Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Calgary's in-your-face neo-Nazis take to the streets Add to ...

"I'm fine with violence," Mr. McKee said in one interview. "If someone's in our way, we'll move them out of our way."

Splinters and new blood

It was in 2005 that Mr. McKee first announced that Calgary, with its skinhead scene and ample job opportunities, was ripe for the movement.

Ontario, on the other hand, had become anathema to neo-Nazi life - home to the crusading human-rights lawyer Mr. Warman, heavy media attention around the likes of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, and few labour jobs for the young men attracted to extremism as a form of enfranchisement.

Many young recruits have followed Mr. McKee, who moved west from Kitchener, Ont. He co-founded a group called Aryan Guard (it was later renamed Blood and Honour), which offered to help pay for other white nationalists to move to Calgary. He still offers space in his apartment to new recruits.

And he has spearheaded the march, which drew large crowds in 2009 but fizzled last year.

"Kyle McKee's leadership has been key," explained Paul Fromm, a stalwart and mentor of the extreme Canadian right.

Less visible are the group's violent encounters. Mr. McKee was charged with attempted murder after a bomb went off at the home of a rival group member (he later pleaded guilty to possession of explosives). He also pleaded guilty Thursday to the beating of a teenage girl in December, which cracked her teeth, and has to pay one-third of her dental bill.

New groups have also emerged. Rivals include WEB, whose members are identified by spider web tattoos, and an underground group called Volksfront.

"It definitely benefits us," Mr. McKee said of the new players. "Police have to do a lot more paperwork."

One of the movement's more eager recent recruits is Andrew Benson, 26, whose case illustrates Calgary's dilemma.

In Toronto, he worked at Pickle Barrel, a restaurant chain with roots as a Jewish deli. In search of a white-power movement to join, he searched online and found Mr. McKee and the "fertile ground" of Calgary.

"The city is, culturally, what I expected it to be," Mr. Benson said. His parents eventually caught on. "They said to me: 'Is the only reason you went to Calgary to meet up with other neo-Nazis?' Uh, um, yes."

The role of the legal system

The Charter protects much of what neo-Nazi groups say and do, and police are rarely able to successfully lay charges of inciting hatred. Neo-Nazi leaders are more likely to land in court over more minor charges such as assault, or face civil suits.

Mr. Warman has sparked 16 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal civil cases. He has poured thousands of his own hours and dollars into the cause.

"That, and the death threats, have definitely been the less desirable aspects of the work," he said in a written statement. "The goal was to knock out a generation of the neo-Nazi leadership and worst offenders, establish a solid body of case law, and show the Internet was not the Wild West."

In Calgary, police have just one hate-crimes officer, to deal with the highest hate-crimes rate in the country. Many say more needs to be done.

"If you have a dedicated hate crime unit up and running," one veteran Canadian hate crimes investigator said on condition of anonymity, "you can circumvent that kind of activity prior to it getting so visible."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, hasn't commented publicly on the subject. After repeated requests, his office released a brief statement. "Who your daddy is or where you were born are non-issues for the vast majority of Calgarians," it read.

To ward off neo-Nazi groups, Calgary needs community, police and political leadership, Mr. Warman said.

"The legal system for responding to neo-Nazi organization is as effective as the community that decides to respond to that kind of activity," he said. "And if one or all of those is missing, then it will fail."

And so, today's march will proceed, though without the micro-fuhrer. Upon release from jail, Mr. McKee has no plans to leave his newfound home.

Single page
 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular