22 November 2011

Want to Get Out of the Racist Movement? Please Read This

Yesterday, we posted a link to one time Heritage Front member Elisse Hategan who did more to take down the Front than any Canadian government agency ever could (and, really, in spite of some government agencies). Despite the efforts from 2001 to 2005 to revive the group, Elisse's testimony essentially killed the Heritage Front as a viable movement in Canada and exposed the activities of CSIS to public examination (NOTE: For those interested in reading more about Grant Bristow and CSIS' involvement in the Heritage Front, we would suggest reading Elisse's testimony before the parliamentary committee investigating the affair.) 

Elisse was able to reject racism and move on to lead a productive life. We know that there are those out there who are trying to get out as well, so we asked Elisse if she would mind recounting her story to our readers with the hope that perhaps it might push some who are a part of the racist movement but having second thoughts to take that leap of faith to get out. It might also cause those who are on the fence to consider the consequences of their decisions and make a better choice.


My former name is Elisse Hategan. When I was 16 years old I met Wolfgang Droege and joined the Heritage Front. Shortly thereafter began to work as a daily helper in Ernst Zundel’s old bunker on Carlton Street in Toronto. It was 1991 and the Front had just started to grow. Being part of the small inner circle of HF leadership, I was there to see it develop into the beast it would eventually become.

I was full of hate before I ever joined the Heritage Front. In retrospect, I had every right to be angry: I’d spent half my teenage years transitioning between my abusive mother’s house and various group and foster homes. It seemed unfair to me that everybody else had loving parents and a safe home and I was forced to take care of myself from a very young age. My parents had emigrated from Romania four years before, and nobody ever asked me if I’d wanted to come to Canada. I didn’t have any friends here, my father died soon afterwards and I was completely alone, living in a rough neighbourhood and going to a school across town where other kids picked on me because I didn’t fit in.
 
After I ran away from my last foster home and went back to live with my mother, I dropped out of school. I didn’t see any point in going; I had no prospects and I was filled with rage. Meeting up with the Heritage Front gave my life purpose and direction. I had an ideology now; my anger was whittled into shape. I had a family who looked after me. When I was in trouble and needed food or a place to crash, I could always depend on Ernst or Wolfgang to help me out.
 
Wolfgang and Ernst mentored me to become one of their recruiters and key speakers at rallies and in countless media interviews. Behind the scenes, however, I was having more and more problems with the direction the group was going (particularly after being directed by Grant Bristow to target specific anti-racists for vicious harassment campaigns).
 
In the spring of 1993 I decided to take one of the leaflets Wolfgang had produced and give it to a couple of anti-racist activists as a way to warn them of what was going on. The police approached me and asked questions about the flyer. Since I wouldn’t tell them where it had come from, I was arrested and charged with libel and hate propaganda. (The charges were eventually dismissed after the anti-racists I’d given it to signed official affidavits stating that I had indeed given them the material as a way to warn them about the actions of the Heritage Front.)
 
In the meantime, I didn’t know how I could get out of the Front. They were my entire world and, although suffocating, I knew too much for them to let me go that easily. I was also conflicted about my participation and I wanted to do more than just drop out of the movement – I wanted to get them back.
 
With the help of a couple of anti-racist individuals who had been targeted by the Heritage Front’s infamous It Campaign, I began to spy on the HF. I collected information on Wolfgang, on Ernst’s mailing lists, on all the activities I’d witnessed being committed by Grant Bristow. Days before I was pulled out of the movement and forced to live underground, I had a meeting at the Delta Chelsea with two Ontario Provincial Police officers. I’d signed over 30 affidavits detailing all the criminal activities I’d witnessed, along with a list of persons who owned illegal guns. The police told me they were directed by a superior to not pursue the matter. We would later find out that both the OPP and the RCMP had been directed by CSIS (who were trying to protect their Source) to disregard my evidence and deny me entry into the Witness Protection Program.
 
I was on the run. Both my lawyer and Martin Theriault, then director of the Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice, arranged that I would testify against Wolfgang Droege and two other HF members in front of the Human Rights Commission tribunal. After a vicious 3-day cross-examination, Wolfgang and his boys were sent to jail for a few months for violating a court injunction. It wasn’t much, but they were out of commission. Shortly afterwards, Bill Dunphy of the Toronto Sun ran an exposé blowing Bristow’s cover as a CSIS agent, and he was whisked off to Edmonton, Alberta, and given the new name of Nathan Black (plus a very generous package of salary and large home, totalling several hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars).
 
The Heritage Front was dead in the water. But my nightmare had just began. 
 
I was forced to travel all over the east coast and lived in countless cities. I can’t tell you how many times I thought the easiest thing would be to just let those who had threatened me with death to just get it over with. Unlike Grant Bristow, I had no money, no food, no protection. I panhandled and dumpster-dived to survive, and wondered what was the point of everything. I stopped being afraid. I lost every sense of self-preservation I ever had; I just didn’t care anymore.
 
And then, one day, I decided to just pull myself together. I took a high-school equivalency exam in Halifax. I didn’t have any hopes of passing it and was shocked when that envelope arrived two months later. I just sat down and cried and thought – it is possible to move forward. I swore to myself to never let anybody tell me that I couldn’t do something.
 
I moved to Ottawa and applied to several universities as a mature student. I got into all of them and chose the University of Ottawa to study criminology and psychology. By the end of my first year, my cumulative GPA was 90%. I scraped by on student loans, merit scholarships and Kraft Dinner and graduated Magna cum Laude, whereupon I decided that I wanted to see the world. I moved to Seoul, South Korea to teach English. I travelled through Asia on my holidays and got to climb the Great Wall of China. After my job contract was over, I travelled through Europe and Morocco. I got to see the Eiffel tower, went up to the top of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, walked along the canals of Venice, rode a camel in Marrakech, and fell in love with the world all over again.
 
