Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is Stephen Harper's Past Coming Back to Haunt Us?


I'm a book junkie. I read voraciously, mostly non-fiction, and political. I haunt used book stores, rummage sales, etc., hoping to find something I haven't read. At a library sale this week I picked up a copy of 'Contenders: The Tory Quest for Power', which was still in it's plastic wrap. Never opened it had that new book smell, though it was written in 1983.

I haven't read it yet, but as I do with most new acquisitions, I went right to the index, looking for familiar names. There were three references to the National Citizens Coalition, Stephen Harper's old haunt, so I was curious what the authors might have been saying about the NCC in 1983, before it went mainstream and "legit".

Apparently, they were already actively involved in reshaping the Tory Party, and ran an aggressive campaign against Joe Clarke, a Red Tory, and someone they felt was taking the old PC Party to the left. In a bit of deja vu, they launched an ABC campaign (Anybody But Clarke), promoting right-wing options like David Crombie and John Crosbie.

All of this fit in with articles I've already written, but what struck me was the fact that the authors lumped the National Citizens Coalition in with Flesherton and the anti-Communist movement of Ron Gostik. Anyone not familiar with 'Flesherton', it was at one time the leading distributor of anti-Semitic material in the world. Not the town, which earned a bad rap because of it, but the hate movement that was operating from there.

This was debated extensively in the Ontario legislature, one example here. Don't be confused by the debate, where those asked questions, actually answered them. I've linked to Ontario legislature debates under Mike Harris, where NO QUESTION IS EVER ANSWERED. Only partisan nonsense. Much like what passes for debate in the House of Commons today under Harper.

Mike Harris on steroids.

But I remembered that the NCC was once considered to be, not only from the far-right, but also an alarmingly racist organization. They were actually behind the infamous "boat people" campaign, a humanitarian effort to rescue those fleeing Vietnam.

You can listen to the podcast of the campaign here. Very disturbing. Stephen Harper was only a member of the NCC then (joined in 1980), though he not only stayed with the group but eventually ran it.

Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting column this week about Harper's past, with a suggestion that he no longer holds those views. But I would argue some of that, especially when it comes to healthcare. Harper says one thing but clearly means something entirely different. However, that's for another story.

I can't help thinking that Simpson may be trying to suggest that Ignatieff is no different that Harper, so we should go with the devil we know. Read between the lines.

Stephen Harper and Far Right Causes

I have already written of Stephen Harper's involvement in a right-wing vanguard group called the Northern Foundation, and what is compelling about articles written of the group in the early 1990s, is that Harper is always considered to be from the 'far-right'. We're not talking right-wing conservatism, but far right causes. This was before he became a household name.
Howard Goldenthal, formerly a writer with Toronto's Now magazine, describes the foundation as a "clearing house" for right-wing groups and ideas ... The foundation's organizing pamphlet, "Standing up for Canada's Silent Majority" confirms that goal. It bemoans the fact that conservatives fought — "and mostly lost" — single issue battles in the 1970s and 80s and "laments ... what has become normal': ... turbans in the RCMP, destabilizing immigration, government funding to radical feminist and homosexual groups ... " (1)

"‘The Northern Foundation was established in 1989, originally as a pro-South Africa group [pro-white]. . . lists among the founding members of the Foundation both William Gairdner and Stephen Harper ... " (1)

"... 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." (2)

"...The foundation's magazine [The Northern Voice] 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 ..." (1)
Jeffrey Simpson mentions none of this in his piece.

But I want to focus on the immigration policies, something that has come to light recently with Jason Kenney using his Parliamentary budget to fund raise an effort to exploit the immigrant communities. (Please join this group to stop the rebranding of Canada. I'll post a petition soon)

When the Reform Party was being created, one of the players in the early days was Paul Fromm, a well known neo-Nazi. No, this is not guilt by association, but I mention it only to highlight the Reform Party's immigration policies. Policies written by Stephen Harper and cribbed from the National Citizen's Coalition Handbook. (see William Johnson's Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3)

Fromm started two groups. Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform (C-FAR) and Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE). Being reminded that the NCC once promoted racism, I took another look at Shofar (anti-racist website) and what they had to say about Fromm and his connections to the Reform Party. I have mentioned in previous posts that in exchange for getting Peter Brimelow to speak at a Reform convention, Fromm was allowed to sell memberships at a table outside the main room.

