Skip To Content
The Schmooze

The Canadian Führer

While the notorious British anti-Semites Oswald Mosley and Henry Hamilton Beamish have been discussed and analyzed thoroughly, Canada’s leading Fascist, Adrien Arcand, has not.

Strongly influenced by Mosley and Beamish’s activities in England (Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists while Beamish served as the vice president of the Imperial Fascist League), Arcand spewed out hatred for decades to eager audiences. Now a first biography has appeared by historian and journalist Jean-François Nadeau, “Adrien Arcand, Canadian Führer” (Lux Éditeur).

The author of a 2009 study about the ultra-nationalist French historian Robert Rumilly, Nadeau has chosen yet another subject illustrating the extent to which brutal prejudice can inspire political allegiance.

Arcand learned xenophobia from his father, a Quebec labor activist who led campaigns against the tiny population of immigrant Chinese workers. Launching his own newspaper, Le Goglu (The Bobolink), in 1930, the younger Arcand alleged that Montreal’s most dangerous criminals were Jewish, while in 1932 he urged imprisoning Canadian Jews in ghettos, following Europe’s precedent.

In 1938, the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline, author of 1937’s viciously anti-Semitic polemic, “Bagatelles for a Massacre,” visited Canada and Arcand. Tormented by the possibility that France would “fall into the hands of Jews,” Céline plotted his possible escape to Canada, attending a Fascist meeting led by Arcand. The previous year, Arcand hosted another visitor, Beamish, who later stated: “After Adolf Hitler, I consider Adrien Arcand to be above all other Nazi leaders whom I have had the occasion to meet.”

When the Second World War broke out, Arcand and his fellow Nazis were interned, but by the war’s end, they were quickly freed again. In 1948, an article appeared denouncing Arcand’s wartime incarceration as “the end of civil liberty.” This article’s author, unbelievably enough, was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a young Canadian law student who would later be elected the country’s Prime Minister.

Soon Arcand was agitating against the founding of the state of Israel, suggesting instead that the population of Madagascar should be transported to Liberia, and the world’s Jews imprisoned in Madagascar. Arcand’s statements won him the allegiance of pen pals from the PLO and like-minded organizations. Even after the war, until his death in 1967, Arcand troubled Jewish advocates, one of whom, Harry Mayer, commented in 1952 that Arcand was “Canada’s most dangerous antisemite, as he is genuinely eloquent…his audience, for the most part ignorant and even illiterate, accepts his lies as Gospel truth.”

Watch Jean-François Nadeau discuss his biography of Arcand here.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.