As best-selling British historian and author David Irving approached the US-Canadian border at Niagara Falls after a speaking tour in the western United States, he knew that this particular visit to the “Great White North” would be different than previous visits.
Two things had changed since Irving's last visit.
First, in May a German court fined Irving $6,000 for public statements denouncing stories of mass exterminations of Jews in gas chambers at Auschwitz as a myth. (See the report in the July-August 1992 IHR Newsletter.)
Second, the Canadian branch of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center had demanded that the Canadian government ban Irving on account of his Revisionist views on the Holocaust. In other words, the Holocaust lobby sought to ban the historian on the basis of “thought crimes” that are not illegal in either Canada or the United States.
The legal basis given for prohibiting Irving's entry was Section 19 of the Immigration Act, which allows officials to ban someone if it is reasonable to believe that he will commit an indictable offense. In this case, the pretext was nonsense because Irving had visited Canada some 30 times during the last several years, and had never caused a legal problem of any kind.
Irving first learned of the ban on October 10th, when he received a special-delivery letter from the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles sent to him in care of the Institute for Historical Review. It arrived on the first day of the IHR's Eleventh Conference, which was being held in Irvine, California. The letter sent to Irving showed that Canadian authorities — in coordination with Holocaust groups — were closely tracking his itinerary in the United States.
That same day, an editorial condemning Irving appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, further evidence of coordination between official and private Canadian organizations. This coordination was anything but accidental, as indicated by a rally in Kitchener several weeks earlier (on August 31) where speakers called for banning Irving. A more pressing problem for Irving was the fact that Monday, October 13, was a holiday for US government offices, which meant he had one fewer day to get matters straightened out before he was scheduled to reach Canada.
From the IHR Conference in southern California, Irving traveled north to speak in Berkeley, and then on to Portland, Oregon.
His speech there to an audience of about 200 received intense, sensationalized and largely one-sided coverage in the local media, including lead stories on local television. Phil Stanford, a widely-read columnist for the Portland Oregonian, the state's largest circulation daily paper, had enraged the city's politically correct crowd when he defed Irving's right to speak, and suggested that the historian might even have something worthwhile to say about the Six Million story.
Before crossing into Canada, Irving discussed the situation by phone with attorney Doug Christie, the “battling barrister from British Columbia” (who spoke at the 1986 IHR Conference). According to Canadian immigration law, Irving would be entitled to a hearing before an immigration adjudicator, and would have the right to stay in the country until a final decision was reached. As a result, Irving decided to proceed with his scheduled tour of Canada, which had as its theme “Freedom of Speech.”
Canadian newspapers were now covering the story. Rejecting the demands of the Wiesenthal Centre and other Holocaust groups, the Ottawa Citizen (October 19), for one, took a clear editorial stand for free speech:
Barring Irving's entry amounts to back-door censorship, which violates the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms …
If we bar Irving because we're afraid of what he might say, what are we to do with a Salman Rushdie, the author who inflamed the Islamic world, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, or the likes of, say, Andrew Dice Clay, the comedian who regularly offs millions of women? Once on a slippery slope, it's difficult to find your footing again.
Irving crosses the border into Canada from Niagara Falls (New York). In spite of the supposed order barring him, Canadian authorities do not impede his entry. His passport is stamped to confirm his legal crossing.
Irving flies from Toronto to Vancouver (British Columbia), in preparation for his first Canadian speaking engagement in nearby Victoria. After arriving, he meets with Christie, who has some bad news.
Christie has spent the day in court attempting to set aside the ban, but in vain: the Federal Court upheld the ban, citing Irving's conviction in Germany (for an action that is not illegal in Canada). The court further ruled that this was a matter for immigration authorities to handle. In light of this, Irving fears that he has a 50-50 chance of arrest at the speech tomorrow, although he is encouraged by his legal crossing into Canada and because the police had so far not molested him.
Irving addresses an enthusiastic audience of about a hundred at a Chinese restaurant in Victoria. Some journalists are also present to hear him speak, not about the Holocaust, but about the struggle for freedom of speech and its meaning for truthful historiography.