But what I missed the first time around was that the Reform Party was also able to recruit members at Paul Fromm's events (an activity he claimed was "brisk"):
On June 13, 1991, several Heritage Front members attended a meeting of Paul Fromm's Canadians for Foreign Aid Reform (C-FAR) where Overfield from the Reform Party set up a table to sign people up for the Party.

... it is interesting to note that the policies of both groups stem from the idea that minorities are receiving unjustifiable special treatment under current Canadian legislation.

... The attraction of Reform for Overfield and like-minded persons, he said was that it was strictly white bread, 100 percent white Canadians, really anti-immigration; there was really no difference between those people and them.
Another interesting bit of information from the site, was that Paul Fromm reprinted the Reform Party immigration policies verbatim in his own literature.

The Proof is in ... Well ... the Proof

It's easy to discount Harper's involvement in these right-wing causes, as Dr. Debra Chin says:
Mr. Harper would eventually "officially" break-away from this group. Indeed, it would be unfair to Mr. Harper, to continually link him ideologically to a group that he may have simply sought to explore, in his process of political exploration and outreach. However, upon closer examination, the substantive policy direction of the Conservative government, appears to be emphatically driven by the expressed agenda of the Northern Foundation. This includes massive cuts to programs aimed, for example, at advancing the status of women; and protecting minorities from institutionalized discrimination.
I agree, because the immigration and foreign aid policies that the Harper government (the official name of Canada now), follow the agenda of groups like C-FAR and their attack on human rights groups, those of CAFE.
"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff." (Stephen Harper, BC Report, January 11, 1999)
Harper government closes Human Rights Commission offices

Canadian Human Rights Commission closes Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax offices
NEWS / Public servants say closures part of Harper's anti-rights agenda

Harper government closing Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) offices

In a speech Stephen Harper made to Institute for Research on Public Policy, in May of 2003, he referred to multiculturalism as a "weak nation strategy" and:
To ensure that Canada is "never again" perceived as a potential source of threats, Harper called for a "long-overdue" reform of our refugee programs. (3)
This fits in with what Lawrence Martin wrote in his book Harperland, that Stephen Harper doesn't view the world as a global community, but as a "Clash of Civilizations"

Let's look at what his government has done to de-fund immigration and foreign aid:

Immigrant settlement funds cut for Ont.

Immigration services cuts wrong

Cuts hurt immigrant services

The Cost of Closing Canadian Embassies in Africa

Liberal women blast Stephen Harper’s ‘shell game’ on foreign aid

Tories target foreign aid to tame deficit (why not fighter jets and corporate tax cuts?)

Stephen Harper is diminishing Canada's international reputation

Africa hears more reasons to do less

The bulk of Canada's foreign aid is now going to Afghanistan to fuel a war and pay private security firms.

And this brings me to Jason Kenney and his new fundraising campaign. Headines will be all about his abuse of taxpayer money (like abusing taxpayer money under Harper is news), but we should look at their exploitation of immigrants.

When Kenney was running the Canadian Taxpayers Federation he spoke out against any money going to immigration services or multiculturalism. Stephen Harper supported groups that opposed immigration and human rights and while in office has substantially cut funding to both.

Kenney's campaign is about trying to win a majority on the backs of immigrants.

But given the massive control that Stephen Harper has been able to secure with a minority, why is having a majority so important? What more can he do to us? He has erased our borders and sold us out to the Americans in a series of aggressive trade deals.

He has isolated us from the international community and severely damaged our ranking in the world?

What's left? Remember that Stephen Harper used to look more like the image at the top of this post, before he used taxpayer money to hire an image consultant.

Something to think about.

Sources:

1. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, Pg. 100-107

2. 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. 121

3. Too Close for Comfort: Canada's Future Within Fortress North America, By Maude Barlow, McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2005, ISBN: 0-7710-1088-5, Pg. 19-24

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