Sunday, 1 April 2012

Israel Truth Week Conference 2012 and Its Connection With the Caledonia Crisis

[Two of the photos in this post were provided courtesy of David Strutt Photography (www.DStruttPhotography.com) and IsraelTruthWeek,org.]

Mark Vandermaas - Voice of Canada and Caledonia Victims Project

Since October 2006, Caledonia activist Mark Vandermaas has maintained the VoiceofCanada.ca website.  And since March 2010, he has also run the CaledoniaVictimsProject.ca site.  At both places he has posted many of his justifiable concerns regarding the occupation of the former Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) by Six Nations extremists at Caledonia, Ontario.  I have covered some of the issues he and the other Caledonia activists have raised in my "David Peterson and the Caledonia Crisis," April 4, 2011 post; "Aboriginal Issues During the 'Culpability Era,'" September 5, 2011 post, and "Part Two of Two - A Delectable Lie, a Tree and a Way Forward: Multiculturalism and Aboriginal Policy Compared," February 22, 2012 post.

When he first got involved with the Caledonia crisis, Vandermaas raised alarm bells about the fact that the Ontario government and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were applying two different sets of laws at Caledonia--one for the non-natives who lived there and another for the aboriginal extremists who terrorized the residents, particularly those residents who live on the Sixth Line.  He is still sounding the alarm on this, but he and his fellow activists, including Gary McHale, have also concluded there are pro-Palestinian/anti-Jewish forces that are negatively influencing the direction the aboriginal occupiers and their supporters are taking in Caledonia.

Vandermaas's support for Israel and the Jewish people stretches back to his childhood.  His parents lived in Nazi-occupied Holland during WWII and saw Jews taken away.  He grew up learning about the Holocaust, and came to understand that "enforcing laws based on race is inherently evil and dangerous."  This understanding was solidified when, in 1978, he served with a United Nations peacekeeping force.  The UN mission's goal was to preserve peace between Egypt and Israel.  He "drove through. . .mine fields on the way to Gaza" and saw "the burnt-out tanks in the desert from the wars waged against Israel."  As a result, he "knows the price of losing the rule of law and how important it is to democracy.  Israel has both."

Decision to Found the Israel Truth Week Conference 2012

Vandermaas founded the conference after hearing the "pain and bewilderment" Jewish people and their supporters felt about the lies being spread during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events."  IAW events are held on university campuses across Canada in February or March.  IAW proponents claim that they are educating people about Israel's being an apartheid state, but its opponents say that Israel is not apartheid; it is a democracy where the rule of law is maintained.

(Note: on March 7, 2012, both the Canadian federal Conservatives and Liberals denounced IAW (http://www.torontosun.com/2012/03/07/tories-liberals-oppose-israel-apartheid-week).

Vandermaas said his "hand was truly forced" when he read a February 9, 2012 Jewish Tribune article "about how Western University [in London, Ontario] campus police refused to stop IAW supporters from shutting down an event organized by Israel on Campus."  He met with Avi Braemer of Israel on Campus and Bramer "expressed his desire that Jewish students and families know they are not alone, that people in the community are willing to stand up for them and for Israel."

Vandermaas also wanted to draw parallels between the Caledonia situation and the oppression faced by many Jewish students on campus.  He said "it is supremacist ideology in its purest and most evil form--to pretend that innocent victims of one race don't matter because the other race's cause is truly just.  Where have we heard THAT before?"

He explains:
What has never been admitted publicly by the OPP or the Ontario government is that native militants are being aided by a coalition of anarchists, radical unionists, and anti-Israel groups led by an anarchist named Tom Keefer from Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at York University. . .Keefer and CUPE 3903 - with help from other locals from CUPE; CAW; OPSEU; CEP; and USW - began supporting native radicals in Caledonia after the failed OPP raid of April 20/06 when police were driven off the Caledonia site after being attacked with weapons.

By this time, according to OPP testimony, the site was taken over by Mohawk Warriors which police considered to be "akin to the Hell's Angels" -- a group which was involved with organized crime, cigarette running, with a reputation for physical confrontation and access to guns, including assault rifles.
Israel Truth Week Conference, London, Ontario, March 21, 2012

The conference was held at Royal View Church and was sponsored by International Free Press Society-Canada.  The Jewish Defense League provided security.  Presenters were (in order of appearance):
• Rev. Joe Campbell, National Director of Development, Christians for Israel
• Mary Lou Ambrogio, VP, International Free Press Society-Canada
• Avi Braemer, Israel on Campus/Hillel, Western University
• Al Gretzky, Communication Director, International Free Press Society-Canada
• Andrew Lawton, Editor-in-Chief, Landmark Report
• Stuart Laughton, Never Again Group
• Gary McHale, Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality
• Pesach Ovadyah, BA (Western University graduate/Jewish Defense League)
• Dr. Salim Mansur, Professor, Western University
• Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, Ahavath Torah Congregation, Stoughton, Massachusetts
Weinstain, Mansur, Hausman, Vandermaas, Ambrogio, Campbell, Ovadyah, McHale

To view the complete agenda, including sponsors and contributors, go to:

http://israeltruthweek.wordpress.com/conference/

Approximately 65 people attended (including presenters, contributors and volunteers) from Toronto, Hamilton, Caledonia, Chatham, as well as London and the surrounding area.  Rabbi Hausman came from Massachusetts.

