For much of the 1920's and 1930's, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia had growing branches of the KKK. But none of those provinces, even when combined, could equal the size and influence of the KKK in Saskatchewan.
From the late 1920's to the early 1930's, the Saskatchewan Klan was a power to be reckoned with. It toppled the province's government, established over 100 Klaverns across the province, and signed up nearly 40,000 members. It was the single largest White racial conservationist organization in Canadian history. When one considers that Saskatchewan's population was 750,000 at the time, it was an impressive success. At $10.00 per membership it was, also, wealthy. Documents in the Saskatchewan provincial archives reveal that in the tiny village of Woodrow, for example, 153 residents were members of the KKK out of a population of 218.
Such was the Klan's popularity at the time.
In November 1926, three Indiana men, former South Bend Exalted Cyclops Hugh Finley (Pat) Emmons, Klan organizer Lewis A. Scott, and Scott's son, Harold, teamed up to establish the Saskatchewan Realm of the Invisible Empire. At well attended rallies held all over the province, Emmons described the KKK as "the greatest Christian, benevolent fraternal organization in the world today". One Moose Jaw Klonklave, on June 7, 1927, drew nearly 10,000 Klansmen, some arriving from Regina on Canadian Pacific Railway cars. Many church ministers spoke at Klan rallies for an honorarium of up to $25.00.
Like the Klan in the USA, rapid success and large sums of money led to scandal. The Scots ran off to Australia with $500,000.00 plundered from the Klan's treasury. Emmons went to Florida with $20,000.00. He was indicted for theft and agreed to return to Canada for trial. He was acquitted when he proved to the courts satisfaction that the Toronto based Imperial Palace of the Canadian Klan had given him permission to keep practically all the money he collected. Toronto Klan leaders then sent Klan organizer "Doctor" J.H. Hawkins to Saskatchewan to replace the Scots and Emmons. He was later joined by John J. Moloney from Alberta. Hawkins was an excellent speaker and, with Moloney's help, quickly got the Klan going again. By 1928, the Ku Klux Klan could boast of the allegiance of no less than eight mayors, eleven village clerks, seven reeves, twelve secretary - treasurers, and thirty seven councilors. Chiefs of police, ministers, W.W.I vets, doctors, teachers, justices of the peace, lawyers, and scores of Orangemen were also part of the Saskatchewan Klan's political power structure. It could even count on the occasional support of R.B. Bennet, the Conservative leader and future Prime Minister.
Almost six decades later, the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire Association of Alberta, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Tearlach Barra Eoin Ros Dunsford Mac a'Phearsoin (professional herbalist and registered minister of the National Spirit Church),
reflected on the Klan's good old days, when John J. Moloney and his Kluxers inspired respect across Alberta and Saskatchewan. "In 1927," said the Klan leader. "The Grand Master of the Orange Order asked KKK organizers from the USA to come to Alberta to organize the Klan. John Moloney eventually became the leader of the Canadian Klan and he officially incorporated the KKK in September 1932. That lasted until 1950. When I moved here in 1965, I joined the Odd Fellows Fraternal Order and the Klan as well." After a pause the Imperial Wizard went on: "The Klan was still in existence then, in a very small way. It was viewed as a very Protestant organization here, because the organization in the 1930's, and even before that, got its members from the Orange Order." It is interesting to note that there were provisions in the Canadian Klan's charter where people who belonged to minority groups (neither White nor Christian) could join as registered supporters.
The Canadian Klan lingered on more or less for years. Finally, in 1979, the leadership roles passed on to Wolfgang Droege and James Alexander McQuirter. Droege organized a British Columbia publicity tour for by David Duke, Grand Wizard of the American based Knights of the KKK. Duke conducted more than 30 newspaper, television, and radio interviews. The tour was a total success resulting in massive publicity. A Conservative Member of Parliament offered to be Duke's advisor and promoter. Interest in the Canadian Klan boomed as a result.
By October 1980, Droege was forced out of his printing job. The provincial government was putting pressure on the owner, and he was having problems getting government work due to his employee's Klan involvement. (Such government pressure is illegal in the USA thanks to our written Bill of Rights.) Inspite of such things, the Canadian Knights of the KKK continued to grow to a size of 2,500 committed Klan members. Because Droege oversaw a massive recruitment in urban British Columbia schools, Vancouver high schools, the University of British Columbia, and the B.C. Institute of Technology most of the members were very young.
