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It’s the Summer of 1986. The place: Caroline, Alta., just outside Red Deer.
The slur has been uttered by Terry Long, the “High Aryan Warrior Priest” of the Canadian branch of the Aryan Nations. I’m at the fenced gate leading to Long’s acreage. On either side of me are Meir Halevi and Irv Rubin — the Canadian and American leaders of the Jewish Defence League.
And Long has just called Rubin “a dirty Jew.” One of his followers, holding a rifle, laughs.
It’s a couple years later, Canada Day weekend 1988. I’m in Minden, Ont., at night, outside the rural property of John Beattie, one-time leader of the Canadian Nazi Party. A hundred or so neo-Nazi skinheads have gathered at Beattie’s property — for a cross burning.
As the cross is set alight, I can hear a hundred young voices shouting, their voices echoing through the woods: “Sieg heil! Sieg heil!”
And now, it’s many years later. Things have gotten worse. A lunatic is in the White House, one whose very first promise was to bar Muslims from the United States. Far-right “populists” are seizing power all over. Racist and anti-Semitic crimes are surging, around the globe.
And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just suggested his principal opponent, Andrew Scheer, is in league with white supremacists. Or neo-Nazis. Or both.
“The Conservative leader refuses to denounce white supremacists!” Trudeau yells in the House of Commons. One of his ministers follows suit, and says that Scheer is “associated” with a neo-Nazi leader. Another minister says that Scheer “shares platforms” with white supremacists.
None of these things are true — Scheer has repeatedly denounced white supremacy in the House, and is in no way sympathetic to neo-Naziism. But it doesn’t matter.
The Liberal government, desperate to move on from the Lavscam scandal, has landed on a repellant strategy: brand the Conservative leader as a Nazi sympathizer.
It’s dishonest and it’s despicable, but Trudeau is also undeterred. The Liberal leader is double-digits behind the Tory leader, some polls suggest. He is frantically attempting to change the channel from Lavscam.
But what Justin Trudeau is doing is dangerous. And it’s bad for the very minority communities Trudeau professes to support.
This writer has been writing about, and researching, and opposing, the racist right for more than three decades. I wrote a national bestseller about subject, too, called Web of Hate.
I helped, along with my wife Lisa and others, get a Holocaust-denying newspaper barred from the postal system, and pushed to get its publisher and editor convicted of promoting hate against Jews and women (their sentencing is next Friday in Toronto).
So, take my word for it: Andrew Scheer is no neo-Nazi. I’ve gone face-to-face with real neo-Nazis — Hell, that one in Caroline, Alta., jammed his rifle into my chest — and what Trudeau and his party are doing is so, so wrong.
Suggesting someone like Scheer is a Nazi minimizes the actual crimes of actual Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler. Suggesting a political opponent is a white supremacist makes it harder to identify and oppose real white supremacists.
And, most of all, it trivializes the suffering of real victims of Naziism and hate. It makes people cynical and dismissive about calls to oppose the real haters. And it makes things that much easier for the Jew-hating High Aryan Warrior Priest, or the hundred skinheads screaming Hitler’s name one night. It helps them.
So, what Justin Trudeau is doing is more than disgusting. It is disgraceful.
Because when everyone is a Nazi, Prime Minister, then no one is.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019