Laughton, Vandermaas, Hausman, Gretzky

There were sessions held in both the afternoon and evening, but I only attended the afternoon session.  Due to time limitations, I will only be summarizing the presentation by Vandermaas, with brief mention of Al Gretzky's.  In addition, I will include excerpts from an interview I conducted with Gary McHale at the end of the afternoon session.

Finally, I will be presenting highlights from my email exchange with Caledonia resident Bonnie Stephens after the conference (Stephens was a conference volunteer).  Stephens has participated in the rallies organized by the Caledonia activists, and, in fact, was one of the "Caledonia Eight" arrested on December 3, 2011.

Vandermaas's Presentation - "'Israel Truth Week' : born of Nazi-occupied Holland and the Caledonia crisis"

Some excerpts:
. . .It is difficult to convey the absolute terror, hopelessness, trauma and sense of betrayal the people of Caledonia feel to this day.  Perhaps it is enough to tell you that Pam Dudych must take medication and go to counseling; Pam's mother takes medication for her diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and has attempted suicide; Pam's father has had a heart attack; the family business is in ruins, and they cannot leave because they cannot sell their house.

. . .The first Jewish group to come and stand with us in Caledonia was the Never Again Group from Hamilton in 2011.  Actually they are 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 non-Jewish.  Last night they held their first anti-IAW event at McMaster University, which was a terrific success.  Many of them are here today and I am grateful for their support.

. . .[T]hose responsible for the violence in Caledonia have done their best for the past 6 years to deny the humanity of their victims by pretending they don't exist, all the while viciously attacking those of us who speak for them. . .

. . .[W]hat about the native leaders who recently met with the Iranian Ambassador in Ottawa?  One of them is Terrance Nelson who once said that the only way to deal with a white man is to pick up a gun and get between him and his money.  I wonder. . .what sort of aid from Iran were they looking for, do you think?

I hope you now better understand that when you help the fight for civil rights for non-Jews in Caledonia who are the innocent victims of a small group of native militants and the Ontario government that appeases them, you are also helping to defeat the sworn enemies of Israel trying to destroy everything you believe is right in your own backyard.

Al Gretzky - "Free Speech: Victim of Neutrality Between the Lawful and the Lawless"

Gretzky said that in terms of the rule of law, "it is impossible to have one without the other."  He provided the examples of Geert Wilders (in the Netherlands "a supposedly rule of law country"), and Tommy Robinson (in England "the cradle of our democracy") as two individuals who have had their free speech severely curtailed.  And he added that in Canada "we've got no reason to be smug, none whatsoever--just ask Mark Steyn and Ann Coulter."  He noted that what all these "supposed free countries" have in common is "growing civil unrest because of lack of freedom of speech and rule of law."

He referred to Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan, to show what can happen when there is no rule of law.  He then spoke of Caledonia "where you can get arrested walking down the street with a Canadian flag--just ask Mark [Vandermaas] and Gary [McHale]."  Gretsky went down to Caledonia in June 2011 and said to Vandermaas on the way back "I didn't think I was in Canada.  I could not believe what was going on.  And that's because we refuse to stand up for the rule of law."

Gary McHale - Interview with counterpoise
counterpoise:  . . .People are so afraid of giving up their security. . .but I think what you've been able to prove is that the more you stick up for what you believe, it can come back and benefit you.

McHale:  It can.  I rarely talk about my Christian faith in interviews because I don't believe the modern media is going to represent my views properly.  And though it motivates me to do what I do, it is not really part of the issue in the sense that. . .I believe fundamentally most Canadians believe in freedoms.

. . .I didn't become a Christian until I was 21, and that was a very hard thing to do in my family.  It created major problems within the family.  But as I've been a Christian now for 30 years, there comes a time for most Christians when they say "what am I prepared to do, to take a stand for what I believe in.". . .As a Christian, I have to understand that if I'm going to take a stand, my money could be touched, my reputation could be touched, my health could be touched.

. . .[As Christians,] we believe that peaceful ways can overcome, that truth can overcome the hatred and the anger.  And I had to see whether or not I could put that in practice. . .My wife and I had to sit down and say "this is dangerous."  The bank foreclosed on our condo, we lost our entire investment in the condo--that's a hard decision--and at each level of time, we could say we're going to give up the fight and go back to our stable lifestyle. . .Ultimately as a person, I could do that quite easily; as a Christian, I couldn't do that. . .I had to make the decision where am I really going to stand.