At the conclusion of a question-and-answer session that follows the presentation, eight policemen enter. After announcing that the building is surrounded and all exits are blocked, they arrest Irving, slap him in handcuffs, and haul him off to jail, preventing even reporters from following. Although Christie demands to see an arrest warrant, none is produced. Several dozen of those atting the meeting go to the police station to protest the arrest.
"They put me in handcuffs. What did they think I was going to do, type?”
Over the next two days, Irving is moved from jail to jail — five in all. As a result, he is not able to meet with his attorney, Doug Christie.
After a fruitless attempt to get some sleep amid the noise of his fellow prisoners, Irving is fetched from his cell and forced to run a gauntlet of screaming and punching television crews and reporters. Without Christie there, Irving must represent himself at the hearing.
The official at the hearing who makes the government's case for deporting the historian cites, first, Irving's “criminal record” in Germany, and, second, an alleged likelihood that he will commit offenses in Canada. The official is not required to prove the truth of these allegations.
The adjudicator informs Irving that the hearing will determine whether he will be released, deported, or served with a “Voluntary Departure Notice.” Ominously, the adjudicator also says that he expects the hearing to last three to four weeks.
Without access to or benefit of his attorney, Irving is faced with a decision. Even though he might be exonerated in a full hearing, by the time it is over he will have missed all his speaking dates. Conceding the possibility that he might not be exonerated, he recognizes that there is little point in staying.
Thus Irving comes to a compromise agreement with the government: he agrees not to contest a “Voluntary Departure Notice,” and to leave the country within 48 hours — that is, before midnight, November 1.
In agreeing to this, Irving at the same time emphasizes that he will be free to return later to Canada.
David Irving is surrounded by journalists as he is led into his deportation hearing in Vancouver, October 30. Because of his views on the Holocaust story, the best-selling British historian was deported from Canada November 13. Reuters/Bettmann photo.
Irving also specifically asks the hearing adjudicator what conditions, if any, there are on his activities in Canada during the 48 hours he can still remain in the country. The adjudicator replies that there are “no conditions whatsoever,” Irving rather understandably takes this to mean that he is free to grant interviews and otherwise speak in public.
After his handcuffs are taken off, Irving is finally set free.
With nearly two dozen news teams crowding around, Irving then gives a 20-minute press conference. He not only answers questions about his hearing, but also makes a lengthy statement about the Holocaust.
That evening, Irving's impromptu press conference is featured as a major news story on national television, no doubt to the chagrin of those who had been trying so hard to silence the historian and keep him out the country.
Following the news conference, US citizen Brian Fisher approaches Irving and offers to drive him around to pick up his belongings. But what appears to be a simple offer of help turns into a request that Irving authenticate a collection of lithographs, which necessitates a trip to Blaine (Washington), just across the border in the United States. Tired, but thinking this might be a good opportunity to see if he will have any other problems crossing the border, Irving agrees.
They cross the border without any trouble at about ten o'clock that evening. After authenticating and signing the lithographs as requested, Irving and Fisher return to Canada before midnight.
In the morning, Irving packs his things to check out of the Toronto hotel, preparing to leave the country by midnight (as agreed). A strange incident takes place as he checks out. The clerk at the front desk is not able to gain access to Irving's hotel computer file because someone else is looking at it — possibly Canadian police or immigration officials, or perhaps even the Mossad.
That afternoon, he delivers a one-hour speech to massive applause and two standing ovations. Afterwards, he is approached by undercover officers who announce that they will stay with him until he crosses the border.
Giving them the slip, Irving hails a cab and whisks off for a short meeting with Ernst Zündel at his house. Just seconds after Irving leaves, Zündelhaus is surrounded by police cars that skid into position front and back.
After dinner and a round-about journey to Niagara Falls using secondary roads to avoid further problems with undercover police, Irving arrives at the border at 11:00 p.m.
Then disaster strikes. Irving inadvertently drives past the inconspicuous building where he was supposed to have his “Voluntary Departure Notice” stamped before leaving the country. By the time he realizes that something must be amiss, he has crossed over the bridge and into the US side of the border.
