A B.C. man who was a recruiter for white supremacist groups says he's changed his hateful ways and has moved on to become a motivational speaker who helps others leave racist organizations.
Tony McAleer, 44, looks back ruefully on his past involvements with such groups.
“It was like a quick sugar high at the time, but the long-term damage — not just to myself but to other people — it wasn’t worth it,” McAleer says.
McAleer said he used to attend cross burnings conducted by the Aryan Resistance Movement in Idaho and was seduced by the power that came with being a skinhead.
“It was exciting. There's an element of fantasy to it,” he told CBC News in a recent interview. “It was as bad as it could get and there was an excitement that came from that.”
McAleer eventually gained notoriety from his activities, making media appearances to espouse neo-Nazi views. He also ran a telephone hotline that resulted in an arrest for contempt of court.
In those days, McAleer and his racist colleagues were fighting for the West Coast to be a whites-only enclave.
But he said that he suddenly questioned his ideology at a pivotal moment — the birth of his daughter.
“The nurse handed her to me in the delivery room ... this tiny fragile human being who is not capable of hatred, whatsoever,” McAleer said.
He said he slowly withdrew from the racist organizations as he struggled to raise two children as a single dad with a history that made him virtually unemployable.
Met Jewish mentor
Then he met psychologist Dov Baron, who is Jewish, who became a mentor and helped McAleer re-invent himself as a money manager and motivational speaker.
“I've done a pretty good job of fading to black and covering my tracks and living a life where nobody had any idea about my past,” McAleer said. “I have to acknowledge and I do acknowledge the things that I have done and I have a healthy shame about those things,” he said.
Now McAleer is speaking out against what he calls senseless violence.
In a recent appearance on the CBC Radio B.C. program On The Coast, McAleer commented on the charges laid against three alleged neo-Nazis in connection with six alleged assaults on visible minorities in the Vancouver area.
“I just know where it’s going to end up and I have compassion for where they're at and what it’s like to be that confused young man, seeking significance, going out and seeking it in a way that's not healthy,” McAleer said.
But there can be a downside to McAleer’s outspokenness, according to his friend Baron.
“He is taking a massive risk,” Baron said. “First of all, Tony is a businessman. He is well respected in his business community. There will be people who will turn their backs of him, without a shadow of a doubt.”
But McAleer said he can’t remain silent, and is writing a book about his transformation, entitled The Neo-Compassionist.
“I’ve watched the movement suck people in and spit them out again,” McAleer said. “And there’s going to come a time when you’re going to question, ‘Why am I in this?’”