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Last week, a slew of Canadian media outlets reported that the country’s most notorious white supremacist, Paul Fromm, had organized a protest against a boat of Tamil asylum seekers docked near Victoria, British Columbia. In a rare group show of interest in Fromm’s thoughts, the Canadian press allowed him to broadcast his desire to curtail non-white immigration and maintain “ethnic balance.”
Fromm, who founded and directs the hate-spewing, but mildly titled Canada First Immigration Reform Committee, is one of very few veteran professional racists in Canada. Fromm is also popular in the U.S., where he serves in a leadership position for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and spends a lot of time speaking at events put on by other American racist groups.As noted in Canada’s National Post, Fromm’s campaign against the recently arrived Tamil refugees “began last month from his home in Ontario, with impassioned messages posted to Stormfront.org, the Florida-based neo-Nazi website of which he is a ‘sustaining member’ and radio host.” Previous to his appearance in British Columbia, Fromm led a group of Aryan Guard skinheads to the office of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, where they presented him with a letter demanding the Tamils be denied asylum.
This is not the first time Fromm has managed to gain a hearing for his views in mainstream outlets. In 2008, Fromm appeared on Fox News as a “free speech activist,” despite the fact that his license to teach high school in Ontario had recently been revoked for his activism against non-white immigration and ties to the Canadian neo-Nazi group Heritage Front.
Fromm’s recent media coup in British Columbia also spotlighted about two-dozen fellow protestors who shared his “Keep Canada White” message. According to those who monitor extremism and the immigration debate in Canada, this small number of protestors is representative of Fromm’s infinitesimal following. Despite the addition of more than 250,000 immigrants each year to Canada’s relatively small population, observers say there has been no groundswell of anti-immigration sentiment among the public comparable to that seen in the United States in recent years.
“There are no extremist groups organizing around immigration to speak of,” says Paul St. Clair, executive director of the Roma Center in Toronto. “It’s just not a political issue the way it is in the States, even though we sometimes see little flare ups when a boat of refugees appears like the Tamil ship. Canadians welcome immigrants and want to naturalize them because we need their taxes to pay for our pensions. We could use an additional 100,000 a year and the government is streamlining the asylum process. This is widely understood as a positive development.”
Each year, roughly 300 hate crimes are reported in Canada, the vast majority of these cases limited to graffiti. The number has risen slightly in recent years, but observers attribute this mostly to increased awareness and reporting. Very few of these incidents deal with immigrants or refugees. Still fewer are violent.
“There is a different sensibility with regard to immigrants and refugees in Canada,” says Bernie Farber, who heads the Canadian Jewish Congress in Toronto. “In the 1970s, Vietnamese boat people were at first resisted by some, and now they are accepted as stalwart citizens. Even our current Conservative government is very clear: Canada is a refuge for those seeking asylum. Not a single MP has made the kind of comments you see being made in the United States Congress.”
Paul Fromm’s prospects for growing a constituency and fueling a backlash against refugees and immigrants, says Farber, are as grim as ever, despite the increasing influx of immigrants from around the world.
“I remain shocked when legitimate media give him even a modicum of credibility,” says Farber. “It’s like the New York Times giving Don Black credibility on immigration matters. David Irving and David Duke are [Fromm’s] friends; he is a white supremacist. He holds no view that is in any shape or form even a minimal view here in Canada.”