Is God a Racist?: The Right Wing in Canada


377 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-5758-6
DDC 305




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


Early in this well-informed, comprehensive, and profoundly disturbing study, the author considers why so many scholars who belong to minority groups avoid the subject of racism. “The topic,” he concludes, “is simply soul-destroying.”

Is God a Racist? began as an investigation of the white-supremacist, neo-fascist Western Guard but evolved into an examination of the over 100 right-wing organizations in Canada. While it is primarily an ethnography, the book is informed by three guiding questions: How can the right wing exist in Canada, with its enviable reputation for tolerance? What causes people to join the right wing? Why does the right wing exist from the perspective of the anthropologist? For the purposes of his analysis, the author employs the categories of radical right and fringe right, but he is careful to point out their limitations.

Part One begins with some fascinating insights into the personal and professional obstacles Barrett faced while researching his book. This is followed by a historical overview of the right wing in Canada (a decline in racist activity after the Second World War ended in a “virtual explosion” in the 1970s and 1980s) and detailed sections on two prominent forerunners of present-day groups — the Canadian Nazi Party, founded in 1965 by John William Beattie, who was reputed to have been the most hated man in Canada, and the Edmund Burke Society, which was formed two years later under the banner of anti-communism. Part Two covers major organizations of the radical right: the Western Guard, whose current leader John Ross Taylor once remarked, “Hitler was a softy on the Jew question”; the Nationalist Party, which was founded in 1977 by ex-Western Guard leader Donald Andrews; and the Ku Klux Klan, which enjoyed brief media success in the early 1980s, thanks, in part, to the Ivy League image of its leader, James Alexander McQuirter, who was, however, charged in 1982 on various counts of forgery and conspiracy to murder. A common denominator in all these organizations was a gift for “constant internal squabbling.”

The focus shifts to the fringe right in Part Three, with profiles of such activists as Paul Fromm, Ron Gostick, Ernst Zundel, Rev. Ken Campbell, and, most notably, Jim Keegstra, through whom “the paradox of the good man who also embraces a racist world-view” is considered. Part Four begins with an examination of institutional racism in Canada and the potential racist nature of such institutions as immigration, employment, education, the media, the police, and the state, and concludes with an amplification of Barrett’s thesis that theological as opposed to scientific racism is the driving force behind racist organizations, making anti-Semitism their key dimension.

Illustrations would have enhanced this volume, and the skimpy index was clearly a rush job, but, all in all, Is God a Racist? is an excellent springboard to more specialized studies on what is, indeed, a soul-destroying issue.


Barrett, Stanley R., “Is God a Racist?: The Right Wing in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,