He asks the US border official for permission to return to have his document stamped. The guard asks to see it, then takes it away and instructs Irving to park his car and follow him.
With time quickly draining away, the official makes a few calls. He then informs Irving that he will not be admitted into the United States, citing regulation “212.A.7a.i.1.” He tells Irving to try again in the morning.
But after returning to the Canadian side at 11:30 p.m., a guard who was clearly aware of the situation tells Irving to step from the car and unload his belongings. The official presents him an arrest warrant, and Irving is denied bail because of the danger that he “would not appear” and because he is a “danger to the public.” Handcuffed once again, Irving is driven to the immigration detention center at Niagara Falls.
Awakened in jail at 6:30 a.m. after only three hours sleep, Irving is able to place a call to alert Christie of the new situation.
Transported in handcuffs to the courtroom, Irving learns that the grounds on which he had earlier been denied admittance to Canada have all been dropped, replaced instead by the single charge of failure to comply with the Voluntary Departure Notice. It now seems obvious that Canadian immigration officials knew from the start that they had no chance of excluding Irving on the flimsy original charges.
At the hearing, an undercover police officer lies under oath about his conversations with Irving, and another officer lies about Irving's status in Germany and Austria, recomming that bail not be offered because “Mr. Irving might not reappear.” The adjudicator agrees, and Irving is returned to jail ping a resumption of the hearing on Wednesday.
Irving's position seems deceptively simple. If he can establish that he made his impromptu trip with Brian Fisher across the border to Blaine, he can prove technical compliance with the Voluntary Departure Notice. Unfortunately, Fisher lives on the other side of the continent, and Doug Christie has not been able to locate him.
Hearing day. Fisher has been found, but hesitates for personal reasons to back up Irving's story. In the meantime, however, local resident Louis Martens, who had met Irving only a few days before, offers Irving up to $20,000 cash for bail. Christie asks for bail and the adjudicator agrees — in spite of strident protest by the case presenting officer. Irving again asks if there are any restrictions on his behavior while out on bail. The adjudicator stipulates only that Irving must stay in Niagara Falls. However, he also insists that Irving must produce Fisher's testimony.
Now out on bail, Irving focuses on preparing his legal case for the next hearing session. Fisher changes his mind about validating Irving's claim of leaving the country, and ss1 a notarized affidavit.
Irving arrives early at the Immigration Hearing Centre, but not early enough to avoid the Jewish mob demonstrating outside. To accommodate the many journalists and reporters who are there to cover the story, a special media room is set aside in the building.
Once the hearing gets underway, the case presenting officer retracts a statement he made two days earlier that license numbers of vehicles crossing the border are not recorded. Instead, he now introduces into evidence a US Immigration and Naturalization Service print-out that purports to be a log of border crossing activity. Christie immediately challenges the document, noting that the official who swore to its authenticity had not sworn that it is a complete record. The adjudicator denies Christie's motion to subpoena the official for further testimony.
Now it is imperative that Brian Fisher testify in person. During the lunch break, Christie succeeds in convincing Fisher that he must appear. Fisher can also supply copies of his phone bill, showing long-distance phone calls made by Irving during his brief stay in Blaine. Irving already has affidavits from the recipients of those calls. All this would seem to be enough to prove conclusively that Irving had indeed left Canada, and thus has technically complied with the terms of the Voluntary Departure Notice. Even the adjudicator is forced to agree that Fisher's testimony is “a pivotal one which may make or break this case.” The hearing is adjourned until Thursday, the 12th.
Irving divides his time between making personal appearances (which now include fund-raising to offset his rapidly escalating legal costs), and ensuring that he has everything needed for his case at the next hearing session.
On Saturday, the 7th, Irving appears in Kitchener. Two days later, the case presenting officer calls to warn Irving that the Canadian Jewish Congress is blaming him for an arson fire at the office of an anti-Irving demonstrator in Kitchener, which was started the same night Irving was in town.
Writing in today's Toronto Sun, columnist Bill Dunphy puts his finger on the key issue in the legal battle. “Who's lying?” he asks. Against a computer print-out, which in all probability is either incomplete or has been expertly doctored by unknown persons, Irving can present sworn testimony, telephone records, and affidavits.
