Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Is It With Warren Kinsella and Racism?

Kinsella falls back on old standby in campaign against John Tory

If there's any accusation against conservative political candidates that has become predictable in Canada over the last 15 years, its racism.

All one need do is consider a recent accusation levied against Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory by Canada's king of the hatchet job, Warren Kinsella. In an 18 July post, Kinsella posts a picture of Tory meeting PC candidate Randy Hillier, who Kinsella describes as "anti-gay, anti-native, anti-urban".


We said we’d get a photo of anti-gay, anti-native, anti-urban Randy Hillier with his leader, John Tory. And we did.

(And check out the sign. That's Tory about to speak to, or having just spoken to, a rabidly far-right-wing group. It means these two have been pals for a long time. Interesting, no?)

Reproduced here, for the readers' benefit is the photograph in question.

Now, the fact that the photo seems to feature the back of Hillier's alleged head notwithstanding (the individual presumed to be Hillier is wearing red suspenders, just as in the other photo), the banner that Kinsella refers to actually promotes the Ontario Landowner's Association, a group that promotes property rights.

While indulging themselves in gloomy talk about all sorts of injustices ,whether real or imagined, ("Throughout human History there are eras when every society experiences the darkness of injustice and the long shadows of oppression blanket the landscape...") the allegedly "rabidly far-right-wing group" is really nothing more than a group of farmers standing up for their own interests, many of which are directly linked to the land on which they earn their living, and depend upon for their livelihood.

What is most intriguing is Kinsella's accusations of racism, particularly Hillier being allegedly "anti-native". Yet, Hillier's actual comments on natives are much more revealing:

"The owner or direct user is the one who knows best on how to take care of their property, land and how to solve a problem.

Example... An example is our native North Americans, who have for over 5000 years trapped and fished as a way of surviving. Then some bureaucrats in Ottawa or Toronto suggest that they knew better, and imposed rules and regulations as to hunting and trapping without consequence to the bureaucrats but certainly to the aboriginals.

The aboriginal who hunts and fishes everyday to survive is a far more knowledgeable than a bureaucrat who does not.

Seems much more pro-native and anti-bureaucrat than anything.

Yet, accusations of racism have been very typical of Kinsella.

Consider, for example, his very worthwhile book, Web of Hate. While mostly a very valuable source of information about racial extremists in Canada, Kinsella often goes out of his way to use the book to lob accusations of racism at the then-premier opposition to the then-governing Liberal party, the Reform party.

P.243 Along with an anti-Semitic column by former Texas KKK Grand Dragon Louis Beam Jr., the August 1992 issue [of Up Front] carried a lengthy account of Wolfgang Droege's involvement with the Reform party. In late February 1991, Bill Dunphy exposed in the Sun the fact that Droege and four other Heritage Front activists maintained memberships in Toronto-area riding associations. Immediately after, Reform leader Preston Manning ordered the group expelled. (The following year, Manning also expelled Northern Foundation president Ann Hartmann for her racist views.) Two of the racists had been appointed to the executive of the party's Beaches-Woodbine riding association; one of these, Alan Overfield, had acted as security at various Heritage Front rallies and--as police learned in November 1992 when they raided his home--maintained a huge stockpile of weapons. ...Overfield had hired Droege to act as bodyguard for Manning at at least two Reform Party rallies in Toronto. Also involved in the riding association were Heritage Front members James Dawson and Nicola Polinuk, Don Andrews' estranged wife.

The expulsions enraged the Heritage Front, which saw the Reform Party's policies as very similar to, if not indistinguishable from, its own. How could a party that went on record opposing immigration policies that "radically alter" Canada's ethnic make-up turn around and shun a group like the Heritage Front, Droege asked, when the Heritage Front supports the very same approach?

...In a lengthy article about the Reform Party controversy,
Up Front stated that Manning and his followers were a pro-white organization that lacked the courage of its convictions. 'The Heritage Front threatened the cozy power position of the establishment which Preston Manning and his sycophants now enjoy.' The article featured a cartoon of a smiling Droege beating Preston Manning in a boxing ring."

