A shocking racist event in Alberta’s history: the “Aryan Fest”

A white supremacist event, called an “Aryan Fest” by the organizing group, took place at a farm near Provost, Alberta, on September 8 and 9, 1990. The event was organized by several members of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations. At the event, there was cross-burning and display of a sign reading “KKK White Power” and a swastika flag. Participants wore Nazi uniforms, shouted racist and anti-Semitic chants, and displayed and discharged weapons. Several concerned people who witnessed the event filed complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. A Board of Inquiry under Alberta’s human rights legislation was appointed to hear the matter. 

The Board of Inquiry issued its main decision on February 28, 1992. It found that the individuals involved and the organization contravened Alberta’s human rights legislation. The Board of Inquiry concluded that the Aryan Fest was a shocking event in the history of Alberta and that the blatant display of signs and symbols full of racial and religious hatred, bigotry, and discrimination challenged the very foundations of a multicultural society.

In its decision, the Board of Inquiry found that the sign and symbols displayed at the event effectively communicated a message of discrimination against non-whites. The Nazi and Ku Klux Klan symbols told Blacks, Jews, and other persons of colour that they are not wanted and warned them that their families and property are not safe. The Board of Inquiry stated: “We are convinced by the evidence we have heard that such displays cause actual harm to the target groups. They are threatened with death and destruction and told they do not belong. The display invites and encourages discrimination.” The Board of Inquiry noted that the members of the organizing group were not “simply misguided eccentrics,” but rather they were “dedicated Nazis,” whose “creed is racial hatred.” 

The Board of Inquiry made the strongest order it was allowed to under the legislation. It ordered the respondents to refrain in future from the same or any similar public display of discriminatory signs and symbols.

The Board of Inquiry’s main decision is reported at Kane v. Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations (No. 3) (1992), 18 CHRR D/268 (Alta. Bd. Inq.) (with permission of the Canadian Human Rights Reporter).

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the Congress of Black Women collaborated to participate as intervenors in the human rights inquiry. As summarized on the LEAF website, LEAF and the Congress of Black Women raised arguments of equality concerns in that the signs and symbols displayed at Aryan Fest could cause actual harm to target groups and promote latent discrimination in the denial of access to employment, accommodation, education and social services. The written submission of LEAF and the Congress of Black Women can be found here.

Further examples of racism in Alberta are seen in reports of cases brought under the province’s human rights legislation and in grievance arbitration awards.

See also: Systemic Racism in Alberta’s History