20 February 2015

Elisa Hategan Comments on Danger of Giving More Power to CSIS

We posted an article on the blog earlier this month where we suggested that government legislation that would provide CSIS more powers wasn't in the best interests of the Canadian people. We based that conclusion on the role CSIS and their mole Grant Bristow played during the early years of the Heritage Front. It was during the years that Bristow was involved (1989 - 1994) that the Heritage Front was at it's most dangerous.

We later received the following comment:

Personally, I don't think that Heritage Front has anything to do with CSIS. The Heritage Front was a Canadian neo-Nazi,white supremacist organization founded in 1989 and disbanded around 2005.

That isn't an entirely accurate sentiment unfortunately, and Ms. Hategan goes into a great deal of detail outlining the role CSIS played in the first five years of the Heritage Front. We'll provide the link to Ms. Hategan's here and at the end of our part of the article. First, we need to make the following points:

1. Was the Heritage Front a neo-nazi organization that was founded in 1989 and disbanded around 2005? 

That is accurate. It might be more accurate to consider that there were three somewhat distinct phases of the Heritage Front though:

  1. The HF of 1989 - 1994. This phase begins with the founding of the group by National Party members after their return from Libya. During these 5 years the Heritage Front grew to be the most powerful and dangerous hate group in Canada since the Klan of the 1920s. It was also when it was at it's largest and best organized. It also happens to be at a time when Grant Bristow, who was working for CSIS, was in a position of leadership and Wolfgang Droege's most trusted lieutenants. You will read a lot more detail in Ms. Hategan's letter to the media, and FAR more detail in her book which we would encourage anyone interested in this era in Canadian history to pick up.
  2. The HF of 1994 - 2001: Revelations in the "Toronto Star" that Bristow was working for CSIS was a body blow for the hate group. Elisa Hategan's testimony before a parliamentary committee regarding the role of Bristow essentially crippled the Heritage Front. Droege, Schipper, and others were in and out of jail. Membership declined and the group lost a lot of
    February 1993: Wolfgang Droege and Marc Lemire (wearing hat), the
    two men who would lead the Heritage Front between 1989 and 2005.
    influence. They maintained a website and produced a magazine however it is obvious that the revenue brought in by dues and the sale of merchandise had declined. The HF still existed, but was not as much of a player on the white nationalist scene in Canada as some members, including Marc Lemire, left to begin other ventures.
  3. The HF of 2001 - 2005: Marc Lemire, who as a teenager had been a member of the Heritage Front but who had left to pursue his own projects (Lemire could be considered to be one of the pioneers in using the Internet to disseminate white nationalist hate propaganda) had remained on friendly terms with Droege and other members of the dissipated Heritage Front, traveled with Heritage Front members to various events, and hosted the Heritage Front website on his own account. In early 2001, Lemire rejoined the Heritage Front as the leader of the group. From 2001 to 2003, the Heritage Front was at it's most active since the early years of the group's existence passing out flyers and protesting against immigration. However, the momentum couldn't be maintained as the movement had splintered and other groups competed for influence and membership, including the Canadian Heritage Alliance (Melissa Guille, formerly Lemire's girlfriend), the Nothern Alliance (Jason Ouwendyk), the Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team (Alexan Kulbashian and James Scott Richardson), and the Tri-City Skins (James Richardson) in Ontario alone. Combined with the fact that Lemire had and has the charisma of a tepid glass of water as well as the murder of Wolfgang Droege, the HF became moribund in 2003 and essentially died out by 2005 as Lemire was facing his own problems with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. But prior to the end and his own legal issues, Lemire posted the following account of his involvement in the movement which includes a mention of Bristow:

2. Would the Heritage Front have existed without the involvement of Bristow?

No one can be certain, but this writer would suggest the answer would be yes. The conditions that helped to create the Heritage Front (disaffection with Andrews and the Nationalist Party for example) still likely would have resulted in Droege and Lincoln leaving to form their own group and it would have attracted a sizable group who were tired of the Nationalist Party's apparent lack of significant will to act in a manner that the hardcore members of the far right wanted. But it would not have been as well organized and we don't know if it would have lasted as long as it did based on how the group fell apart after Bristow was outed and how ineffective Lemire's leadership was from 2001 to 2005.

3. Would the Heritage Front have been as dangerous without Bristow's involvement?

The people who are attracted to neo-nazi organizations are often violent already, or they become so when under the influence of other members. Yes, the Heritage Front would have been dangerous. Members such as Chris Newhook, who was a problem before the HF just as he was a problem after the HF (he was eventually imprisoned indefinitely as a dangerous offender) would have hurt people with or without Bristow. However, Bristow's organization and the skills he taught to them made these already dangerous individuals much more dangerous. Bristow taught members how to gather intel effectively. How to break into telephone answering machines to learn names, phone numbers, and addresses. He taught his members to engage in a campaign of psychological terror as well as physical violence; not only assault, but at least two rapes are alleged to have been committed by members of the HF. And much of this violence, psychological and physical, was organized in such a way as to make it exceptionally difficult to identify Heritage Front members as suspect. 

Looking to the Aryan Guard as an example, we think the Heritage Front, without Bristow's organizational and technical skills, would have burned out within a few years as a result of the very public acts of violence it would have engaged in. Bristow, as Droege's head of security and intelligence, made sure that didn't happen.

