Monday, February 4, 2008

Kevin Steele: Stirring it up again (Warman, Bristow and Kinsella)




Stirring it up again

Posted By Kevin Steel On February 3, 2008 @ 9:49 pm In News | No Comments

The controversy surrounding former Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) employee Richard Warman has a familiar ring to it. Warman has been accused of logging onto web sites and writing inflammatory statements to goad people into making similar remarks. Actually it’s worse than that. He’s accused of planting hateful statements and then using those as evidence in CHRC complaints against those who operate the web sites—in other words, fabricating evidence to convict people. Warman’s CRHC convictions then become part of the justification to suppress political debate through the use of hate laws and human rights legislation.

It sounds familiar because agencies of the Canadian government have a track record of this—using agent provocateurs to inflame situations to discredit political dissent. The most infamous example was in the 1970s when the RCMP intelligence service committed illegal acts, setting fires, etc. in an effort to discredit Quebec nationalists. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was created in 1984 as a result of the controversy.

But the current controversy with Richard Warman started to sound familiar for another reason as well. Shortly after the evidence on Warman was made public (on Free Dominion, a web site that is the subject of human rights complaint), Warren Kinsella stepped into the fray to publicly defend Warman. If anything, Kinsella is consistent. In 1994, shortly after the exposure of CSIS agent Grant Bristow as an agent provocateur in the Heritage Front investigation, Kinsella defended Bristow in [1] a column in the Ottawa Citizen.

In light of the accusations against Warman, it’s worth re-examining the Bristow Affair. There are similarities. Specifically, both involve the investigation of extremism on the far right. A good starting point is that column by Kinsella.

It’s a curious piece of work.

Kinsella’s column was published on September 2, 1994, a couple of weeks after Bristow was exposed in an August 14 Toronto Sun article by Bill Dunphy, “Stir It Up: Grant Bristow Didn’t Just Spy on the Heritage Front – He Used Taxpayers’ Money to Build Up the Racist Organization.” Dunphy, quoting from Heritage Front opponents, accuses Bristow of going far beyond simple infiltration of the Heritage Front and alleges that the agent was in fact inciting violence by playing both sides against each other (in other words, stirring it up). Kinsella in his column appears to be at once attacking Bristow for helping to establish the largest neo-Nazi organization in Canada while at same time defending him for exposing it. In all, he mentions Bristow’s name ten times.

Yet, despite these numerous references to Grant Bristow, Kinsella does not disclose to the reader that he has had intimate knowledge of the man. At one time, Kinsella made a police complaint against the CSIS agent. That incident came to light only a week or so before the column appeared, in an article in the [2] Vancouver Province, August 25, 1994:

Bernie Farber, spokesman for the Congress, said Bristow posed as an Ottawa Citizen reporter doing research for author Warren Kinsella, who at the time was writing Web of Hate, a book about extremist right-wing activity in Canada.

Kinsella said he filed a complaint with police, who investigated and concluded they did not have grounds to lay a criminal charge.

That event would be probed in further detail by SIRC, the civilian body charged with monitoring CSIS activities. Following Bristow’s exposure, SIRC produced a report issued on December 9, 1994. SIRC would pin it down Bristow’s imitation of an Ottawa Citizen reporter pretending to work on Kinsella’s behalf to May 7, 1993.

Perhaps it’s best if you see [3] a timeline of the events.

The [4] previous March, Kinsella had published Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network. Bristow’s name does not appear once in the book. This has been brought up from time to time over the years, but nobody to my knowledge has explained satisfactorily why the omission appears to be deliberate and why this could be significant.

Web of Hate purports to be an authoritative study of the far right in Canada. The author claims the work is the result of ten years worth of research. The chapter on the Heritage Front, “The Wolfie and Georgie Show,” is the longest in the book, 52 pages. Yet somehow the author overlooks the fact that Grant Bristow was one of three founding members of the Heritage Front. More damning, despite the fact that Kinsella himself had made a police complaint against Bristow—in May 1993, long before the research for Web of Hate [5] is completed in October 1993—in a very serious incident where a known member of the Heritage Front attempted to gain access to the files of a high profile Jewish organization, the incident does not appear in Web of Hate.

