Several spies and a bottle of rum

How Canadian Jewish groups infiltrated Canada's Nazi Party.

Ben Kayfetz 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ben Kayfetz 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In 1965 the Canadian Jewish Congress hired a spy, John Garrity, to infiltrate the Canadian Nazi Party, and even went so far as to spy on at least one other Jewish group. This rather bizarre chapter in Canadian Jewish history has come under scrutiny recently following the release of Canadian lawyer and journalist Ezra Levant's new book, Shakedown, in which he makes the claim that in the 1960s, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) paid John Garrity, "a small-time mercenary, to build up the fledgling Canadian Nazi Party." Levant argues that although Garrity's "mission was justified as an attempt to learn more about neo-Nazism," Garrity and CJC ultimately helped turn "the Canadian Nazi Party into a media sensation." Levant wrote in the Ottawa Citizen on May 16 that in his view, the CJC has always been eager to "trump up the... specter of Nazis in Canada as a pretext to get censorship laws." Levant told The Jerusalem Post he believes the CJC's conduct in 1965-66 was designed "to convince Parliament to give them more 'hate' laws." Is there any basis to Levant's claim that the CJC "built up" or "propped up" or helped finance the Canadian Nazi Party, and turned it into a media sensation to serve its agenda of pushing for anti-hate speech laws? RABBI REUVEN Bulka, then still serving as co-president of the CJC, wrote to the Ottawa Citizen that the only money "expended by a private detective [Garrity] hired by the Congress to expose the Nazi group was money put out to purchase a bottle of rum," to which Levant responded in the same paper that even though buying a Nazi a bottle of rum is "pretty strange in itself," the CJC did far more than that. Levant referred to an exposé that Garrity, an ex-cop, now deceased, published in Maclean's magazine on October 1, 1966, about infiltrating the Canadian Nazi Party for the CJC. At the time, the leader of the Nazi Party was John Beattie, 24, an unemployed clerk who, Garrity wrote, had been "evicted from his fifth apartment in a year from not paying his rent." Levant said that article shows that Garrity had far more street smarts and know-how than Beattie, drove Beattie around in his car, acted as his bodyguard and usually paid for his drinks, for over a year. Garrity's article states that "early in 1965... there was just Beattie and a couple of teenagers... in the Nazi business...." He describes Beattie's Nazis as "misfits" and said that there were "only a dozen active members, plus perhaps 100 unseen supporters...." He noted that Beattie was in touch at the time with the leader of the Nazi party in the United States, George Lincoln Rockwell, and had even met Rockwell. According to Garrity, before sleuthing for CJC, he had spied on Beattie on behalf of a Jewish splinter group, N3, made up of Holocaust survivors who felt that the CJC was not doing enough to confront the Nazi threat. According to Garrity, he was hired in September 1965 and the most he was ever paid was $200 a month. Assuming he worked for CJC up until his article was published in McLean's, he was in their employ for 13 months. "If Garrity was paid by CJC $200 per month for 13 months in 1965-1966," Levant points out, "that's $2,600 in fees... That's about $17,000 in 2009 money, plus disbursements... I'd like to know if the [CJC] donors involved knew what their money was going to." Regarding Beattie's security, for example, Garrity wrote, "I'd often have to dash across to wherever Beattie was living to inspect a caller he'd refused to admit to his apartment, to make sure the man wasn't a potential assassin." At one point, Garrity got a tip that the N3 was going to disrupt a planned meeting of Beattie's with stink bombs. He wrote: "…I told my Jewish Congress contact. When I drove Beattie past the hall and he saw about 15 cars full of people plus a score of police cars posted there on the advice of the Jewish Congress he quickly cancelled the meeting - and thanked me." It would appear that CJC had tipped off the police about the planned illegal activity of another Jewish group, which resulted in Beattie not being physically harmed. TODAY, BEATTIE is 67 and works as a paralegal court agent in northern Ontario. He told the Post that Garrity, who he learned was a spy only with the release of the Maclean's article, had acted as his driver. "I had no car," he said. "Garrity drove me everywhere and Garrity fed me. He bought me lunches and snacks all the time, every day... and sometimes he'd buy me groceries... He bought me lots of drinks... I had a baby then and he'd bring used clothing, sometimes." In his exposé, Garrity - who called himself the party's "Heinrich Himmler" - wrote that once the Nazis started meeting in secret locations, supporters would be "picked up, often by me" and driven to the gathering. Levant said that Garrity's and Beattie's versions of events show that the CJC, by providing him with food, transportation and security, was helping to "prop up" Beattie. But Ellen Scheinberg, director of the Ontario Jewish Archives, rejects any suggestion that Garrity built up the Nazi Party. She told the Post that, on the contrary, Garrity's work destroyed it. She notes that Garrity described his role thus: "I was chosen secret-service chief, with the job of checking applicants for membership. Later I did check about 15 prospective members, and turned down those who seemed intelligent and therefore dangerous." "How could Garrity have been building up the party," she asks, "if he