History's lessons on dealing with Canada's neo-Nazi groups - 2017-07-24
Although the group is at least a year old, the "Proud Boys"—a group of self-described "western chauvinists" with a "street-fighting" program—are making its presence known on the country's sesquicentennial. On July 2, five of the "boys" disrupted a Mi'kmaq protest over the institutional, symbolic support for the colonial legacy of genocide. Two weeks later at Queen's Park in Ontario, a University of Toronto group called the Students in Support of Free Speech—supported by the likes of Paul Fromm, one of the GTA's better-known white supremacists—echoed support for the chauvinists, a rally that made the news, at least in part, because anti-fascist activists arrived to confront them. Whether or not Fromm was explicitly invited to take part is unclear, but he was there, ready to share his views, megaphone in hand.
Between this and several other incidents—including the establishment of a Hamilton neighbourhood watch group called the Sons of Odin, a recent neo-Nazi meeting held at a west-end branch of the Toronto Public Library, and the Canada Post's refusal to distribute the controversial paper, Your Ward News—the realization that extremist groups were alive and well in Canada has been a shocking surprise to many.
That's just as it was for the majority of Torontonians on May 31, 1965, when they picked up the Toronto Star and read about the previous day's full-blown riot at the Allan Gardens conservatory. Thousands of people, some of them survivors of the German concentration camps, descended upon the park to protest a neo-Nazi rally, expected to attract about 50. In the end, it turned out to be eight, severely outmatched by an estimated 4,000 anti-Nazis. The hateful eight was led by William John Beattie, a 23-year-old who "barely made it out of his car," tried to run, but was grabbed and beaten by the "hate-filled" and "hysterical" mob. Somehow, though, Toronto police managed to gain control of the situation after only about 15 minutes of chaos, despite the fact the force had little recent experience with that kind of incident. Police chief James Mackey said there hadn't been anything like it in the city since the 1930s.