Of equal or even more significance is how [6] that complaint supposedly came about. As the SIRC report tells it, Bristow presented himself to a Jewish student leader as an Ottawa Citizen reporter using the name “Trevor Graham” and claiming to be engaged in research on Kinsella’s behalf. Suspicious, the student leader checked up on Trevor Graham and discovered no reporter by that name. A few days later she went to Bernie Farber’s office at the Canadian Jewish Congress and identified Bristow through the picture that appeared in a major (nearly 2,000 word) [7] November 29, 1992 Toronto Sun story, “Canada’s Neo-Nazis: White Rights Groups Readying for Racial War.” Farber alerted Kinsella and Kinsella made his complaint, first to the Ottawa police and then to the Toronto Metro police by fax.

That means that Kinsella was not only aware of Grant Bristow’s connection to the Heritage Front, but he was also aware of the 1992 Toronto Sun story. And in that story, Bristow is identified as a person captured in a car in Scarborough, Ont., with Aryan Nations member Sean Maguire with guns in the trunk. From the November 29, 1992 Sun article:

In the fall of 1991, Metro police ETF officers and immigration forces swooped down on a car in Scarboro [sic] and arrested an Aryan Nations enforcer, Sean Maguire.

In the car—driven by Front member Grant Bristow—they found a sawed-off shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, binoculars, handcuffs and a police radio scanner.

Maguire was deported.

This is a serious incident, Aryan Nations, Heritage Front, guns. Yet not only is Bristow’s name omitted from Web of Hate, but Sean Maguire’s name doesn’t appear either. Why? It’s the one news event linking Grant Bristow to the Heritage Front prior to his exposure.

(Oddly, the [8] fire bombings of Jewish activist Monna Zentner’s house are not in Web of Hate, either.)

Another curious thing happens when Bristow is exposed. Almost immediately after the CSIS agent is outed, SIRC announced it would conduct an investigation (they jumped in with such speed it almost looks like they saw it coming). Their December 9, 1994 report cites Web of Hate as an authoritative study on far right extremism and deals with Kinsella’s police complaint. Yet Kinsella himself doesn’t appear to have been called in for an interview. The guy’s living there in Ottawa. Why not telephone him?

Then there is the matter of Jean Chrétien’s letter. A day after Grant Bristow appeared at a major Reform Party rally on January 22, 1992 in Pickering, Ont., as a bodyguard for Preston Manning, opposition leader Jean Chrétien [9] released a letter accusing the Reform Party of being racist. The letter was reported in the press. A month later, [10] the news of the Heritage Front’s connection to the Reform Party breaks in the news and forever after the party is accused of being racist. A coincidence, you could say, except that Warren Kinsella [11] was working for Chrétien at the time, and these coincidences pile up around Kinsella.

The SIRC report on the Heritage Front is a strange beast. It presents the hypotheses that the effort to discredit the Reform Party was actually a plot by the extreme right wing. In other words, Canadians are presented with the bizarre idea that these neo-Nazis thought to themselves, “Hey, we’re so disreputable; if we attach ourselves to the Reform Party then we can discredit them.” It’s preposterous. Disreputable people don’t think of themselves as disreputable.

The above produces a lot of questions. Why doesn’t Bristow’s name appear in Web of Hate? Specifically, why didn’t Kinsella mention the police report in which Bristow attempts to obtain info on Jewish organizations, using Kinsella’s name, especially after a Jewish activist’s house was set on fire twice, the first a confirmed arson? Why were neither of Monna Zentner’s fires described in Web of Hate? Why wasn’t the Sean Maguire incident described? Why did Kinsella mention Bristow ten times in the Ottawa Citizen column without mentioning his intimate connection to Bristow through his police complaint? Why didn’t SIRC interview Kinsella, despite SIRC using Web of Hate as a source?

