The Vancouver Province
Friday, March 20, 1998

Oliver rally called racist front

RCMP in small town bracing for 'free speech' meet

by John Colebourn

Anti-hate groups say a meeting in Oliver tomorrow being billed as a seminar on free speech is a front for a burgeoning white-supremacist movement in B.C.

And townsfolk in the small Okanagan community south of Penticton are wondering what will happen when some of the most outspoken voices of the far right gather there.

The event is organized by Bernard Klatt, of the Internet service provider Fairview Technology Centre Inc. of Oliver.

The company has been at the centre of a controversy after police in France arrested 13 people for running an allegedly racist World Wide Web site using Fairview.

"We have no idea what is going to happen", said town councillor Evelyn Ask. "I'm hoping it will be a small meeting."

Since the meeting has been made public through media reports, Ask said the town of 8,000 has been abuzz with talk about the event.

"Nobody in this town is happy with the press we're getting", she said. "All we know is that it is being called a meeting for free speech."

Sol Littman of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said the meeting is definitely a front for white-supremacy groups. He said he has evidence the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan is backing the Oliver-based Internet provider.

In an Internet letter he said the Klan issued the following statement: "Knowing some of the people involved in Canada's white-supremacy movement personally, they're worthy of any effort we can make on their behalf."

Littman says the Internet letter asks subscribers to sign a petition circulated by the Canadian Association of Free Expression in support of Klatt.

Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh said the RCMP hate-crimes unit continues to investigate Fairview.

It's unfortunate the meeting tomorrow coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racism, he said. But he stressed the group does not represent British Columbians.

"I believe it's important for us to separate the town, the province and the country from the handful of individuals who use freedom of expression as an excuse to do what's most objectionable."

Speakers include Victoria lawyer Doug Christie, who defended Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel and James Keegstra, former columnist Doug Collins of North Vancouver, and Paul Fromm, fired from his teaching job in Oakville, Ont., for attending a white-supremacy rally.

Littman said his group has no plans to go to Oliver to protest. But RCMP there are bracing for protest groups to show up.


Copyright © 1998 by The Vancouver Province. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.