|Aug. 11, 2004. 01:00 AM|
Informed on racists, harassed their foes
`Right thing to do,' Bristow tells magazine
OTTAWA—Grant Bristow, who infiltrated the white supremacist movement as a paid informant for Canada's spy service, has broken his long silence, saying he took on the unsavoury task because it was "the right thing to do." Bristow's comments mark the first time he has publicly discussed his controversial role as an undercover operative for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service since being exposed in the media 10 years ago. He tells his side of the spy saga in the September issue of The Walrus magazine to be published tomorrow. "Now is the time that I can say, `Not guilty,'" Bristow, 46, told journalist Andrew Mitrovica. Bristow says his mother, Janet, imbued him with a devotion to civil rights and a respect for all races. His relationship with CSIS began in 1986 when he was working as a private security consultant and a South African diplomat tried to persuade him to spy on Canadian anti-apartheid activists. On the advice of a friend, he approached CSIS. His chance meeting with a member of the extreme right eventually led to Bristow's central role in Operation Governor, a CSIS investigation of the white supremacist movement. The racist right had been invigorated by the April, 1989, deportation to Canada of white supremacist Wolfgang Droege. In October, 1989, Droege set up the Heritage Front, a continental network of racists, with Bristow as his deputy. "I was keeping watch over violent hate groups," says Bristow, who worked by day as an investigator for a shipping firm. "It was the right thing to do." Bristow couldn't be seen to ignore provocation from the Heritage Front's enemies. But, as a government-paid agent, he couldn't promote a violent response. Instead, he took part in a campaign, with CSIS approval, to harass key anti-racist activists at home and work. But violence erupted in May, 1993, when police, anti-racist activists and about 60 Heritage Front members clashed in a wild melee in downtown Ottawa. Bristow's work with CSIS was later exposed by the media.A 1995 Security Intelligence Review Committee report concluded Bristow played only a small role in the Heritage Front's development. Without naming him, the committee admonished him for tactics that "tested the limits" of acceptable and appropriate behaviour, but found Canadians owed him a debt for doing valuable work.