwise, either is lying or does not understand the narrative they are supporting, which in itself demonstrates inconsistent messaging of this organization, or perhaps lies. These tactics are only utilized by those who have something to mask and hide.
Additionally, the term “odinism” was the construct of WWII era theorists, who were Nazis. The Nazis developed and branded odinism out of an ancient Nordic Pre-Christian Religion. The ancient pagan ‘religion’ was not called “odinism”, it is Asatru (and other variations of the like).
The Nazis created a new branch of neo-paganism, odinism, that had erupted into a real threat all over the world in the 1980s, which disguises itself as a cultural heritage ideology. Yet, just another way for extremist racists to hide their true ‘color’ (pardon the pun).
In our era of contemporary right wing politics and global issues pertaining to extremism and terrorism, these sorts of groups are emerging everywhere. And without a doubt, they are a threat to those that fall into identifiable categories. By this dynamic alone, is kin to the same way that racism plays out in our communities; it is schismatic in nature.
The main difference between Astatru and odinism, in a very rudimentary explanation, is that odinists worship the Nordic god of war. Odin is set out to protect soil and bloodlines. By this logic alone, Soldiers of Odin are there to protect their own race and land. This alone should be understood as racist in two ways:
- a) Soldiers of Odin was created as an anti-immigration organization to fight against the Muslim community, and
- b) which seeks to protect its (O.O.) own kind, and the S.O.O. membership is primarily ‘white’ people.
There is another discussion to be had about Soldiers of Odin and their impact upon indigenous peoples as well. But that is a more complex area of discussion to have in the future. But let me assure you, this is also an area where this group demonstrates pure ignorance and inconsistent messages. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to many people the S.O.O. will disguise itself, and it’s true purpose, function and structure by convincing members of the public otherwise.
SKINHEADS AND RACISTS
Soldiers Of Odin’s leaders claim they have purged out the racists from their organization. This is, flatly, a lie.
I was a part of the white supremacist movement in Canada for ten years. I have been engaged with online monitoring of white supremacist organizations now for nearly 12 years. I assure you that there is evidence that proves the S.O.O. are soo full of poop, on this point alone. This is actually a ridiculous claim. They are flatly denying the presence of racists in their midst to the Canadian Public, while on the other hand have embraced white supremacists within their ranks; and remember that they were also founded by white supremacists.
White supremacists and racists have been praying to odin before beating and killing people on our streets, for decades. Some of you may even remember David Bowie’s 1987 album Tin Machine warning us about racist odinists in his song entitled: Under the God. This is not a new issue.
Not only do the Soldiers of Odin have white supremacists in their ranks, but the leadership does engage in many forms of rhetoric that synthesizes the nature and conduct of, and is derived from, white supremacist groups.
S.O.O. has engaged in social media attacks against those who oppose or critique their organization; and this is why I have chosen to speak out.
Community leader and long-time anti-racist Alan Dutton has been interviewed about his opinion of Soldiers of Odin Chapter that was recently started in Vancouver. Soldiers of Odin members and leadership has began referring to the opposition as enemies and then referring to their critiques as “antifa”.
This is precisely what fascist, nazi and white supremacists do. In fact, the rhetoric and dynamic of attempting to discredit someone, by labelling them as antifa, is birthed out of the white power movement.
Antifa are people who are anti-fascist. Already, Soldiers of Odin have launched social media attacks against those they label as antifa, which surely they will label me. This is very problematic for a couple of reasons:
First, when did we as a society begin to say that Anti-Fascists are a bad thing?
Second, did Canada not take a formal position against the fascist Nazi Regime in WWII?
How can Soldiers of Odin claim to be upholding Canadian law and values when they are attacking those who stand up against racism and fascism. It seems that Soldiers of Odin are working contrary to our legal system.
The fact that S.O.O. is attacking antifa online, is indicative of the similar conversations found on white supremacist websites. This is a core contradictory element of their organizations discourse. This does demonstrate the ideological lineage of Soldiers of Odin’s members. I do not think, nor expect, most Canadians can easily identify these issues. But, I can, as I spent nearly a decade immersed in that lifestyle; and more than a decade of unlearning the doctrine.
