Skinheads for sovereignty
A Quebec bastion grows uneasy over white supremacists
MARTIN PATRIQUIN | Jun 21, 2006
The concert had all the trappings of a typical rock 'n' roll show: a raucous five-piece punk band, free-flowing beer and more than 100 guests jammed up against the stage or bouncing happily in the mosh pit. Organized by the Montreal chapter of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society(SSJB), a group long at the forefront of Quebec's sovereigntist movement, the concert had a political tilt to it as well. The band, Fleurdelix et Les Affreux Galois(essentially, Fleur de Lix and the Dreadful Gaullists), played songs about their love for Quebec and the importance of the French language, and much of the crowd sang along.
But there was also a worrisome element: a dozen or so young men with shaved heads, combat boots and several large Norse tattoos -- including one of Thor's hammer, a symbol of white supremacists. Also in the crowd: Cédric Tremblay, who in 2003 pleaded guilty to spray-painting intolerant graffiti on the city hall of Baie d'Urfé, a largely anglophone community on the West Island; and Daniel Laverdière, who in 2003 was sentenced to four years for stabbing a man in what the court said was a racially motivated attack.
And there was André Forget, the treasurer of SSJB's downtown chapter. Forget is a regular at SSJB functions, and known for his devotion to the separatist cause. But on the Internet, he's known as "Moise Thériault," and has written tirades denouncing Jews, Muslims, the Koran and blacks, which he posted on the fan site of Montreal's Loco Locass -- a sovereigntist rap group that, oddly enough, is well-known for its anti-racist lyrics. "Iran wants to cross out Israel from the map and I find that super," he wrote on Oct. 26, 2005. On June 3 of that year, he wrote, "Racism is like black people, it shouldn't exist." According to Yvan Bombardier, president of the downtown chapter, Forget had to be called to order during a meeting after referring to Haitian-born Governor General Michaëlle Jean as Quebec's "nigger king."
The SSJB has been around since 1834, and is best known for organizing the yearly Saint-Jean-Baptiste parade in Montreal. With a membership of 3,000, it's been an influential force in Quebec, and was instrumental in the founding of several key institutions, including École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal. In years past, La Société was also known for its rapprochements with other ethnic communities. But now many in its ranks are worried it has opened itself up to a radical fringe.
In the aftermath of the April 1 concert, La Presse noted the presence of known racists at the event. As for the band, its members certainly profess tolerant beliefs. "I condemn Nazism, I condemn extremism, like I condemn Communism," lead singer Nicolas Mirkovic told Maclean's. Still, their recent past is a touch muddier. Mirkovic, who goes by the name Niki Tchill, was a member of several "rock identitaire français"(RIF)bands that, while certainly not racist, sang songs such as Peuple Européen("European People"), a paean to "European roots" and the "sons of Europe." His spouse, who goes by Laura Tchill in Quebec, is better known in France as Aude Bertrand-Mirkovic. Though Mirkovic denied it, she later confirmed she spent several years in Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, France's extreme right-wing party.
The other Fleurdelix band members, guitarist Jonathan Stack and drummer Simon Cadieux, played in a RIF band called Trouble Makers, which recorded an album with the 9ème Panzer Symphonie in 1998. Both Trouble Makers and 9ème Panzer Symphonie are on the 2001 Southern Poverty Law Center's list of known white-power rock bands.(Stack didn't respond to an interview request.)"What we would say," said Mirkovic, "is that [this] was eight years ago, and we never did anything neo-Nazi. If people from the extreme right wing like what I do, I can't do much. It's true that we were in those circles, that's for sure." Fleurdelix has had mainstream success as well. In 2003, it won Radio-Canada's Prix Étoiles Galaxie, a prize for outstanding new artists from Quebec.
François Gendron, the SSJB's youth-wing president, says he knew nothing about Fleurdelix's past. "The group told me they made mistakes," he said. "I know Fleurdelix. It's excellent music, and I never heard any racist talk. They talk about peace, love and friendship." But Gendron, 26, has his own controversial past. He's a sympathizer of the Mouvement de libération nationale du Québec, the ultra-nationalist group founded in 1995 by FLQ founder and convicted murderer Raymond Villeneuve(a regular presence at SSJB functions). And in 2003, when his friends(including Cédric Tremblay)were arrested for vandalizing the Baie d'Urfé town hall, Gendron appeared on TV in their defence. Asked how far he would go for an independent Quebec, he said, "I don't have any limits."
As for André Forget's comments, which are a good deal more incendiary, Gendron maintains he was joking about calling Michaëlle Jean a "nigger king." "It was like, 'yeah, now we really have a nigger king, ha, ha.' He was going by Moise Thériault, not André Forget. It doesn't excuse it, but Thériault is an online character. It's more of a joke. I didn't do anything to encourage him, though."
But Forget does not characterize it as a joke. He admits to having made the comment at the SSJB meeting and online under the alias "Moise Thériault." "That's a fact," he told Maclean's. "It's a term that's been used since the '60s to describe decolonization, and it's happened here in Quebec. We [usually] have nigger kings with white skin. This time we have the real thing." And it wasn't the first time "Moise Thériault" opined on black people. "Whites control the planet," he wrote on May 2, 2004. "They are far from stupid for having accomplished that. Why is it that those who denounce the 'monkey junkies' are always said to be racists?"
SSJB president Jean Dorion is facing pressure to deal with what several members say is a growing problem. "I am convinced the right wing has a foot in the door of the SSJB," said former president Gilles Rhéaume. SSJB member Martin Lamontagne suggests Dorion is simply naive about what is going on. "It's been a year since there's been [this] presence at the SSJB," Lamontagne said, "and nobody questioned it. I closed my eyes." For his part, Dorion has denied the presence of racist or neo-Nazi elements in his organization. He says Rhéaume and Lamontagne are simply playing politics, noting that Rhéaume has expressed a wish to again become SSJB president. And he further accused Maclean's of "McCarthyism" when asked about the issue. But he also said he had not known about Forget's comments. "It's been noted," he said. "It will be taken care of."
Last week, Martin Lamontagne got an email from "Moise Thériault" urging him to stop speaking ill of the SSJB. "Tell [the journalists] that you made everything up," it said. "Tell [them] you did it under the orders of Gilles Rhéaume." The missive had a few more choice words. "If you follow my recommendation, I could hold back those who want to pursue you in court for defamation, or those who want to kick your ass(you are at the top of the blacklist of skinheads in Montreal). The decision is entirely yours, and you have your destiny in your hands."
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