Irving's arrival at the Immigration Hearing Centre is greeted by an even larger crowd of media crews and demonstrators, who await him in a pouring rain. The case presenting officer ruthlessly cross-examines Brian Fisher (sometimes even wandering away from the matters at hand), but Fisher sticks to his story. In the , the case presenting officer has little to do but lamely invent a scenario in which Irving plotted to confuse the border guards and create a misleading print-out report. Christie points out that for this tale to be credible, Irving would have to be a fortune-teller. He would have to have known on October 30 — two days in advance of his failed border crossing on November 1 — that he would need such an elaborate alibi.
To everyone's dismay, the adjudicator puts off announcing his decision until the following day.
Upon his arrival at the Immigration Hearing Centre, Irving is approached by the case presenting officer, who wants the historian to know that he is not acting on his own, but under orders from “on high.” He also warns Irving against fulfilling a planned personal appearance at Carleton University in Ottawa in the event of his release, as there are orders from “on high” to re-arrest him for misrepresentation, this time regarding his border crossing at Blaine, Washington. With this new information, Irving promptly walks down the hallway and announces it to a room full of waiting reporters and journalists.
When the adjudicator reads his verdict, however, it makes all these machinations moot. Irving's version of events, he declares, is
… a total fabrication and never took place. I can only speculate that you and your supporters concocted your story to garner further publicity and prolong your stay in Canada, both of which you have done with some success.
According to the adjudicator, Irving never traveled to Blaine, Brian Fisher did not accompany him, the phone calls from Fisher's house were not made by Irving, and the sworn testimony of six persons was all perjured. (The adjudicator simply ignores the question of how Irving could have known he would need an alibi two days in advance of an unexpected occurrence.) He orders Irving deported.
Irving then steps forward with a writ of habeas corpus, while the case presenting officer is simultaneously served a similar writ.
Instead of heeding the writs, the adjudicator orders Irving taken into custody. After a brief stay in a holding cell, Irving is allowed to make a statement to waiting reporters and journalists.
After being allowed to collect his belongings, Irving is driven to Toronto airport for a six-hour wait until his plane is to depart. During the ride to the airport, immigration officers question Irving about the Kitchener arson. At 8:10 p.m., with David Irving on board, Air Canada flight 856 lifts off from Toronto airport on its way to London.
The next day, Bill Dunphy of the Toronto Sun reported that “spokesmen for the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai B'rith lauded the decision.” And no one else.
Canadian press treatment of the Irving affair — like popular opinion — was mixed. While expressing little, if any, support for Irving's Revisionist views on the Holocaust, as time went on a consensus developed in the Canadian press that the British historian should be allowed to speak in Canada.
Predictably, of course, Holocaust lobby groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Canadian Jewish Congress did everything in their power to poison the atmosphere against the historian, and to portray him as a grave threat to social stability.
Reflecting the dangerous but carefully articulated views of the organized Jewish community — and its vigorous behind-the-scenes efforts to keep Irving out of Canada — B'nai B'rith Canada official Ian Kagedan insisted that “Holocaust denial poses a real danger to our social fabric.”
In a lengthy op-ed opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen (Nov. 6), the Zionist official told readers that Irving's “presence is an insult to Holocaust survivors and Canadian veterans.” Remarkably, he conceded that “Immigration's decision to bar Irving and its subsequent efforts to expel him may be of special interest to only a few in our country …” Contrary to reason and common sense, Kagedan went on to assert that “… it is folly to claim that there is a free speech issue here.”
Writing in another newspaper (Globe and Mail, Nov. 9), Kagedan stressed that Irving is a danger because he is a “Holocaust denier,” and that his “hate propaganda undermines democracy.” The B'nai B'rith official even perversely maintained that “deporting Mr. Irving would affirm our commitment to democracy.”
To their credit, most Canadians rejected such convoluted and self-serving arguments. Indeed, as the Irving affair unfolded, the words and actions of the Holocaust lobby become so frantic that it was obvious, even to the most uninformed, that the only section of society seriously pushing to keep the historian out of Canada was the small but well organized international Zionist-Jewish lobby.
