Daniel Gallant spent almost a decade as a white supremacist. In his 20s, he decided to show his devotion to the cause by committing an assault every day for a year. He has since turned his life around. In Extreme Dialogue, a 2015 series of videos he helped create to inoculate students against hate groups, the 41-year-old Kamloops, B.C., man lists in chilling detail his many methods of assault: “my fists, bar stools, beer bottles . . . walls, bricks, blackjack billy clubs, pepper spray, steel pipe, baseball bat . . .” The recitation continues for almost a minute.
Gallant had a traumatic childhood, an unknown father and many stepfathers. He left home at 12. The white supremacy movement recruited him when he showed a willingness to commit violence. It gave him a sense of belonging, a group of people to hate and a narrative to explain why things were so bad (international Zionism). Ironically, Gallant, who now identifies — and is accepted — as Cree through his maternal grandmother, spent much of his time targeting First Nations.
What prompted him to leave hatred behind? It wasn’t a single moment, and it was anything but a smooth path. A critical point was the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. “We thought it was our guys. We thought it was the white supremacy uprising. We went and got out all our guns. Then the order came to stand down, and we were confused. Didn’t we have common cause with al-Qaida?” Intense internal conflict led to a breakdown, and Gallant sought help.
Yet his hatred remained deeply rooted. After months of rehab, a counsellor told Gallant he needed to go back to school and become educated. “My response was, ‘I’m not going to be sucked in and brainwashed by the leftist communist Zionist feminists.’”
Looking back, Gallant, now a social worker and law student, recognizes that many factors eventually steered him toward a better path: “transformative education,” acceptance by compassionate and loving communities, participation in Cree healing practices with elders both Christian and traditional, and focusing his social work on assisting individuals from the very groups he had targeted in the past. “All these things made me feel I was actually doing something in my life and helping people.”
The flawed thinking of his youth has convinced him that children need to be taught to think critically, “to help them deal with all the foolishness that’s out there on the Internet, whether it’s the international Zionist conspiracy or some nonsense about the Illuminati controlling the banks.”
He was also sustained through the worst times by a powerful memory of his grandmother’s unconditional love. “My Kokum made it clear that, no matter what, I would always be her grandson.”
Douglas Tindal is a writer and communications specialist in Toronto.