I met Doug Christie in 1984 and it wasn’t in the best of circumstances. I was at a small meeting of a human rights group that was freaked out – as anyone should be – by the rise of neo Nazi and other associated hate groups in the early to mid eighties right here in BC.
The group needed a spy to attend an event sponsored by a bunch of these neo Nazi groups where Jim Keegstra was set to speak about free speech. I volunteered.
Free speech was a bit of a misnomer. What Keegstra actually was there to speak about was the cabal of left wingers, teachers, unions, women’s groups and others who were trying to stop him from drumming up hatred against Jews, “Pakis”, “East Indians, the Chinese and anyone else who had the effrontery to not be white.
Back then, at the end of the Reagan depression, there was a heated debate about multi-culturalism. People like Keegstra and his lawyer Doug Christie campaigned against such ‘bizarre’ notions as the right of a Sikh to wear a turban while policing. And they got a lot of attention from the MSM. For a while, Doug Collins, another one of Christie’s extremist clients who loved to write about the decline of “white” was even a columnist for the Sun.
Most of all Keegstra was known for his anti-Semitic screeds, which he wrote while teaching his social studies students that Jews were “treacherous”, “sadistic”, “money-loving” “child-killers”. He also taught them that the holocaust was a lie.
Christie accompanied Keegstra as he came into the hall with a group of neo Nazi thugs. I remember Christie as a nasty looking man, dark and a bit removed from the proceedings until he introduced Keegstra as a stirling defender of free speech. It was a fiery introduction.
Keegstra’s speech on the other hand was flat and whiny. As were his rag tag followers. They weren’t scary. They were a just a bunch of limp men with bags of self published books full of foolish theories that explained why they, the losers at life, were not to blame.
I couldn’t get out of there soon enough.
I haven’t thought about that experience for a long while and then just a few weeks ago I walked past Christies’s boarded up office a block away from the courthouse in Victoria. Christie was dying and had closed up his practice I learned.
Today Christie’s obit appeared in the Vancouver Sun. “Free speech advocate dies at age 66,” was the headline and it says more about the Sun than it does about Christie.
Christie was a defender of Nazis. He believed what they believed. And he used free speech because it was the only defense available for saying what he believed.
I believe in free speech too, but I believe the only way to defend it is to be clear about where someone stands and what he or she is really about.
Doug Christie was about racism. He was about anti-Semitism. He was about hate. That’s what he should be known for. Letting him hide behind the cloak of free speech even in death, as the Sun did today, is wrong.