My years within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, to my profound social change, and now my current role as an educator, researcher, advocate, Social Worker and future career as a lawyer, compel me to express to you that this group, in my opinion, are a threat to safety of ALL Canadians. Especially to minority groups and vulnerable persons.
It has been demonstrated to me, through my research on the Soldiers of Odin that there is a grave concern that emerges in the influx of their membership, and the fact that many people who are not attracted to white supremacy, are being duped into this new organization.
I will support any group that keeps our streets safe for ALL Canadians. However, not only are the Soldiers of Odin unsafe because they are inherently racist and war-minded as an organization (as is demonstrated by evidence found in their organizations founder and group name), they have also proven to be comprised of liars, racists, extremists and bullies who belittle immigrants and anti-racists. This alone should raise flags about who and what the Soldiers of Odin are.
Canadians should be concerned with this group that is reminiscent of the Heritage Front.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
Dear Soldiers of Odin,
It has come to my attention that you have now ‘set up shop’ in Canada, by rapidly expanding Chapters of your ‘organization’ across Canada. Let’s not waste time, nor mince words.
Your organization has already demonstrated dishonesty, incongruence and hatred against your fellow citizens. Your politics are divisive and the evidence is found in your online campaign, organizational conduct, onslaught of misinformation and the fact that you have members who are members of various Canadian hate groups (both past and present). Heck, even your organization’s name speaks to the violent nature of your organization’s intent: war for the sake of ‘blood, soil and honor’.
There are several things I would like to hash out with Soldiers OF Odin and air publicly, some of which is in this letter, and more in my letter to all Canadians. We will surely engage more discourse as time moves forward, as I have a wealth of knowledge, insight, education and stamina.
Your ‘respective’ leader (Joel Angott) indicated (in Metro News article) that you all uphold Canadian law, and our collective Constitutional Rights. Obviously your organization does not understand what a Constitutional Right is. There are only a few ways in how S.O.O. could possibly frame the façade that you all uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. However, we both know this is complete bull-pucky.
If you had any clue what a Constitutional Right was, then you would not be attempting to claim your neighbourhood patrols protect Constitutional Rights in Canada. Let me explain further.
Canadian Constitutional Rights, are guarantees, in law, that Canadians receive to empower us as citizens. Guarantees that protect us of from the conduct and actions of government, police and authorities of certain variety. Moreover, Constitutional Rights are engaged as a legal protection that are sorted out through the legal system, not by walking through neighborhoods creating an environment of fear and intimidation.
I am sorry to inform you that you do not, in fact, nor law, protect Canadians’ Constitutional Rights. You are a group of self-appointed, not democratically elected, thugs who ‘patrol’ streets against our own citizens. These actions, even if righteous, are in no way connected to upholding our Constitutional Rights.
If S.O.O. were in fact upholding our Constitutional Rights you all would be working within legal strategies against the government and authorities, where there were Constitutional failings and pitfalls. You would not be involving yourself in right wing extremism and organized crime circles.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that we do agree on some matters. Our laws do not protect citizens well enough from pedophiles, rapists and other social ailments. But to be frank, I do not believe you are our solution to these matters. In fact, quite the contrary. This is where I find your organization very similar to white supremacist groups. Your group appeals to those people who are rightfully angered about the abuses and grievances they and their loved ones may have suffered. Soldiers of Odin capitalizes upon these vulnerabilities, and exploits citizens by doing so, while fooling un-suspecting people into your ranks. However, this mere tactic to garner public attention and community support is bound to fail because it is not transparent and congruent; rather it is coercive and manipulative.
Fortunately, there are those of us who have a deeper understanding through personal experience, education and formal research of how organizations like yours get started; and then move onto becoming a threat to Canadian public safety.
I hope that you take this input, how it is intended. My intention is to show you that your organization is publicly speaking out of line, on matters it knows not; and that the rhetoric you are attempting to sell is exposed for what it is: abusive.
