A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
By the late 1960's, many western nations began to take up the cause of the black South Africans, speaking out against apartheid. Nelson Mandela's story was not yet widely known, but human rights violations were.
In 1978, the United Nations officially condemned South Africa at the World Conference Against Racism, sparking a movement to end the practice. But what it also sparked was a larger movement to keep the status quo, backed by some of the world's wealthiest citizens. Their motivation was protecting corporations who would lose massive profit if they had to start paying the black labour force of South Africa, a reasonable wage. (1)
By 1980, a campaign was launched to encourage trade sanctions, but then president Ronald Reagan, a man with strong ties to the corporate world, instead introduced a policy of "constructive engagement", which promoted simply "encouraging change in the apartheid system through a quiet dialogue with that country's white minority leaders". Naturally it failed, and after a dramatic surge of anti-apartheid protest and political activism in the United States, the Reagan Administration was forced to impose trade sanctions, though they were very moderate. (2)
An Unwelcome PR Campaign
In 1985, South African Ambassador to Canada, Glen Babb, was touring Canada to gain support for the continuation of Apartheid.
At the time, Anthony Panayi, now calling himself Tony Clement, was leading a group of radical right-wing students at the University of Toronto. They had successfully managed to take over the Young Progressive Conservatives and turn it into a vehicle for promoting neoconservative ideology. When Clement (Panayi) heard of Babb's tour he went to the student organizations on campus to see if they would sponsor a debate. They flatly refused, so Anthony simply created his own society, and invited the controversial ambassador, as a way "to ensure that that advocates of Apartheid were heard in this country." (3)
However, when Babb arrived he was met with violent protest and during the debate divestment activist Lennox Farrell, made an impassioned, emotional plea against Apartheid, at one point shouting, "Children are dying!" The reaction of the Ambassador was simply to smirk, causing Farrel to lose his cool. He picked up the heavy wooden ceremonial mace lying on the center table, and tossed it at the Ambassador, narrowly missing his forehead, but striking the hand of another university official. The debate was immediately stopped and Farrel was taken away, though no charges were laid. (3)
Another debate was arranged and this time, though Babb was able to complete his talk, 300 protesters chanted outside the auditorium, while another group of protesters dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan satirically rose up to applaud the ambassador whenever he paused during his presentation. At the end of the event, as his car whisked him out of the university, several other students shouted and threw snowballs. (4)
Let the Lobbying Begin
Angering university students was not the only controversy associated with Babb's tour. As a publicity stunt he arranged an invitation to visit the reserve of the Peguis in Manitoba. While there he pointed out the grim parallels between the practices of the two countries. He then arranged for “native” leaders to tour South Africa, courtesy of the South African Tourist Board, in August of 1987. This outraged other leaders who made it clear “that the Indian people of Canada will not go down in history as allies of racist fascism.” (1)
However, during his two-and-a-half year posting, Babb appeared on Canadian television more than 132 times and even more frequently on radio. He heavily lobbied politicians, journalists, intellectuals and universities in support of the Reagan Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" rather than sanctions or divestment. Babb referred to apartheid as a "benign policy" and a means of controlling "urbanization". (5) He also claimed that sanctions would harm South African blacks more than the white minority. (6) "Whether you shoot the zebra on the white stripe or the black stripe," he said, "you are going to kill the zebra." (7)
His efforts were successful, because while then prime minister Brian Mulroney originally supported sanctions, his party's position changed, with Joe Clark left to announce their new intentions, which were viewed as a "flip flop". You can watch the news clip here.
A More pro-Active Campaign:
One of the more aggressive champions of Apartheid within South Africa was Craig Michael Williamson, a man who went underground with the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, as part of a "Long Reach" operation, of what would be better described as "dirty tricks".
Williamson recruited journalists from around the world to help with a propaganda mission to discredit the ANC and gain support for the white African government. He found such a journalist in Canadian Peter Worthington.