I really believe that all of us human beings carry within ourselves the propensity to change, to evolve, to reach toward something greater than ourselves. In my last year of university I’d volunteered with the Elizabeth Fry Society in Ottawa and went into prisons, working with inmates on various artistic projects. It was a very humbling experience to see how life might have turned out for me, if I didn’t make the choice to turn away from hate.
 
For anyone who is reading this and is part of a hate group, I have a message for you: there is a way out. You may not think it’s possible, but you can get past the hatred and do something positive with your life. 
 
I’ve been in your place, and trust me – it is possible. 
 
You may not think there’s a world outside of the movement. Every one of your friends is part of it and would judge you harshly if you were to drop out. You probably can’t even imagine a world without them, without the power you feel when you’re surrounded by your comrades. You feel like you’re invincible. What would you do without them? Who would you hang out with? Whatever would you believe in? What would your life be without that rush? Without the heart-pumping action of demonstrations, subversive leaflets, getting into brawls, feeling like you’re part of some kind of underground revolution where you alone can see the truth of your beliefs?
 
Even if you might disagree with your comrades, you’re afraid of voicing your concerns lest they think you’re less committed to the cause. You don’t ever think that things could be any different. You can’t imagine that ten years from now you could be a different person with a different set of ideals. You can’t imagine that you could ever be friends with people of different races, or fall in love with someone you’d never have expected.
 
 But let’s just say that one day you realize there’s no future in the racist movement. Let’s say that you wake up one morning and see all your comrades as a bunch of drunken, tattooed idiots who’d rather sit around getting wasted and cursing out other races than better their own lives. Let’s say this awareness comes from 1) being told that you should take the rap for something you haven’t done; 2)  being told that as a white woman, you shouldn’t educate yourself, but rather, have as many Aryan babies as possible; or 3) you don’t quite understand what stocking up on guns and explosives has to do with advancing your cause. Whatever your reasons, let’s just assume you’ll wake up one day and question whether everything you’ve been involved with has been one horrible nightmare from which there’s no waking up.
 
You don’t feel like there’s any way out. You wonder what would happen if you turned on your buddies and left the movement. You need the ideology of hate to keep you going. What happens if everything you thought you knew about life collapses? Where can you go? Who can you talk to?
 
You might feel that everybody outside the racist movement hates you. That anti-racists are going to mock you and never believe that you’ve changed. That everybody will look upon you as that same old bonehead, that same neo-Nazi who believed Hitler was the greatest gift to the world since sliced bread, who bragged about wanting to deport everyone who wasn’t part of the Master Race back to their homelands. I mean, after you believe such things and act like an idiot in public, who’s going to believe that you want  to do something different with your life?
 
You know what? I’ve learned the hard way that I don’t have to prove a thing to anybody. You just have to act with conscience and compassion, and your actions will speak louder than your words. I remember being the guest speaker at a huge anti-racist rally in Toronto. As I was being led inside, a couple of members of the ARA began to jeer and spit on me. They shouted things like, Death to Nazis, and Once a Nazi, Always a Nazi. Nothing I could have done could convince them I wasn’t what they thought I was. The fact that I’d just sent Wolfgang Droege, Gary Schipper and Ken Barker to jail meant absolutely nothing to them. To this day, I’m convinced they hate my guts. It took me a long time to realize that yes, there will be people out there who may never be able to forgive, or understand that true change can happen. There’s nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. But having been there, I believe it.
 
I believe in you. I believe in your ability to transform yourself into a force that does good, rather than remain an advocate for violence. In fact, I know that you can do it. By choosing to act out of love instead of hate, and by embracing the humanity in all people, you can redeem yourself. An entire universe will open to you then – and you will understand that when it really comes down to it, we all share the same dreams. 
 
We all want to be happy. We all want to be loved. We all want to have a purpose. But in order to truly achieve those things, you have to open yourself up to the world. Even if you’re scared, resentful and alone, you have to force yourself to give back love and compassion, in order to receive it. It might be frightening at first, to give up everything you thought you stood for. But I promise you that if you take that leap of faith, you will come that much closer to fulfilling your potential.
 
There is a way out, and the key rests in your hands.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a phenomenal story.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a link to the Canadian film.White lies?

Anonymous said...

It's a strange, lengthy, difficult transition - that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I got my copy of white lies from HMV. They ordered it in.

NomDeGuerre200 said...

Hey, "IrishHostility" - we aren't publishing your comments because this ain't a bonehead site (oops, sorry, there's that word you hate). Capiche?

P.S. Don't flatter yourself. There's nothing to "analyze" in your comments because it's the same asinine crap that boneheads post on our site every day. We don't publish their comments either, and it's laughable that you think your predictable ramblings are anything original or that they'll make us look bad. Occasionally we like to let a few bonehead comments pass through because it drives you all positively WILD when your subsequent comments are ignored. Looking forward to driving you crazy again. :-) Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I would like to shake her hand and seek her advice one day. Those of who have reached this point and want to seriously make amends, applaud those of you who have done so.

Anonymous said...

I must say it's pretty low for antiracists to spit upon this person, she has done more to fight racism then any of the person who spitted on her

Nosferatu200 said...

There will always be those who can't believe that people can change. We don't hold this view. If we didn't think people could change, the world would be a very bleak place. We have a great deal of respect for Elise. She's an incredibly strong and courageous woman.

Anonymous said...

People can change, heck even my grandfather who almost as homophobic as the westboro baptist church saw how wrong he was in his late 70's few years before he died.