Additionally, I do hope you become aware that there are those in our communities who care about sustainable public safety. Organizations like S.O.O., albeit believe they are righteous, are actually creating more divisiveness in our communities and are spreading hatred and fear in the very communities you claim to protect. The very fact that organizations of minorities are expressing concern, and your leaderships response is defensiveness and offensive rhetoric, both demonstrate and exemplifies your organizations nature; the intent of the Soldiers of Odin, hence, your organization’s name that pays homage to the god of war.
Let us, in summary, cut to the chase.
Soldiers of Odin membership includes racists, white supremacists, criminals and liars. S.O.O. was created to instil fear and conduct acts of violence in a war, that odin would adore. It is unfortunate that your predecessor, odin himself, would probably be very disappointed in your tactics and dishonesty.
Perhaps the next time you want to sell the Canadian public a stench ridden pile of steaming crap, you may want to consider a re-brand that does not overtly emulate the true nature of your group’s purpose: abuse, war & racism.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
I have written many blog articles, academic pieces and many declarative poetic narratives about my time in the white supremacist movement. I have also read and watched the work of others related to their experience with the white power networks around the world. I have not ever been so profoundly moved by an artistic piece as I have, to date, by the play written by David Gow called Cherry Docs.
(Photo by Jenifer Norwell CBC)
The Director of the play in Kamloops, Glen Cairns, featured Nigel Beardwood who played Michael Downy, a neo-nazi skinhead on trial for racially motivated murder. Todd Sullivan played Beardwood’s Jewish lawyer. Glen Cairns, the Director, is a survivor of a violent hate crime in Toronto back in the 1990s. The beating so severe his face had to be reconstructed. We were brought together by suggestion of a mutual friend, to whom I am grateful.
The play was moving. It was delivered with a vulnerable emotional connection, by a production and acting team that is passionate about life and the real social issues we face in society. This play is worth seeing.
Albeit, my boots are not Cherry Docs they are Oxblood Gripfast (used to be gettagrips) Rangers, which were one of the two main choices of boots selected by nazi skinheads since the 1980s. Both pairs are symbolically linked and represent the same thing, while also acknowledging there do exist some branding and functional differences. I will not discuss these distinguishments as I do not want to contribute to a promotion of the reasons why I selected these boots, but I will say that I always had a pair of Docs for one violent purpose and this style of boot for another violent purpose.
I could write a very long article on what I experienced but instead I encourage you to see the play that runs until Jan. 24 2016 in Kamloops. I also encourage you to read this article by CBC and listen to this interview with Glen, Nigel and Myself as we discuss our intersection, Cherry Docs (boots), in the theatre of life.
(Photo by Jenifer Norwell CBC: Right to left: Nigel Beardwood, Daniel Gallant, Glen Cairns)
The only sad part about this experience is that in response to the CBC’s article (as seen here) is riddled by comments by white supremacists. One particular individual, who is a member of a specific skinhead organization and is responsible for cowardice beatings of our community members and was charged with a hate crime, took to the internet to express his rejection of the healing nature of our collective cathartic experiences.
It is a good reminder for me to know that there are still people who are lost and cling on to the grips of power-over others through violence/intimidation, while riddled with denial and false consciousness about our shared humanness (as I once was)…there is still much work to be done…but at the very least even those who are where I once was are now discussing and engaging on the forefront (or at least periphery) with the work of deconstructing hatred in our communities.
I challenge any and all persons who believe in the things I once did to reach out and have civil dialogue in order for us to grow collectively, rather than holding onto to abusive ways that defeat the thing that we all similarly strive for: survival and a better life. I do not condemn those for believing what they do, but I do openly challenge the not-always-so-apparent logical fallacies and conspirators perceptions of those who dedicate themselves to a movement fuelled by hatred, fear and denial.
There is a better way to live.
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.
Here is the videos for 16×9 TV show I was interviewed for.
First is a preview interview
Second is the full episode
Last is the behind the scenes interview with producer Krysia Collyer
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.