I’m one of the few Caucasians I know who doesn’t have a cottage. After years of spending my long weekends in the city while nearly every white person I know flocks to a country home, I’ve started to equate the two. However, learning about one cottage country resident really enforced this impression—and, no, I’m not taking about Dave Matthews.
In 1989, the small cottage country town of Minden, Ontario held a celebration in honour of John A. Macdonald. As far as festivities celebrating Canada’s first prime minister go, this one was untraditional, to say the least. In attendance were about 100 white supremacists and a skinhead band. The two-day, John A., white-power extravaganza concluded with the burning of a giant cross. John Beattie, the founder and former leader of the Canadian Nazi Party, organized this gathering. At 72, Beattie still resides in Minden and, as of last week, has announced his candidacy for Municipal office of the Minden-Hills Township.
Beattie is what my grandmother would describe in Yiddish as an alter kocker, a grouchy old man. His aura has been describes by others as that of a “Clint Eastwood grimace.” His history of Neo-Nazi activity runs long and deep, but right now Beattie is disgruntled over a water tower project that went over budget, which is why he’s decided on his candidacy. Beattie has lived in Minden for over 30 years where he ran his own paralegal firm for most of that time until it closed in December, and he uses this experience to assure everyone that his opinions would not interfere with his work in municipal politics. He said, “just as I did as a paralegal, I can separate the two. I defended Jews, Christians, blacks, whites, purples—or the law society would have kicked me out.” I don’t think that I would have been able to stand for working for the purples. Those damned purps, always getting off scot-free.
Beattie’s far-right rhetoric first began to brew when he used to sit in on trials at Osgoode Hall, claiming to notice how rich people received lenient sentences. As teenager, Beattie had also read anti-Semitic pamphlets written by Ron Gostick, a far-right organizer from Alberta. But Beattie admits that, at heart, he isn’t extreme enough to have started a Neo-Nazi Party because Canada is home to the most polite Neo-Nazis around. The only way for any of them to actually bring a political party into fruition is to either be manipulated into a Jewish conspiracy by undercover Jewish operatives, or be really, really drunk. And, as the story goes for Beattie, he claims he was both. “There was no Nazi Party, just one drunken idiot—me—and my Dutch landlord, a very lonely old guy,” he said. He explains that he was manipulated by the Canadian Jewish Congress into starting the Nazi Party to pave the way for hate-speech laws. He claims CJC agents started “pouring the beer down my throat” until “my old Dutch landlord and me would phone up the newspaper and say anything, never questioning why we were getting headlines, ‘Nazi, Nazi, Nazi.’” It was his six year stint with alcoholism that sustained the party until its eventual disbandment in 1978.
Bernie Farber, a former CEO of the CJC stated, “with every grain of truth you can build a hill of lies,” and explained that CJC once hired a private detective only to determine the group’s strength and carry out minor sabotages. Now, I would never trust a Neo-Nazi with a story this bizarre, but the thought of a Watergate-esque plot executed by Jewish secret agents armed with nothing but beer cans is a screenplay opportunity too dynamite to pass up.
Nowadays, Beattie doesn’t identify as a Neo-Nazi. He claims his sort of talk is not about hatred, but about white pride. Aside from on his personal website, which features a lengthy interview with a former Klu Klux Klan leader, he keeps his opinions mainly to himself and whoever is interested. Though he can’t help gloat about Minden, a town he describes as “whiter than the driven snow.” Of course, he likely articulated this statement from his porch—in plain view of the Mexican flag draped across his neighbour’s railing. Anabel Briseno is of Mexican origin and says she brings him a plate of food every Christmas and Thanksgiving. Having lived beside him for 15 years, she says she knows his views, but also knows he’s been alone since his wife died of cancer. Even Suwan Khamduang says Beattie has ordered take-out from her local Thai restaurant despite his reputation for avoiding non-white establishments. “This kind of thing is from 100 years ago,” she said. “Why would you close your mind like that? It makes me feel sad—sad for him.”
The election will take place on October 27th and Beattie is up against two opponents. But let’s face it, even if he wins, he probably won’t be the most controversial politician ever to grace the municipalities of Ontario. He may be racist, but at least he doesn’t smoke crack too. Wow, that’s a sentence I really never thought I’d have to say.