08.21.2017 04:26 AM

This week’s column: feeling superior after Charlottesville? Don’t.

Pop quiz time. 

1. At an election rally, Ku Klux Klan member J. F. Bryant is joined onstage by a confident young lawyer, who rails against those who speak other languages. Who was the young lawyer?

2. A politician travels abroad to meet a murderous, anti-Semitic fascist boss. The politician rhapsodizes about the fascist leader, calling him “eminently wise,” a “mystic,” and “deliverer of his people from tyranny.” Who were they?

3. A leading, prominent member of the clergy – one called “the spiritual father of a modern nation,” who was subsequently beloved by politicians of all stripes – writes that Jews are “traitors in our midst,” that his people are the true “chosen,” and that blacks, indigenous people and other minorities are “inferior elements” and “cancerous growths.” Who was the clergyman? Who were his powerful admirers?

4. A writer of many acclaimed books gives a sold-out speech at the most exclusive hotel in the land. Security at his event is provided by neo-Nazi skinheads – and he tells his audience, which includes local school trustees – that he is a “hardcore disbeliever” in the gas chambers at Auschwitz that killed 1.1 million Jews, Roma, Poles, dissidents and gays. Who was the writer? Where did he give his speech?

5. A revered founder of a political party calls for forced sterilization and segregation of people with “sub-normal” intelligence and morality. In his thesis, this man even says poverty is caused by “any[one] from high-grade moron to mentally defective” – that is, those of low moral character who are a burden on the public purse. Who was he?

6. In a 28-page booklet, the future leader of a Western nation – and a future political party leader – demand that immigration not be permitted to “radically alter the ethnic makeup” of that nation, opposed gay rights, and (later) described a decision to permit Sikhs to wear turbans while serving their country a “needless concession to a Canadian minority.” Who wrote the booklet?

7. Which political party leader declared that “homosexuality is destructive to the individual, and in the long run, society”? What was the party affiliation of an elected legislator who said non-whites should be fired if their presence offends a customer? The partisanship of a candidate who said: “You know, we are letting in too many people from the Third World, the low blacks, the low Hispanics. They’re going to take over…”? 

8. A leader’s former top advisor says he doesn’t want his kids going to school with Jews. He approves of campaigns to deny the vote to blacks. Who does The New Yorker say is now one of his closest friends?

9. Which party leader’s top advisor started a media firm that publishes articles about why they “hate Jews,” and whose correspondents seemingly agree with anti-Semites about “the Jewish question,” and who approvingly quote neo-Nazi leaders?

I could go on, but I’m limited to a set word count. Here are the answers. 

The young lawyer in number one? John Diefenbaker, railing against the French. The leaders in number two? Prime Minister Mackenzie King, talking about Adolf Hitler. (Oh, and King’s Liberal government kept Jews fleeing the Holocaust out of Canada.) In example number three: that was Catholic priest Lionel Groulx, after whom subway stations and streets are named in Quebec – and Liberal leader Claude Ryan and PQ Premier Rene Levesque, who worshipped him.

The acclaimed writer in number four? That was British “historian” David Irving, speaking at the Chateau Laurier in 1989. This writer was there, as a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen. I asked the Chateau Laurier’s management whether they cared about renting their famed facilities to neo-Nazis. They told me they didn’t.

In number five, the identity of the leader who favoured Nazi-style eugenics and sterilization of what he saw as his inferiors? Well, that was Tommy Douglas, founder of today’s New Democratic Party.

The authors of that little racist booklet referred to in example six? Well, that was Stephen Harper, future Prime Minister, and Preston Manning, future Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. They were the ones who wrote the racist Blue Book, which became the basis for Reform Party policy.

And number seven? That’s an easy one. Those racists were all Reform Party candidates or MPs, some of whom went on to be MPs for the Canadian Alliance or the modern Conservative Party. And the advisor in number eight? That’s Donald Trump’s formerly most senior, longest-serving advisor, Steve Bannon – who The New Yorker says is a close friend, and “talks regularly” with Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary.

That last one? That’s a more recent example. The media organization is called Rebel, and it was partly founded by Hamish Marshall in 2015 – and Rebel Media are the ones who have giddily published racist and anti-Semitic material for quite a while, now. And Marshall, of course, was the guy who led the leadership campaign of none other than Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

Final question in our little pop quiz: as we observe the tragedy unfolding in the United States of America, before and after Charlottesville – as we conclude, as we must, that Donald Trump is a white supremacist – do we really think that we Canadians are superior to our American neighbours? Do we really think we Canadians, of all political stripes, are somehow less racist?


We’re not better. We’re not less racist.



  1. James Smith says:

    We Canadian’s are just more polite with our racism. My late father often told this story:
    In 1960’s Etobicoke my parents’ friends had the money to buy a new home in a new development however their paperwork kept getting “lost”. So my dad took their application into the sales office & they salesman was all to happy to sell a new house to my dad, a white guy. Dad then told the agent he forgot something, & returned with his friend a young black engineer & introduced the two men. Fella was caught out, & had to complete the deal.

  2. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    So much for the mosaic over the melting pot.

  3. Bruce says:

    Only an old punk could deliver this level of visceral clarity.

    Now if the Canadian media could stop the “Could it happen here?” BS.

    Thanks Warren

  4. Will McClelland says:

    If Canada is just as racist as the United States, where is our system of mass incarceration that’s actively ruining the lives of millions of black citizens? Why didn’t we participate in the invasion of Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people of colour? Where’s our death penalty that disproportionately targets minorities? Is Canada just as bad a place to live for a person of colour as Alabama because Gerald Butts is friends with Steve Bannon? Are the racist words of Diefenbaker and Douglas in the ’20s just as bad as thousands of lynchings in broad daylight that went on at the same time in the South, attended by hundreds of families and the local police? Are Stephen Harper’s words on immigration (that he clearly didn’t believe anymore by the time he came to power) morally equivalent to Donald Trump’s actions on the same file? Does the existence of the Rebel prove that Canada is a nation of racists? I know that we have serious problems and are certainly not free of racists, but just as bad as in the United States? I don’t even believe that most Americans are racist either – just look at Trump’s approval ratings (or election results for that matter).

  5. cash says:

    Pierre Trudeau was best friends with Fidel Castro – you forgot that one Warren.

  6. PJ says:

    Thank you Warren. I have always been troubled by some Canadians who always seem to say that “We are not racist like the Americans” Oh yes we are. By the same token Canada is a great country and my family will always be grateful for the opportunity to immigrate and build a new life here.

    Having said that America is a great country in spite of Trump. Yes many people have been hurt emotionally and in some cases physically by the racist, anti-semetic vitriol unleashed by Trump’s campaign and Presidency.
    And it is a concern that what starts south of the border tends to flow north.

    But you know what, America will get it right, and will survive the Trump Presidency. Give me your poor, your weary, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.
    There are many Americans who are speaking up and opposing Trump’s bigotry and hatred.

    Let me add one more to your list:
    SS St. Louis, Canada, like the Americans, refused asylum to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, despite pleas from the German captain that they will be sent to their deaths if they are refused entry. For as the Canadian Immigration Minister of the Day stated:
    “None is Too Many.”

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