Kinsella's loaded musings in this passage ignore a number of fundamental facts. Consider the following passage, from Preston Manning's The New Canada, referring to the resolutions reached by the party's April 1991 Assembly:

P. 273 (The New Canada):"The party had already committed itself to a "balanced and positive immigration policy," which rejected the use of racial criteria designed to maintain a French-English ethnic balance in Canada. At Saskatoon, delegates made clear their disapproval of any appeal to race or creed in setting immigration policy. They also declared their support of a policy "accepting the settlement of genuine refugees who find their way to Canada. (A "genuine refugee" was defined as "one who has a well-founded fear of persecution and qualifies under the requirements of the United Nations Convention.")

It should be noted that the racial immigration policies the party rejected were actually originally drafted by Kinsella's own party, by the pen of Clifford Sifton.

However the Heritage Front could have drawn the conclusions they claimed to have drawn should be beyond anyone familiar with Reform party policy (actual Reform party policy, not the fictional Reform party policy hysterically concocted by its critics).

Yet, Web of Hate's commentary took an absurd turn in the book's conclusion:

P. 351 "Also joining the ranks of haters are a few members of ostensibly mainstream political organizations such as the Reform Party, some of whose activists are inreasingly associated with extreme expressions of bigotry and intolerance. To his credit, Reform Party leader Preston Manning expels these individuals whenever the media bring their existence to his attention. But the question Manning has yet to answer, of course, is this: if this party is not racist, why are so many racists attracted to it?"

Kinsella works very hard to turn this passage of the book addressing Manning's efforts to rid the Reform party of racism into a partisan attack. Kinsella refuses to allow Manning's efforts to demonstrate a lack of tolerance for racism.

It's a simple credo for Kinsella: the opposition can do no right, no matter what.

While not only overlooking his own party's many instances of racism--Sifton's being the best historical example--Kinsella overlooks the fact that subverting new political organizations has always been a key tactic of far-right racists. Whether or not the Reform party held any direct appeal for racists, racists would have tried to hijack the party nonetheless. Kinsella's accusations of racism are not so well founded, and are merely partisan.

Which is unsurprising, considering that he devoted an entire section in his book Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics to narcissitically grading his fellow media commentators, giving those who best criticized opponents of the Liberal party As, and those who criticized the Liberals poor grades.

Kinsella has refined the accusation of racism into a mere political tactic. By reducing it so, he only degrades the import of racism to all Canadians. Kinsella should remember that, as all of Canada's political parties have produced racist incidents, racism is not a political issue--it's a social issue.

If Kinsella were really so concerned about racism, he wouldn't work so hard to use a political party leader meeting one of his candidates--how unthinkable!--as ill-defined proof of racism that doesn't seem to really exist.


  1. I also have battled similar accusations from those on the left.

    My story: November 2005, I'm standing at a bus stop going home in Winnipeg when a older Jewish lady told me that she didn't think Stephen Harper would be a good prime minister (I forget what prompted the comment). Anways, I thought to myself, "This is great!" and I continued to talk to her about the various policies that I liked about Paul Martin's Liberals with her. Then she let out the bomb, "Well, besides [what we liked about Paul Martin] I heard that Stephen Harper is an anti-Semite. Is that true?"

    I was stunned. Now, I don't make it a habit to defend politicians I normally disagree with; but I couldn't let this myth live any longer. I told her that I was, without a doubt, certain that Stephen Harper was NOT an anti-Semite. I said to her that I have never read/witnessed/heard of anything that would lead me to believe that he is nothing but generally tolerant and accepting of other faiths.

    It is important to at least acknowledge that National Party members were at one time affiliated with the Reform party but then again, every party has their nuts. That doesn't make the whole party racist.

    And you're right, by labeling anyone a racist without thought or merit to the claim, the accuser is watering down the term "racist" and it loses its importance.

  2. Jean Chretien, in Straight from the Heart had the audacity to accuse John Diefenbaker of being a bigot.

    Now, I know you and I share a number of disagreements about Stephen Harper (there's plenty to disagree on), but I suspect we'd agree on John Diefenbaker, and there's no way that the man who wrote the Bill of Rights was a bigot.

    The lact is that the so-called left has flirted with racism as much as anyone. The Chow-Chow Dog remarks directed at Olivia Chow during the past election make a very good example of that.


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