Echoing the Holocaust-lobby line, a number of Canadian newspapers referred to Irving as a “Holocaust denier.” The Vancouver Sun of October 15 told readers that “Irving has repeatedly given speeches and written books denying the Holocaust.” Elsewhere in this same issue, writer Pete McMartin added to the disinformation campaign:
[Irving] bills himself as a “historian” and has claimed to have atted the University of London, but files collected on Irving by the Canadian Jewish Congress show he only atted outside lectures at the university and was never enrolled as a student. They also say he has no academic qualifications as a historian.
Toronto Sun columnist Bill Dunphy called Irving an “amateur historian, Holocaust revisionist, and darling of the international neo-Nazi movement.” This is, of course, a favorite smear tactic: attacking the person when it is impossible to attack the person's work.
A few Canadian newspapers shamefully embraced the entire Holocaust-lobby line. The Ottawa Sun, a sensational tabloid, attacked Irving in a hateful editorial (Nov. 3), calling him a “reptile,” a “creature,” a “racist,” and “repulsive.” hese words appeared along with a vicious editorial cartoon depicting the historian as a demented, swastika-wearing lunatic.
Fortunately, such ravings were rare. Indeed, with the passage of time, coverage of the Irving affair become noticeably more fair and even-handed.
While almost never acknowledging that Irving's views about the Holocaust story might have some validity, more and more Canadian newspapers defied the Holocaust lobby and their own government by expressing support — sometimes in strong terms — of Irving's right to speak in Canada.
As the affair reached its climax, a kind of consensus emerged: regardless of how offensive his views may be to a small but vociferous minority, Irving should not be barred from the country.
An opinion piece in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record (Nov. 3) was typical. Staff writer Barry Ries forthrightly pointed out:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says “everyone” has the right to “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association …”
The Charter does not say that this right only applies to people we agree with or to people who don't upset us …
This freedom does not go down well with some people … These people are perfectly within their rights to protest and demonstrate and picket and present the facts we all know so well.
But rights don't with one segment of the population. Immigration officials have been pressured — by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and by B'nai B'rith Canada — to gag Irving, and that's what's been done.
Vancouver Province columnist Shane McCune, in a piece entitled “Let's leave fascism to the fascists” (Oct. 30), similarly affirmed Irving's right to speak:
I'm tired of everyone — left, right, feminist, Bible-thumper — who says, “I support free speech, but …”
No buts about it. It's easy to support freedom of speech when you agree with the speaker. The real test comes when you are asked to def the unpopular. I'm afraid Canadians fail that test more often than not.
The Victoria (B.C.) Times-Colonist suggested in an editorial (Oct. 30) that even accounts of the treatment of Europe's Jews during the Second World War should be critically scrutinized like any other chapter of history. The paper also argued against restrictions on Irving's right to speak:
There is, of course, no single, definitive version of historical events. Individuals are rewriting them all the time, offering interpretations and analyses that off, infuriate, and disgust thousands of other people … should [the Holocaust] be exempt from that never-ing process?
Each new restriction makes [Irving] more of a martyr. It is also … a denial of one of the cherished tenets of democracy, freedom of expression.
Affirming the cause of reason and common sense, Canada's most influential daily paper mocked the Zionist-orchestrated campaign to ban Irving. In a forthright editorial (Nov. 5), the prestigious Toronto Globe and Mail declared:
If the Canadian government devoted half the time and energy to ordinary law enforcement that it has to pursuing and incarcerating David Irving, crime would be unknown. Yet Mr. Irving is guilty of no crime in Canadian law, and poses no threat to life, property, or public order.
The only crime the government can suggest Mr. Irving is even likely to commit is that of willfully promoting hatred: a law of such surpassing vagueness as to be unworthy of a liberal society.
This is not the first time Mr. Irving has visited Canada. He has been here often, including speaking tours … The Dominion did not perish.
