The last time I saw Gary Schipper, he was sitting in the defendants box during the 1994 Human Rights Commission trial that would lead to his conviction and sentence of jail time. He was sitting next to Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege (who would eventually be shot dead in 2005) and another group member, Ken Barker. They were all glaring at me, sending me non-verbal messages of intimidation. In their minds I was a stupid kid who happened to be around when they had talked freely of circumventing court orders to shut down their telephone hate-line. Someone who they’d never have thought capable of shutting down a powerful white supremacist organization that had taken several years to build up.
Not even I knew that I had it in me. I was barely 19, alone, abused, and without any support whatsoever. Skinny and scared. Living out of a ratty duffel bag. For the past year I had been on the run for my life, hiding all over Canada, surviving on the generosity of strangers who opened their doors to me and let me sleep on their sofas. To this day, whenever I feel despondent and powerless, whenever those terrible recurring thoughts come back “You’ll never amount to anything / Nobody will ever give a shit about you / You’re worthless / You’ll never make it as a writer” – I think back to that frightened young girl on the witness stand, looking into the eyes of men who wanted her to fail, to break down, to destroy herself – and I feel pride.
Because they were convicted. Because right triumphed over wrong.
Because while I was nothing and had nothing, there was, within me, a strength I never knew existed. The strength of a dandelion seed growing through a crack in the asphalt, without water and very little sun. Something not meant to survive, someone who defied the odds. I was a child without a family, without anyone who cared whether I lived or died and without anything to cling to in those nights when the nightmares came hard and fast, when the knifepoint threats made by Heritage Front members came to define the PTSD I suffered through my early 20s.
The only nourishment I had, in those terrible years, was knowing that I had done the right thing. That I had spied on evil, that I sent bad men to prison. That I had done my part to shut down the most powerful network of white supremacist domestic terrorists that Canada has ever known.
Today, twenty years later, Canada is a vastly different place. White racism has gone underground, online, is kept under wraps and, although still rampant, is more carefully-guarded. People know the consequences of speaking vile, hateful things, so they keep them to themselves or relegated to skinhead-full hate forums such as Stormfront, a place frequented by convicts, psychopaths and killers such as Norway’s mass murderer Anders Breivik.
And then comes this – news that a hateful, xenophobic rag called Your Ward News, put together by a network of nutcases and old Heritage Front members, one of whom none other than Gary Schipper himself (under the alias of J.J. / Johnny Jensen), is being distributed to 50,000 homes in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood by Canada Post. Yes, our very own Canada Post has, somehow, after evaluating the garbage Your Ward News contains, ruled that it didn’t fit their own definition of what constitutes hate material.
So – despite objections from postal carriers, despite articles from mainstream press and articles on activist websites, Canada Post continues to distribute hate propaganda. Which clearly is an offence under Section 319 of the Criminal Code.
I could go into the disgusting material contained in Your Ward News, but I believe Warren Kinsella has already done a succinct job in summing it up on his blog. Excerpts of offensive articles include:
Editorials railing against Jewish postal workers, “ZioMarxists,” “parasites,” and what the paper’s editor calls “the illegitimate Zionist apartheid state of Israel that holocausts Palestinians.”
Advertisements promoting something called the “New Constitution Party,” whose membership cards feature Nazi salutes, and references to “88” – neo-Nazi code for “HH,” or “Heil Hitler.”
Articles promoting Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel, David Irving and Fred Leuchter – and denouncing “mainstream media lackeys” and “cattle” who sought to have Zundel charged with publishing Holocaust-denying propaganda.
Articles promoting Holocaust denial and written by Gary Schipper, the former voice of the neo-Nazi Heritage Front, who now goes by the false name “Johnny Jensen.”
A lengthy anti-Israel polemic describing the need for “Israeli Niggers to go home,” how the Jewish state “murders thousands” every year, that Zionists are “ZioFascists” and racists, that Israel forcibly sterilizes non-white immigrant women and practices Nazi-style eugenics – and repeats the old canard that Jews are not “true Biblical Jews,” a theory favoured by neo-Nazis for decades.
Articles promoting “white nationalism,” skinheads, and the defunct neo-Nazi Heritage Front, in which the author – who describes herself as a “white woman” who favours “white pride” – talks openly about how “white people reserve the right to protest the rape and disfiguration of our country” by non-whites, and calls the New Constitution Party a vehicle for opposing “Racial Marxism.”
A letters column mocking Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for her sexual orientation, and attacking “homos” and “queens” – and a related editorial calling Pride “a freak show on parade floats.”
Twenty years ago, these hateful bastards – or rather, “unscrupulous fanatics” as Judge Tremblay-Lamer put it in her judgement writ – were ordered by the courts not to RECORD their hate messages. They served their prison time, they scurried underground like the cockroaches that they are. But now they’re back, putting their hate in WRITING. And what are WE as a society doing about it?
Twenty years ago, people who cared about fighting fascism congregated in the streets. They protested, they rioted when needed – they would never have allowed insidious laws like C-51 to be passed in Canada. Today, in the age of online despondency, when news travels faster than ever, people are apathetic. They grumble about the loss of privacy but don’t do whatever it takes to stop it. They don’t take to the streets to stop hate. They watch YouTube kitten videos and Kardashian reality TV. And the Schippers of yesteryear roam the streets again, distributing their hate with impunity.
Worse yet, they have an office now and public funding. And they have Canada Post and the police condoning it, to boot.
Please tell me that everything I did twenty years ago wasn’t for nothing.