Groups that monitor far-right activities are still trying to decide what to make of a skinhead concert in Etobicoke January 11 that caught all of them by surprise. Toronto police say about 125 people showed up for the event featuring several Detroit-based bands known for lyrics promoting hate and violence.
It's the third time since June that concerts featuring skinhead bands have been held here. Two previous shows in Scarborough attracted about 50 and 75 people respectively.
Unlike previous shows, which were advertised on flyers and on the Internet, the latest gathering seems to have slipped under local anti-racists' radar.
Anti-Racist Action, which was busy organizing its own concert and workshops on the same Saturday, had been tracking another skinhead get-together supposedly being planned for Oshawa, but that's now thought to have been a decoy.
This resurgence in activity is "something Toronto hasn't really seen in a few years," says Evan Simmons of ARA.
Toronto police aren't saying how they heard about it. What they will say is that most of the concert-goers seemed young and not connected with older neo-Nazi types.
That police from Kitchener-Waterloo were also on the scene, however, suggests that the increase in neo-Nazi activity here has its roots in southwestern Ontario, where the far right has had a more pronounced and visible presence than in Toronto in recent years.
"This is not pleasant, smoking-room racism," says Richard Warman, an Ottawa-based lawyer who tracks hate groups.
He says there's been an upsurge in hate-themed concerts across southern and southwestern Ontario since 9/11. How several Detroit-based bands known for promoting hate got past tightened border security -- police say nearly half of all those at the show were from the U.S. -- is "troubling," says Canadian Jewish Congress executive director Bernie Farber.
Farber, another who only found out about the concert through a police press release, says many groups that used to monitor racist or anti-Semitic activity have been so sidetracked by events in the Middle East that surveillance of neo-Nazi movements may not be what once was.
"It means they're trying to get the phoenix to rise again," Farber says.
One of the bands at the concert, Blue-Eyed Devils, has recorded songs like Holocaust 2000, with the lyrics "We've heard your tales of persecution and we've listened to your lies / But this time it's for real / The final genocide."
Police seized a number of CDs of known "hate rock" bands from one concert-goer. But Toronto detective James Hogan says police are still considering whether any charges will be laid under Canada's hate laws.