The crudely racist, flamboyantly anti-communist and vividly right-wing journalism of Peter Worthington was a particularly prominent feature of this for anyone living in Toronto during these years, but those of us in the Canadian anti-apartheid network at the time were well aware of its broader reach. For example, a well-researched 1988 article in the western Canadian journal Briarpatch listed a host of right-wing and business-related groups hard at work defending apartheid: the Western Canadian Society of South Africa and the extremely well-connected Canadian-South African Society, for example. Indeed the husband of Canada’s then Governor-General, Jeanne Sauve, was actually a member of the latter until shamed into resigning in 1985. (1)But there is something that Mr. Saul may not have realized about these pro-white South African groups. There was another one with strong ties to the Canadian-South African Society, called the Northern Foundation.
"‘The Northern Foundation was established in 1989, originally as a pro-South Africa group . . . lists among the founding members of the Foundation both William Gairdner and Stephen Harper ... " (8)Some of those names you may not recognize, but the last one on both lists seems to ring a bell, and he was then considered to be from the "extreme right-wing". The Northern Foundation also published a magazine:
"... the Northern Foundation was the creation of a number of generally extreme right-wing conservatives, including Anne Hartmann (a director of REAL Women), Geoffrey Wasteneys (A long-standing member of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada), George Potter (also a member of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada), author Peter Brimelow, Link Byfield (son of Ted Byfield and himself publisher/president of Alberta Report), and Stephen Harper." (9)
"...The foundation's magazine carries a half-page ad in every issue for the Phoenix, a pro-white South Africa magazine, and regularly solicits support from members on special causes, from property rights to English language rights. Attacks on homosexuals and homosexual rights are frequent ..." (8)But it gets better. These groups were operating within the Reform Party when Preston Manning and Stephen Harper were getting it up and running.
... Murray Dobbin has chronicled extensively the pro-white South Africa actions and sympathies of numerous people within the party, including Ted Byfield*** and Arthur Child. This support for white South Africa, a country whose political system was based on racial group affiliation, by many within the Reform party ... cannot be explained adequately unless one accepts the notion that many Reformers strongly identify with 'Anglo' culture ... (9)
And of course this was the same Canadian-South African Society, mentioned in John Saul's article, (1) which included the husband of then Governor General Jeanne Sauve. But more importantly, through connections to the Northern Foundation and the Reform Party, included one Stephen Harper. Peter Worthington also belonged to the NF. (10)
"There is good reason to believe that groups sympathetic to (white) South Africa have seen the [Reform] party as an ally, especially in the days when trade sanctions, strongly supported by Canada, were proving damaging to the South African economy and it's prestige. That was in 1988-89. And it was during his period in particular that a number of pro-South African groups organized efforts to undermine Canadian policy and to spread pro-South African literature across the country. All of these groups had some degree of contact with the South African embassy in Ottawa ... Key individuals in those organizations have also played and continue to play important roles in the Reform party.
... "Water's military background and his business connections got the attention of pro-South African activists long before he became external affairs spokesman for the Reform Party .. and that attention paid off ... Arthur Child the president of Burns Meats ... has openly supported South Africa for twenty years ... he is also on the board of Canadian-South African Society (CSAS) ... founded in 1979 and was involved says Child, in 'trying to counteract the anti-South African sentiment in Ottawa ... we distributed information on South Africa - mostly to MPs.