In the timeline, Bristow’s non-existence in Web of Hate certainly looks less like editorial license or carelessness or stupidity on the author’s part. When the sequence is examined, it looks deliberate. If Kinsella removed references to Grant Bristow from his book because at some point he learned that Bristow was a CSIS agent, then he suppressed knowledge that the Heritage Front had been infiltrated by CSIS at the highest level, making the book worthless as a description of the far right. Further, it would make Web of Hate look like a contrived CSIS asset and, by extension, its author would be an asset as well. And being an asset of Canada’s secret service would pretty much negate anything Kinsella has written or said on the subject of hate laws, human rights commissions and free speech in the last 13 years.

If you look at what Bristow did during Operation Governor, it’s obvious his mission was more than simple infiltration. An infiltrator doesn’t start major organizations. He doesn’t build them up. He doesn’t play both sides against each other to create violent confrontations. He doesn’t go anywhere near politicians. It’s pretty clear Bristow tried to centralize Canada’s far right in an effort to control it. He took a small, ineffectual lunatic fringe and turned it into some much bigger. And then he deliberately attached the Heritage Front to the Reform Party to discredit it.

In a huge article—over 7,500 words—in the September 2004 issue of The Walrus, Bristow spoke publicly for the first time. Based on a Bristow interview by Andrew Mitrovica, the article, “[12] Front Man,” is a self-serving account of Bristow’s activities. The only thing on the record that supports Bristow’s version of events is the SIRC report of 1994. That report, written by a bunch of Progressive Conservatives, is discounted in court testimony and articles based on eyewitness accounts all over the place, from people on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

Bristow would’ve had good reason to wait so long before going public. Memories had to dim before he could put forward his revisionism. Memories had to dim because what Bristow was accused of at the time—and actually still stands accused of because the timeline supports it—is being involved in an effort to discredit the Reform Party by associating it with racism. That is illegal involvement in the democratic institutions of the country, the exact same thing that led to the downfall of the RCMP intelligence service in the late 1970s.

The Bristow affair wasn’t properly probed, so everyone is left asking themselves, just how far would our state agencies go to support the nanny state hate laws, to justify the suppression of liberty in Canada?

Now there is anecdotal evidence that CSIS agents were involved in the more serious allegations against the 18 Muslims in Toronto arrested on terrorism charges a couple of years ago. One agent was paid $300,000 and ran the training camp; another was paid $500,000 and was involved in the ordering of ammonium nitrate for a bomb. Reasonably, one has to wonder, just how involved were these agents in taking what appears to be nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled, incompetent kids and turning them into a terrorist cell? With the Bristow affair in mind and in view of the allegations against Richard Warman, it’s reasonable to ask how the current case has been used to support the extension of investigative police powers created in the wake of 9-11.

A backward glance at the Bristow Affair, a cursory look at the Toronto 18 case, and with the revelations coming forth in the Warman Affair, maybe it’s time for a full public inquiry into the use of government agents to create fear among Canadians in order to justify the suppression of liberties.

One final word on the Warman affair. For too long some Canadians have used the easy slur of racism to attack anyone who might disagree with them. The epithets “racist,” “fascist” and “neo-Nazi” have been hurled around in this country longer than Joseph McCarthy used “communism” to attack his opponents in the U.S. in the early 1950s. Nowadays these epithets are being tossed at just about everyone who supports our long traditions of an open, just society and its foundation of free speech. This behavior must be called out for what it is, demagoguery. With that in mind, I’ll end with a couple of quotes from [13] Edward R. Murrow;

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were, for the moment, unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.”

- From the March 9, 1954, “See It Now” television broadcast on Senator Joe McCarthy.

“Good night, and good luck.”

([14] Timeline Link.)

Article printed from

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] a column in the Ottawa Citizen:
[2] Vancouver Province, August 25, 1994:
[3] a timeline of the events:
[4] previous March:
[5] is completed:
[6] that complaint:
[7] November 29, 1992 Toronto Sun story:
[8] fire bombings:
[9] released a letter:
[10] the news:
[11] was working:
[12] Front Man:
[13] Edward R. Murrow:
[14] Timeline Link: