Hearts of Hate

Hearts of HateSynopsis: There is a war being waged in Canada for young minds. It’s happening on the streets and in the schoolyards, erupting in violence and hate. Hard times-and harder hearts-have brought simmering racist attitudes to the surface.

Hearts of Hate is a frightening wake-up call. Illusions of Canada as a peaceful, tolerant society are profoundly challenged. Exploiting new communication technologies, these bigots are no longer occupying the political fringe and are far from laughable. In fact, these young people and their racist mentors don’t look much different from you, or me, or our own kids.

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Hearts of Hate 8.0

eyelights: its eye-opening look at Canada’s racist underbelly.
eyesores: its doomsayer quality.

‘Hearts of Hate’ is a one-hour (51 mins plus commercials) television documentary by Peter Raymont. Produced for CTV in 1994, it sets its sights on the then-burgeoning racist movement in Canada.

I first saw it at the end of the ’90s, and it left a terrible stain on my memory; I’ve always found racism intolerable, but the pure white hatred of these groups makes me sick to my stomach.

The fact that I still remember the night the neo nazis came rampaging through my town, beating people up after a peaceful anti-racist demonstration, probably made it that much more potent.

Let’s just say that the early-to-mid ’90s saw a growth in racist activity in my neck of the woods. I would sometimes find flyers in the bus, and would later hear about these groups on the news.

Dark times.

So watching ‘Hearts of Hate’ was like a smack in the face. It was a primer to all the danger that lays under the surface, when the pot isn’t being stirred by select individuals for political gains.

When I watched it again, years later, I was shocked by the part where members of the Heritage Front, the country’s most prominent racist groups at the time, had joined the then-nascent Reform Party.

It hadn’t meant much to me initially, being a political neophyte, but when I realized the implications of this, it just blew my mind: after all, the Reform Party had become the official Opposition in 1997!

Knowing that this party had associations with the Heritage Front was jaw-dropping. Granted, the Reform claimed that the moment they found out about these racists’ membership, they were booted out.

But still. The fact that the members of the Heritage Front felt at home amongst them speaks volumes about the company they kept; there is no doubt that it wasn’t just a random occurrence.

And Wolfgang Droege, leader of the group, claimed that the Reform knew all along – and only stripped them of their membership when it became public knowledge. They were even suppose to provide security!

Or so he claims. Who knows who’s speaking the truth in this.

I recently dug a little deeper when I heard about the Northern Foundation, another right-wing group of dubious intent from that era. It apparently had connection both with the Heritage Front and the current PM.

Why did that spark my interest?

You see, the Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance. Later, the Canadian Alliance merged with (and essentially took over) the Progressive Conservative Party – now re-branding itself the Conservative Party.

So I sought out ‘Of Passionate Intensity‘, by Trevor Harrison, which is the only official reference to the Northern Foundation that I could find. But there was no smoking gun; only inferred connections.

Still, you can see how creepy these connections are, especially now that the latest election campaign turned on immigration and citizenship issues. Brrr… it gives me shivers just to think of it.

Fueling the paranoid delusions is the fact that, in 2005, Droege was shot dead in his apartment – just before the next Federal election, which led to an unexpected win by the Conservative Party.

Coincidence? Probably. But it should be noted that the case was quickly closed even though many questions remained unanswered. Heck, even right-wing message boards think its a dubious case.

Double brrr…

Watching ‘Hearts of Hate’ again only hammered the point home: there are those who hate others and there are those who make use of this for their own sake. It’s a dirty, disgusting dance.

The documentary tends to focus on the Heritage Front, and by that virtue, it briefly profiles its main leaders, Droege and George Burdi. It also highlights some of the group’s most dubious “achievements”.

It’s pretty stunning stuff; makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

It’s interesting to note that, while ‘Hearts of Hate’ gets some of its material from news footage, it also culled some noteworthy footage from actual Heritage Front propaganda videos as well.

What’s surprising is that the Heritage Front congregations were unusually well-attended. In the video, we find a small conference room full of people willing to hear the messengers of hate speak.

And, yes, they are all Caucasian.

It stuns me to think that there could be so much racism in this day and age (admittedly, this documentary is twenty years old, but recent online comments bolster this impression). Aren’t we better than this?

Well, ‘Hearts of Hate’ would like us to think that we are ripe for indoctrination and that our children are next. What do I know? Maybe Raymont was right and we’re slowly being corrupted from the inside.

After all, he has numerous interview subjects that would suggest that it is the case, including Keith Rutherford, a former broadcaster who was assaulted for outing a skinhead 30 years before.

After the grievous attack, he dug into the matter and claimed that racism ran high and deep in Canadian corridors of power. Seeming to confirm this, his aggressors only got a couple of months time.

Some of the most jaw-dropping interviews come from the frontlines, of course, with Wolfgang Droege and George Burdi personally interviewed for the film. There are also a number of their associates.

Of which there are many. Far too many.

Gary Shipper was in charge of recording telephone messages for their outreach campaigns. He claimed that plenty of politicians and police officers called in to anonymously express their support.

Another, Mike Pratt, claimed that skinheads were used as pawns by the higher ups, seemingly confirming Rutherford’s claims. That the Front used teenagers to promote their brand suggests this.

For instance, there’s the disturbing case of Elisa Hategan, their much-devoted 16-year-old poster child. Thankfully, she had enough self-respect to quit when she was asked to take the fall for Droege.

There was hope, after all.

Ironically, Alicia Reckzin, one of their victims from the 1992 confrontation in Ottawa, is said to have fallen in with the Neo Nazis in recent years. Humanity is absolutely mind-boggling to me sometimes.

I simply don’t understand how anyone could join such a movement; the intensity and hatred of its leaders and followers is devastating. These people are scary because their hatred overrides all reason.

As does fear.

For me, pure hatred weighs on me in ways I can’t even express. I’ve always said that, ironically, I’m intolerant of intolerance, and this kind of blind, pure hatred disturbs me greatly.

Even the things I despise the most (and, trust me, the list is pretty long!) don’t endure the kind of focused negative energy that racists expend on their targets and victims. It’s f-ing oppressive.

And so it is that, even though I hate having to watch it, ‘Hearts of Hate’ is there to remind us that some people really are working towards a less tolerant society, based on false notions and ideals.

Where it falls apart is in insisting that race wars are soon upon us – with racist paramilitary groups getting ready for action. Twenty years later, this has not proven true, striking at its credibility.

Or maybe the race wars are waged in a more insidious way.: by fashioning policies that subtly promote racial hatred over the long haul – instead of trying to beat it into people, something which doesn’t work.

Still, these thoughts ensure that I try to look past the veneer, to second guess the image that people put up publicly so as to see what lies beneath. Or at least try. By staying alert, we can get to the heart of hate.

One can only hope that a change of heart is possible.

Date of viewing: October 6, 2015

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