(CSAS) was founded to bring together Canadian and American subsidiary business interests in South Africa ...Their profit levels are high - often twice their returns in companies ventures in Canada - due to their ability to pay low wages and almost no benefits to black labour.' "Most of the thirty member board are from Ontario ... a few were from the west ... one of these was Norman Wallace of Saskatoon ... a founding member of the Reform party ... He set up Eagle Staff Import Export Ltd. to further business ties with South Africa. (8)
Lights, Camera, Action
One of the projects that Craig Williamson had Worthington work on was a documentary film on Mandela's ANC: The red terrorist menace in South Africa - written by Peter Worthington, produced by Peter Worthington and starring Peter Worthington. (11)
It was a one-sided view of the conflict:
Worthington says. "It was done very quickly." He wrote the script one morning, then read it to camera that afternoon. And while he went about some interviews for his Reader's Digest piece (which in early March the magazine had neither received nor scheduled) a cameraman followed. The rest of the film was made up of file footage, some of it from the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation. Most of the editing was done in South Africa, with only the final cut, made in Canada. Worthington had the finished product in his hands, having spent virtually nothing out of his pocket. "If it cost me anything, it cost me a cab ride," he says. (11)Mainstream media outlets rejected it, but he managed to find a distributor:
That was handled by Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform*, a tight-wing organization based in Toronto. CFAR agreed to the task after Worthington's attempts to get his taped views aired on public television got nowhere, says Paul Fromm, CFAR's research director. And while the television producers were saying no, CFAR's members were nodding yes, snatching up 4,000 copies of the tape and its 12-page companion booklet in five months. Members of Parliament were each sent a copy ... (11)But CFAR were not the only ones to offer the film to their members:
Meanwhile, Worthington was also circulating copies to his friends, and this was how it caught the attention of David Somerville, a former employee of Worthington's at The Toronto Sun. Somerville is president of the National Citizens' Coalition**, another rightwing pressure group in Toronto. He offered the tape to his membership, which numbers 36,000, at $12 apiece ("at cost"). The NCC sold 600-more than double what it expected. Somerville calls the video a "journalistic effort at setting the record straight on the ANC." (11)
Meanwhile in Etobicoke:
Another young man would also become a follower of Peter Worthington. Guy Giorno, who was chief of staff for Mike Harris and is now chief of staff for Stephen Harper, became a devotee after hearing him on a radio program in the early 1980's. He would eventually attend St. Michael's College, where according to Ted Schmidt, his name was bandied about, as a contributor to the right-wing Catholic Digest:
Reading Giorno's neo-con rants I used to wince - 'Nelson Mandela was espousing violence, unions have too much power, doctors should have the right to double bill', the list goes on. "How could they give a guy like this space in a Catholic paper?" I remember thinking ... [now] Giorno is one of the most powerful insiders in the Ontario Tory government. (12)And he is now one of the most powerful insiders in the Harper government.
Fortunately, Nelson Mandela would be released and become the first black president of South Africa, and has been the recipient of more than 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2001, the Canadian Parliament voted to make Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen. It would have passed unanimously, except for the vote of Harper MP Rob Anders, who refused by stating that Mandela was a communist and a terrorist. Rob Anders was a also a member of the National Citizens Coalition. I wonder if he still has his tape.
Stephen Harper has sued us several times, but one lawsuit launched in 2000, is aptly indexed Stephen Harper vs Canada.
I think that defines the neoconservative movement, because it goes against everything that Canadians stand for. We embrace men like Nelson Mandela. We embrace diversity and multiculturalism. We are proud of who we are and were never looking for this kind of radical change. Canadians are not moving to the right, as the Harper government would like to believe.
We are nice dammit, and recognize that a movement that would attack a man like Nelson Mandela, is not a movement we would support.
Some people tell me that Canadians, while they don't particularly like Stephen Harper, may go with devil they know. I have now made it my job to introduce Stephen Harper, the devil they may not know at all.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. MANDELA!
*CFAR was allowed to sell memberships at the Reform Party convention.
**The National Citizens Coalition was started on the advice of Preston Manning's father: Ernest Manning, former premier of Alberta. Stephen Harper would eventually become president of the NCC and had been a member since 1980.
1. Two fronts of anti-Apartheid struggle: South Africa and Canada, By John Saul, History Matters, Wed, May 13, 2009
2. South Africa: Why Constructive Engagement Failed, By Sanford J. Ungar and Peter Vale, Foreign Affairs Tuft University, Winter 1985/86
3. The Age of Dissent: Socialists, peaceniks, feminists, rabble-rousers: They came in search of an education. They left having taught the old school a thing or two, By Margaret Webb, University of Toronto Magazine, Spring 2002
4. Looking back at Carleton's divestment from South Africa, By Alroy Fonseca, January 22, 2010
5. "Apartheid on way out, Babb insists ", By Erica Rosenfeld, Globe and Mail, October 27, 1985
6. "Back Pretoria, envoy urges", Globe and Mail, November 18, 1985
7. "Envoy says South Africa hard done by, By Kevin Cox" Globe and Mail, October 17, 1985
8. Preston Manning and the Reform Party. By Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 100-107
9. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. Author: Trevor Harrison Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 12110. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrates continued ultra right wing affiliations by blocking pro social justice Toronto candidate, by Dr. Debra Chin, Canadian National
11. Raw footage, By David Stonehouse, Ryerson's Review of Journalism, Spring 1988
12. The Man Behind Mike, by Ted Schmidt, NOW Magazine, January 8-14, 1998