The National Alliance (NA), a neo-Nazi organization that was once the most important hate group in America, has appealed a Canadian court ruling that struck down a bequest of some $220,000 left to it by a deceased Canadian member.
NA attorney John Hughes filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeal in New Brunswick, Canada, on July 3. The document alleged a series of judicial errors by Justice William T. Grant, who in early June found that the bequest, which included a collection of ancient coins, violated Canadian law and public policy.
The judge found that the NA’s purpose — which he characterized as “promot[ing] white supremacy through the dissemination of propaganda which incites hatred of various identifiable groups — was criminal under Canadian law. He also found that contrary to the NA’s claims, the group had not distanced itself from its foundational documents, which spoke about the need to murder “homosexuals, racemixers and hardcore collaborators,” the importance of doing “whatever is necessary” to achieve “a White living space,” and the twin goals of a “racial cleansing of the land” and “a long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America.” Another NA document openly celebrated white racial violence as “a healthy, red-blooded response to the current situation in America’s cities.”
The judge called the NA documents “disgusting, repugnant and revolting.”
But in his appeal, Hughes argued that Canadian law should not apply to a bequest going to a U.S. group; that the distribution of NA materials in Canada via the Internet was not enough to give Canadian courts jurisdiction in the dispute; that the NA’s purpose was not “White Supremacy,” but rather “the survival of the white race”; and that Canadian law does not allow for that nation’s courts to interfere in the choice of who to leave property to. He also argued that the decision “gives undue weight to foundational documents of the beneficiary, and none to the evidence of the organization’s evolution,” allegedly into a kinder, less violence-minded group.
The judge’s initial decision enjoined any transfer of the estate’s assets to the NA, instead ordering it distributed to the brother and sister of Harry Robert McCorkill, a long-time NA member who died in 2004, leaving most of his estate to the NA.
The Canadian bequest was first brought to public attention in June 2013, when Hatewatch revealed that NA officials appeared close to settling the probate matter and forwarding the proceeds to the NA. Shortly after that, McCorkill’s sister, who like a second brother was estranged from her radical sibling and did not even know he was alive, filed suit, saying that she did not want to see the money go to a neo-Nazi group and that she also hoped to keep the coin collection in Canada. The sister, Isabelle Rose McCorkill, was later joined in the court case by two Jewish human rights groups in Canada and the provincial New Brunswick attorney general.
The case against the bequest could never have been made under American law, which has unusually strong free speech and association protections. But Canadian law has a much fuller concept of the public good, and its foundational Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows speech and other “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Canadian law also makes public “incitement of hatred” — “willfully promot[ing] hatred against any identifiable group” — a criminal offense.
The court battle comes at a time when the NA, which a little over a decade ago was the dominant hate group in the United States, is struggling to survive. It has gone from an organization that brought in about $1 million a year and had some 1,400 dues-paying members to a group that is nearly bankrupt and has only a smattering of supporters left. The group’s current leader, Erich Gliebe, is trying to sell much of its West Virginia headquarters compound to raise money, and he has sold off much of the wood on the site to logging companies for the same reason. A faction led by the brother of the group’s late founder has sued the NA in civil court in an attempt to regain control of the organization. And virtually all of the major personalities in the group, many of whom enjoyed serious movement prestige, have left.
The loss of the bequest could help finally destroy the remnants of the once-storied NA. The group seems unlikely to survive without a source of new funds.