Michel Larocque had the distinction of being the first Quebecker to establish a branch of the Klan in that province since the 1920's. By 1990, a variety of American based independent KKK groups were establishing branches in Canada. This led to division. There was no longer "the Klan" in Canada but "the Klans" in Canada. The Quebeckers, along with Klansmen in Ontario and the Maritimes, were directly under the leadership of Thomas Herman, a former Newfields, Maine, and police officer. The Quebec Ku Klux Klan split when Eric Vachon, federalist leader of the Sherbrooke Klan chapter tried to take over Larocque's separatist Montreal branch. Larocque formed his own KKK organization calling it the "Longitude 74 KKK". Montreal is situated on the 74th longitude. After a year of name changes and personality conflicts the group drifted. Meanwhile the Sherbrooke faction hit the streets. Vachon's Klan grew bolder by July, 1991, launching membership drives in the eastern townships of Bury, Compton, Sawyerville, and Johnville.
So what went wrong in the great white north? In the 1990's, there was a parallel collapse of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and Canada (as well as in several European countries, Australia and New Zealand). Large numbers of neo Nazis and skinheads began to join the various Klan groups en masse. They even formed their own "Nazi" Klans. The violent actions of these people led to the arrests of many "Klan" leaders and the collapse of many Klan groups across Canada, the USA, and beyond.
Nearly all the KKK organizations that existed in the 1990's are now defunct. In Canada, a new Criminal Code of Canada and a Canadian Human Rights Act outlawed most of the Klan's activities. For example, in Alberta, the province's Individual Rights Protection Act prohibits the displaying of Klan symbols, fiery crosses, and White Power insignia. Even Klan literature crossing the border from the USA to Canada can be seized by Canadian Customs and Excise officers with newly given authority from the Canadian federal government. Lacking a written Bill of Rights as we have in the USA, the Canadian Ku Klux Klan (as well as other foreign Klans) will be hard pressed to revive itself. It may exist in a minor way as a private club, White people's fraternal order, or self help group, but gone are the days when the Canadian KKK would ever be able to command the numbers and political power it once had. But, will there still be attempts to revive the Canadian Ku Klux Klan? You bet there will be. Will they succeed to any extent at all? That all depends on who will be leading the revival.
The Ku Klux Klan has a long, patchy history in Saskatchewan.
The Ku Klux Klan has a long, patchy history in Saskatchewan.
The Klan began in Tennessee in 1865 during the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War. While that first era of the Klan faded before the end of the century, the second era of the controversial group began in 1915.
In the early 1920s, it expanded into Canada, with three Klan organizers from Indiana coming to Saskatchewan in 1927 to sell memberships to fund its activities. But unlike in the U.S., where the Klan was known for railing against African-Americans and Jews, the group took aim at Catholics in the province, particularly those of Eastern European and French ancestry.
Some in the Anglo-Saxon working and middle class were leery of immigrants who did not share their religious and political outlook.
While original Klan organizers made a questionable departure from Saskatchewan with the revenues from membership sales, interest in the group remained strong. By 1928, local Klans had been established in more than 100 Saskatchewan communities.
The Klan was considered one of the largest organizations in the province, claiming to have more members than any political party and any other organization except the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. While historians have estimated its membership to be around 25,000, the Klan claimed it to have double that number.
It is believed that the largest political rally in Saskatchewan’s history was a Klan gathering held in Moose Jaw in 1928.
Politics was deeply entwined with the Klan’s activities, due to the governing Liberal party being closely aligned with recent immigrants, and Premier James Gardiner refused to turn his back on them. He led a counterattack on the Klan, accusing it of disrupting social harmony and being a tool of the Conservative party, which was denied by both the party and the Klan.
The Conservatives won the 1929 election and were applauded by the Klan the following year for bringing in a new immigration policy and amending the School Act to prohibit religious emblems in schools or the wearing of religious garb while teaching. But the worsening Depression and the Klan’s success in lobbying for political and legislative change resulted in a decreased interest in the group, which soon disappeared.
While there have been rumblings of Klan activity popping up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the controversial group didn’t grab headlines again in the province until the 1991 death of Cree trapper Leo LaChance in Prince Albert. Carney Nerland, a Ku Klux Klan member and Saskatchewan leader of the white supremacist Church of Jesus Christ -- Christian Aryan Nations, pleaded guilty to shooting and killing LaChance and was sentenced to four years in jail.
Nerland’s case and sentence outraged aboriginal groups and a public inquiry was subsequently held into the handling of the case by the police and justice system. Some anti-racist groups and aboriginal leaders claimed Nerland was a police informant within the province’s white supremacist movement, but a legal ruling protecting the identity of informants stopped the inquiry from further investigating the claim.