was eliminating precisely those members who would have been the most useful to it, rather than seeking them out?" Scheinberg repeats the assertion that CJC's "financial support of [Beattie's Nazis ] was in fact limited to the purchase of a bottle of rum." Beattie says, looking back: "I was insane at the time... I know that's no excuse for what I did" and "I just loved the media attention I was getting." ONE OF the most controversial aspects of what occurred in 1965 involved a rally that Beattie announced he would hold at Allan Gardens in Toronto on May 30, 1965, with supporters wearing swastika armbands. Levant claims that the CJC, seeking to push its agenda for bringing in legislation limiting hate speech, wanted to unleash a major counterdemonstration to Beattie's planned event. Historian Frank Bialystok, in his book Delayed Impact, which examines Canadian Jewry's collective memory regarding the Holocaust, wrote that by February 1964, the CJC had made a tactical decision to publicly lobby for anti-hate legislation "partially in response to the pressure exerted by the survivor organizations." According to Bialystok, about two weeks prior to Beattie's planned rally, Ben Kayfetz, CJC's executive director, had written, "…We knowingly dropped the quarantine method [backroom lobbying and ignoring agitators publicly] in relation to the neo-Nazi agitation of the past year and a half for a number of reasons: 1. Their kind of agitation (e.g. sprinkling leaflets from the air) commanded [the] public and could not be suppressed. 2. If we were going out on an intensive campaign for laws, we had to tell the public-at-large about this hate material and could not do so under the quarantine treatment...." Levant claims that since the CJC was going on "an intensive campaign for laws," it responded to Beattie's proposed rally in a manner that would help turn the demonstration into a media sensation. He says that the statement CJC issued on May 28, two days before the rally, is consistent with this theory. That statement read: "Toronto apparently faces the gross provocation of a public Nazi demonstration... The Canadian Jewish Congress feels that the very threat of attempting such a demonstration... is insulting and provocative to the great majority of citizens of this city. It indeed poses a threat to the peace and good order of the community... For the citizens of Toronto, there can be only one response: to condemn completely and unreservedly the acts of the self-styled Nazis, and to bring to bear the weight of an outraged public opinion against the provocations they plan." N3 and other Jewish groups also issued letters and leaflets urging a mass opposition attendance at the rally. To give speeches and demonstrate, Beattie needed a permit from the city. According to Bialystok, Beattie had asked Garrity to go to City Hall to get the permit, but Garrity had "conveniently forgotten." Both CJC and N3 knew two days prior to the rally that Beattie didn't have a permit, but neither informed the public. "If Beattie had tried to speak, he would have been charged with public mischief," Bialystok wrote. Instead, there was a crowd of 4,000 people, many of whom were Jewish demonstrators, and a riot ensued, with eight Jews being arrested for attacking members of a motorcycle club who happened to be passing by, but whom they mistook for Beattie's Nazis. Their bail was put up by N3. The Toronto Star reported that several thousand people, many of them Holocaust survivors, were in the park looking "for Beattie or his men." Beattie himself appeared alone and was charged with creating a public disturbance. AS LEVANT is quick to point out, Beattie was acquitted on the charge of unlawful assembly because there were no other persons assembled to act in concert with him. Bialystok wrote that Beattie's Nazi's were "a tiny group of misfits who posed little threat to law and order." He also wrote that "the anti-Nazi groups may not have planned the violence, but neither did they call off the demonstration when their leaders knew that Beattie did not have a permit." Further, Bialystok wrote that "the demonstration could have been averted had community leaders, from both Congress and the anti-Nazi organizations, informed the community in advance that Beattie did not have a permit." Levant claims that CJC didn't inform the Jewish public of Beattie's not having a permit because it wanted an enraged citizenry to help it in its push for anti-hate laws. "They managed to parlay a second-rate carnival act into the raison d'etre for censorship laws that would otherwise have likely failed to become law," he says. "Seriously: the Canadian Nazi Party was often a party of one... It wasn't even an organization in any legal sense. It didn't have a bank account. It didn't have a newsletter. It didn't have any formal organization - no bylaws, no constitution," he adds. Levant gleaned this information from a report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1969. It also referred to Beattie as "a poor leader and organizer," as having "50 followers," no "membership" and suggested "that the majority of the monies donated is spent by Beattie on personal use." The RCMP wrote, "It is not believed" that Beattie "could exert adverse influence on any person other than some supporters of the party and this would only be to a degree." Beattie told the Post that in the photo in the MacLean's article, Garrity is shown with a box he referred to as "correspondence," but "that box was filled with all of the newspaper clippings about me." He added that a lot of times "it was just me and Garrity and a couple of other guys... It wasn't much of a Nazi Party... I craved all of