We can't imagine anything he might say could do half as much harm to Canada's reputation for tolerance as the picture, printed in the newspapers, of a writer in handcuffs — for fear, we suppose, that he might type something. We have not as yet put a price on his head, in the style of Iran. But our horror of the word looks much the same.
Reflecting the views of the country's liberal intellectual community, the Canadian branch of PEN, the influential “world association of poets, playwrights, publishers, editors, essayists, novelists, translators, and journalists,” expressed grave concern at the campaign to bar Irving. In a news release issued November 5, the writer's group declared:
The Canadian Centre of International PEN is deeply concerned about the detention of author David Irving. Canada has often been in the forefront of human rights and civil liberties issues abroad, but Mr. Irving's detention raises extremely serious questions about our commitment to freedom of expression at home.
While Mr. Irving's present position in Canada appears to involve specific breaches of Canadian immigration law, the issue as a whole raises the larger question of freedom of expression …
PEN Canada unequivocally maintains that freedom of expression, in all its variety, is fundamental to a democratic society and must therefore be supported in full and without any form of censorship … We maintain that Canadians do not need to be “protected” against the free flow of ideas, and are capable of determining for themselves what is valid and what is nonsensical. If Canadians want to hear foreign speakers, it is their right to do so …
Censorship has never been an appropriate way of dealing with the problem of conflicting, insensitive, evil, or fallacious opinion…
As already indicated, even Canadian papers that supported Irving's right to speak carefully suppressed intelligent expressions of the Revisionist view of the Holocaust story. Many Canadians — albeit probably a minority — were dismayed by the strongly anti-Revisionist bias of almost the entire Canadian media.
In a reader's letter published in the Toronto Star (Nov. 16), Joyce Medley of Willowdale (Ont.) echoed the legitimate concerns of many intelligent and informed fellow Canadians:
The media has suppressed, cut, taped, pasted, edited, filtered, shortened, fabricated and otherwise disguised every unchallengeable, albeit controversial statement that comes from David Irving or from any of the revisionist historians.
When the editor's shears finally come to rest, where is there a person who can find the truth among all the jagged remains commonly called the free press?
If you were the least bit interested in true journalism, you would print one of the many revisionist historians' repeated invitations to the academic community to debate this Holocaust controversy …
What sort of truth is it that needs protection?
Once and for all, reach deep inside and grasp hold of that last vestige of honor, be honest with yourself and be honest with the public, and let the blasted cow chips fall where they may!
Thoughtful criticisms of the ban against Irving were ultimately not enough to keep Irving from being deported. His expulsion on November 13 set a very dangerous precedent, because it may be used as a pretext by officials in other countries — particularly other Commonwealth countries such as Australia — to bar the British historian.
If Canada — a country noted for its tradition of (relative) tolerance — can bar Irving, where can he count on a welcome?
For a professional historian like Irving, such bans not only represent a severe financial setback, they keep him from important archives and other historical sources, and thus strike at the heart of his work and career. For Irving, for whom working in archives around the world is an essential part of his livelihood, such bans represent a condemnation to slow professional death.
There is another crucial issue at stake here: the role of a powerful international lobby in subverting traditional guarantees of freedom of speech. Not all speech, of course, just speech that offs a tiny segment of the world's population.
Although this small minority group was able to eject David Irving from Canada, its victory came at a price. From the beginning of September to the middle of November — nearly two and one-half months — the Holocaust controversy was a major news story in Canada.
What began as an effort to silence opposition to the politically correct line on the Holocaust issue turned into a three-ring circus, in which the star performer was none other than David Irving. The fact that he did not slink obediently back to his assigned perch at the first crack of the ringmaster's whip served to be a major embarrassment to those hoping to have the entertainment serve their own s.
In going after David Irving in Canada, the Holocaust establishment once again bit off more than it could chew — and the struggle is far from over.
From his home in London, Irving vows to press the fight until he is once again free to travel to Canada. And as he fights, he has not only truth and the best traditions of Western civilization on his side, he can also count as allies those who, through the publicity that atted this most recent violation against Western values, now realize that the enemies of Holocaust revisionism will stop at nothing to defend their sacred legend.