. . .It's not a decision you make day one. . .it's kind of like a progression.  First thing I did was I wanted to set up a website, put some photos up.  And suddenly I was the object of everyone's hate.  But the darkest hours come when the people you are fighting for are equally the ones that are spitting in your face. . .[A]bout a year into the occupation, the residents [were] so tired of the occupation, so tired of the violence, so tired of the intimidation. . .that they [lashed] out at anyone they [perceived] might be agitating the situation.  All they [wanted was] everyone to go away, including that Gary McHale. . .So the very people who first support you, abandon you, and that's when you really know whether you're going to fight the battle.

This is why this [the conference] is so great.  [I]t has taken so long for us to get groups to come together.  And to get the media on board, that is so important. . .We're almost at the promised land, the way I'm seeing it now.  Back then it was the dark ages when everyone abandoned us. . .Then Mark steps forward. . .Merlyn Kinrade. . .These people have stood with us and they're equally to be credited.  I get so much credit for all the things Mark does.  He's the silent guy behind the scenes. . .We understand as a group, that when you give credit to the leader, it helps the overall cause. . .But a lot of these people work so much in the background.
Bonnie Stephens, Caledonia Resident and Conference Volunteer

Stephens, Christine McHale, Debbie Vandermaas

Excerpts from Stephens's emails to me, March 22 to 27, 2012:
. . .I was not at the early rallies in Caledonia when Gary, Mark. . .and others stood up for the rule of law, but rather, I am a product of their brave initiative.  [When trouble first broke out at Caledonia, the people I know there] were too confused and afraid to know what to do. . .People I know were shocked because the OPP were not stopping the criminal actions. . .Personally, I didn't know what to make of the OPP not stepping in.  I thought they must be organizing a giant operation to arrest the bad guys, but they didn't. . .I do think that some people - both in Caledonia and on Six Nations - were likely afraid of what more these thugs might do.  And angry.

. . .[I read Christie Blatchford's book about the Caledonia crisis, Helpless (2010)], and was thankful that she had written it. . .[I was disgusted when her] first speaking engagement at the University of Waterloo [was cancelled, November 10, 2010, due to a protest by a small group of students].  I wrote a letter to the president of the university about it.  I did attend the second time to add my support for Christie [the presentation was rescheduled for December 7, 2010, and went ahead smoothly].

There is a lot of "racist, racist, racist" chanted at us [at the rallies organized by the Caledonia activists] which is disgusting to me. . .I support what Gary is trying to do, so when they accuse him of something then they are accusing me of the same thing.  I refer you to CanaceHD for specific examples.

. . .Israel Truth Week showed me the macro and micro views of antisemitism; that it is growing worldwide and in Canada and that IAW in our universities is a result of this trend.  The speakers told us practical ways that each of us can combat antisemitism. . .So adding in this new information, the connection becomes clearer to me.  When violence and intimidation broke out at Caledonia and some residents needed protection. . .the police failed to protect them.  On campus (and elsewhere. . .) the people in authority fail to protect students being harmed in the same, albeit less violent, way.
Afterthoughts

In June 2007, I first contacted Vandermaas and McHale to lend my support.  And in September 2007, I also started corresponding with Jeff Parkinson who does the great videography work on CanaceHD.  I have lost some friendships and acquaintances because of my association with these people.  But fortunately I have gained others.  As Stephens said "I think anyone who speaks out about what is occurring in Caledonia is brave and valuable for shining light on what is happening here."  Vandermaas, Gretzky, McHale and Stephens are certainly far braver than me.  But I think McHale is right that the conference means "we're almost at the promised land."  I vividly recall the "dark ages" when the activists had little to no backing from the general public and the media.  But a growing number of people are joining the fight to preserve Canada's freedom of speech and rule of law.  We all need to join this fight, not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

[Check in the right sidebar for links to many of the organizations and/or resources mentioned in this post.]

2 comments:

  1. Dear Leith,

    Thank you for the terrific account of the Israel Truth Week Conference, and the interviews, which really show some insight that most journalists don't reveal.

    Nicely done. I'll be adding a link to this to the ITW media references.

    Thank you for taking time to attend and report.

    P.S. Gary McHale's afternoon keynote speech is now available on the Israel Truth Week Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkyN4N5jLMM&feature=youtu.be

    Regards,

    Mark Vandermaas
    Founder, Israel Truth Week
    Founder, Caledonia Victims Project
    mark@israeltruthweek.org

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    Replies
    1. And thank you for founding the Israel Truth Week Conference, Mark. I hope the connections made at this event will lead to a greater awareness of the fact that freedom of speech and the rule of law are under siege in Canada, e.g., at Caledonia and on university campuses.

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