the media attention... I loved it... There were a few characters who were anti-Jewish maybe four or five who were anti-Semitic. They liked to blame the Jews for everything." Bialystok, currently Ontario regional chair of the CJC, counters that Levant's theory is "absolute nonsense" and "a total fabrication," and says he "picks and chooses" facts. He notes that "Levant is a "polemicist" who has never favored hate speech being criminalized. "There's no proof that the CJC wanted [Beattie's] demonstration to take place… CJC was legitimately worried about growing anti-Semitism." He adds that that the "Canadian Nazi Party was extremely marginal, but it was a visible tipping point in the much wider anti-Semitic and racist network that engulfed North America." In his book, Bialystok chronicles the increase in the spread of anti- Semitic pamphlets in 1963-1964, which CJC was naturally concerned about. Garrity's article, Bialystok says, was designed to "self-aggrandize." The historian rejects Levant's characterization of Garrity as Beattie's "bodyguard" or organizational assistant. When asked specifically why CJC had not notified the Jewish public before the Allan Gardens rally that Beattie didn't have a permit to speak, Bialystok replied that "Congress was preoccupied with its upcoming plenary in Montreal." However, according to his book, the CJC plenary was held on May 20-24 - so it was already over when CJC found out on May 28 that Beattie didn't have authorization for the rally. In fact, a few days before the event, Bialystok wrote, the CJC plenary passed a resolution that "...directs that efforts be pursued toward the adoption of legislation incorporating: a) effective measures against the propagation of race hatred and group libel...." If anything, the timing of the plenary would potentially support rather than detract from Levant's theory. Levant also says that in the fall of 1964, about six months before the rally, the Canadian government had set up a committee to examine the idea of legislation against hate propaganda (the Cohen Committee.) CJC had a seat on the committee and the committee's members were finalized in January 1965. The Cohen Committee made its recommendations quickly - by November 10, 1965, just over five months after the rioting in Allan Gardens, Levant says. BY NOVEMBER 1966, a month after Garrity stopped working for CJC, a bill based on the committee's report was introduced in the Canadian Senate. "The bill adopted the recommendations of the report exactly," Bialystok wrote. The bill still had to pass the House of Commons, where there was some opposition. Bialystok wrote that in November 1966, "Congress expected that the legislation would proceed forthwith." But the law didn't enter the books until 1970. Levant claims that the CJC "was using Beattie to bring pressure [to lobby for hate-legislation]." He refers to two phrases in the RCMP report to substantiate this. By then Beattie's organization was the Canadian National Socialist Party. The RCMP reported at the time that "It is also believed that because of the existence of the CNSP, some pressure has been brought to bear on federal authorities in the anti-hate legislature bill," and "it is also known that as a result of the activities of the CNSP some influence is brought on local and federal authorities by the Jewish community in Canada." But the RCMP report also states that "there has been some association with the Edmond Burke Society (a far-right organization founded in 1967 interested in Nazi white supremacy theories) which in turn may also have aided in the reason for the inception of the hate bill." Responding to the thrust of Levant's contentions, Scheinberg said "It is easy for Levant, from the comfort of 2009, to ridicule the state of the Canadian Nazi Party in 1965. But, he should at least fairly quote Garrity who... [in Maclean's] said, 'I was as alarmed about Beattie as was the Congress and N3. It's not Beattie himself I fear; it's the uncounted Nazi sympathizers, and the growing number of anti-communist, right-wing organizations that display neo-Nazi symptoms. It leads me to fear a situation in which the Nazi Party might fall into the hands of an intelligent demagogue and gain financial support from wealthy but misguided right-wing sympathizers.'" Scheinberg noted that at the time CJC "was far more concerned with the growing activity of the neo-Nazis than building a case for amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada." She added that in addition to John Beattie, Neo-Nazi David Stanley, who handed out anti-Semitic leaflets, "already had a national profile thanks to the media. The CJC did not have to manufacture them - they already existed." It may also be that CJC's conduct regarding Beattie was motivated by its desire to continue as the premier organization of the Jewish community, rather than be outdone by more extreme Jewish splinter groups. As CJC Ontario vice-chairman Sydney Harris, now deceased, told Bialystok in Delayed Impact 30 years after the events, that "if we had simply ignored these guys [the Nazis], they would have died... But, unfortunately the Jewish community didn't feel that way. The net result is that we got them all the publicity they wanted through our own actions..." From 1966 to '68, Beattie spoke at Allan Gardens but with little publicity from the media or response by Toronto's Jews. By 1970, Beattie and the Canadian Nazi Party had evaporated on their own. "If Levant claims [that the CJC was getting Beattie media attention to lobby for hate speech legislation]," Bialystok said, "why didn't Canadian Jewish Congress continue to counter demonstrate from 1966-'69? It doesn't make sense."