But we've rambled on enough. If our readers want to understand why we and other Canadians are concerned about CSIS being given more powers, it's best to learn from someone who knows first hand the danger of the proposed legislation:

My name is Elisa Hategan and I’m a Canadian writer and freelance journalist. Twenty years ago, I was a teenage member of an Ontario-based domestic terrorist group called the Heritage Front. They were a radical white supremacist, neo-Nazi lobby group with ties to organizations that connected into parliamentary politics. After turning against them, collecting information and testifying against group leaders in court, the Toronto Sun broke the story that one of the group’s leaders was a CSIS agent, Grant Bristow. For a period of approx. 4 years, the Heritage Front had been founded and funded in large part by Canada’s own intelligence service, CSIS (Canadian Intelligence Security Service) – the Canadian equivalent of the CIA. They called it Operation Governor.

After the official inquiry resulted in a whitewashed report that was slammed by both left-wing activists and Preston Manning, then-leader of the Reform Party which was essentially destroyed by revelations that Heritage Front members had infiltrated its ranks, I went into hiding and tried to forget what had happened. Over the years, however, I realized it was a story I had to tell. So in 2010 I wrote a memoir titled Race Traitor and entered into negotiations with Penguin Canada over the acquisition rights, but after a month and no solid offer I walked away from the negotiation table. I should add that no other publishers, big or small press, were interested in publishing it. “The issue of white supremacy has had its day” Douglas & McIntyre. “ I can’t see a broad market for the book.” – Random House. Last year I ended up self-publishing it: Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-Up.

In the month after the book came out, I was interviewed by a senior journalist at the Globe & Mail, Colin Freeze, as well as the Director of Programming at the CBC here in Toronto. They both expressed great interest in covering the story, but afterwards came back at me with excuses that senior editors were reluctant to go to print (or, as in the case of CBC, to air) with it – mainly because it was an old, irrelevant story since it happened 20 years ago. Also, there was the pesky issue that in today’s political climate, and according to Minister of Justice Peter MacKay’s own admission, only religion-based violence can be considered terrorism, i.e. only Muslims can be terrorists. In other words – when a Christian massacres almost 100 defenceless youth on Utoya Island in Norway, murders innocents outside a Kansas City synagogue (on the heels of Holocaust-denier David Irving’s talk two weeks earlier), plots a Halifax Valentine’s Day massacre or shoots 3 innocent Muslims in Chapel Hill execution-style, they are not terrorists but misguided, lone misfits.

Just this past month, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who in the 1980s was a member of the extreme right-wing Northern Foundation, which had Heritage Front and Reform Party members, along with skinheads, anti-abortionists, Holocaust-deniers and Conrad Black) has announced a new bill that essentially duplicates the NSA laws of arrest without warrant, anybody can be detained for a week under the pretext of “terrorism”, etc. Bill C-51 is extremely troubling, considering that they will be giving CSIS far greater powers than ever before, turning it into what many have called a “Secret Police” with far-reaching powers.

Given the context of Bill C-51, it didn’t surprise either myself or the numerous activists, anti-racists and aboriginal protesters I’ve communicated with, that we cannot get any mainstream press coverage in Canadian media. Telling the story of how Canada’s own intelligence agency formed a domestic terrorist group that stalked, harassed and assaulted several left-wing activists in the 1990s would be in direct conflict with what Stephen Harper’s government is attempting to pass into law – a law whose definition is so broad, so undefined, that anyone in direct opposition to our government’s interests (such as Aboriginal protesters and the Idle No More movement) would fall into the category of “terrorist.”

Under Bill C-51, ‪CSIS will have the power to: 1) detain people without charges for up to 7 days; 2) interfere with bank transactions and seize bank accounts if they are “suspected” of potential terror activity; 3) order the seizure of “terrorist propaganda” or order it deleted from an online source; 4) stop any passengers “suspected” of travelling overseas to commit a terror offence to be removed from a flight; 5) seal court proceedings; 6) make it illegal to “promote” or “counsel” terrorist activity – the definition of what this constitutes is, of course, left up to CSIS’ interpretation. Using “disruption warrants,” Canada’s spies will do just about anything: “enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing,” to copy or obtain any document, “to install, maintain, or remove any thing,” and, most importantly, “to do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.”

Bill C-51 MUST be stopped, or at the very least re-examined. The repeated violations and more violations on the part of the former intelligence unit of the RCMP, which became CSIS, which evolved into CSEC, cannot be overlooked. Neither is Harper’s ongoing use of CSIS as his personal domain pet whenever he wants to keep tabs on anti-fracking protesters, Green Party members, or whoever is opposed to the Conservative Party’s mandate. Such collusion between government and intelligence agencies is insidious at best, and will be used politically to defeat (or even imprison) political opponents.

History has already shows us what can happen when agents run amok: Grant Bristow’s handlers had been inherited from the same RCMP department which preceded CSIS’s inception. Back in the 1970s they were burning barns in Quebec while blaming it on the FLQ. After that scandal ensued and RCMP intelligence was disbanded, they moved over to the newly-minted CSIS and taught neo-Nazis and violent skinheads (some of whom were part of the now-disbanded Airborne Regiment) intelligence techniques, thus contributing to assaults, stalking, harassment and worse. Since they got away with all of the above, I cannot imagine what will happen when they gain autonomy.

There is a wide amount of evidence, press clippings and media sources that back up my memoir, as well as the testimony of activists who had been terrorized. Please consider featuring the story of CSIS’s establishment of the Heritage Front in your media outlets – Canadians have a right to know what their own government has done in the past, in order to prevent it from ever happening again.

Please let me know if you require further information and/or documentation, which I would be happy to provide.



Anonymous said...

Extremely worrying. Without strict oversight these guys can, and likely will, pursue their own reign of terror among critics of Harper.

Anonymous said...

I hope CSIS doesn't use this tactic again the nazi groups nowadays are much better organized, armed & globally connected than ever before they would be a very dangerous tool against the left if given the power to do whatever they please..

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