Thursday, 8 July 2021

Book Review: The Ku Klux Klan in Canada

I thought this would be of interest. I wanted some perspective. What struck me are the early years of the KKK in Canada. It began in the US, and continued in the US until it petered out. Canada and the US were facing similar issues across the continent in the 1800s. In fact, it was a world-wide problem as capitalism spurred nations to exploit the land and its peoples. Genocide committed against First Nations was as bad in the US, as in Canada. 

"Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S."

The impact of this racism, and the forcing of First Nations onto reserves, decimated many tribes. The US has a long and difficult history with Indigenous people, as well as black slaves.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the forced relocation of five tribes, including the notorious march of the Cherokee, from the Southeastern United States to Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears.

We white people should not be proud. This book opened up my eyes.

Bartley is a professor in Ottawa, former 
intelligence officer for the government.

The KKK began in the US in 1865 and outlawed in 1871. White were afraid of its emancipated slaves. Its resurrection came with an horrific US film, The Birth of a Nation, (1915). These white supremacists saw themselves as creating a nation, on the backs of others. 

The movement was quite different in Canada. There were a lot of American KKK members who came to Canada to recruit in the 1920s, but mostly to charge $10 per membership, and sell Klan outfits to recruits. Several absconded with the money, many were arrested for fraud more than for racist activities, like cross burnings. It wasn't like the US-based KKK. It was more about exploiting humans for financial gain. 

The symbols and ceremonies of hate, anger and supression, as Bartley writes, were manufactured by Hollywood, and brought north by scammers.

In Canada, there were Orange Lodges, who fomented hatred against Catholics, writes Bartley. They ended up blurring the lines between themselves and the KKK groups. It included local Ontario, towns like Smiths Falls, where a high school principal was sent a letter signed by the KKK, in 1925. In September of 1926, there were annual rallies of about 500 people.

Confederate flag in Smiths Falls, 2019

All the major cities across Canada, especially small towns out west in Alberta (i.e., Edmonton, Calgary),  and Ontario (i.e., Hanover, Walkerton, Barrie, Windsor, Kitchener, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Belleville, Richmond, Orillia, London, Waterloo) were targeted. There were many small towns where people had likely never met those in the BIPOC community. The border was fluid, and these men went back and forth looking to make a buck. In 1926, the KK claimed rallies of 130,000 attendees across Ontario. From the early impact of The Great Depression, the money to be made dwindled, and eventually the US-based influence was subsiding. Klan members continued to get elected, some were not so successful, as the awareness of the KKK diminished their trust by Canadians. 

By the 80s, there was some resurrection of this hatred. In this report from 1981📹, CBC reporter Genevieve Westcott talks to members of the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, including national director James Alexander McQuirter. 5:43

In the light of new technology, we find that they have gone underground, in private chat rooms, and morphed into Proud Boys, skinheads, or neo-Nazis, whose numbers are on the decline. They have swiveled from organized groups, to encouraging individuals to commit individual atrocities. In this way, they cannot be charged with anything, even inciting people to violence. Jan. 6, 2021 is perfect example, where a bunch of individuals were used by US politicians for their own purposes. 

In Canada, the Criminal Code provisions were there to protect citizens. (i.e. s. 318 Hate Propaganda; s. 319 Public incitement of hatred) and the Human Rights Act.  The Anti-Racist Coalition (ARC) tracks neo-Nazis, and skinheads. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) filed mover a dozen actions under s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which shut down Internet hate sites and bulletin boards. Sadly, PM Harper accepted a private member's bill in 2013, which killed s. 13 of the Act, "removing the ability of individuals to seek redress against cyber hate." (p. 273)

The hate has moved onto the Internet, with like-minded bigots inciting anger and promoting conspiracy theories. They are targeting the people who helped build infrastructure in this country (i.e. the Asians who were indentured to build the railroads), then forced into labour camps after various World Wars. Since 9/11, they have targeted Muslims, generating lies and fanning ignorance about Islam and South Asians. There is mention in the book of how pervasive these attitudes are in the military. Much of it fomented by Trump's blatant racist, and white supremacist rhetoric. Whites continue to complain that white culture is being stamped out. They call it 'cancel culture,' yet most of these white men have no culture, no morals, values, or traditions. 

I do understand some may regard this as a cancel culture (as recently coined), but really, whose culture was cancelled? – Chief Philip Franks, Wahta Mohawks Council


William Kendall said...

They have shifted into other names, other capacities, but the hate remains the same.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
It is an eternal thing - them and us. It has always, and I think will always, exist. As long as there are individuals there will be a comparison between them. It's just horrendous... An interesting post, Jenn. YAM xx

Red said...

Interesting survey of KKK. I new they were prominent at one time in Alberta and left an influence. I did not know that the KKK morphed into some of today's racist group.