Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Radnorian and the Ku Klux Klan

John Evans, originally of Esgair Rhiw, Nantmel (1867-1958) and later a Saskatchewan politician and member of the Canadian House of Commons between 1921 and 1930, was a radical, anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist voice who eventually left the Progressive Party to join the socialist CCF.

Why given this background was Evans accused of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and why does his comment in the Canadian Commons that the Klan's members were "not in any way what one might call hot-headed and they are absolutely against any violent or unconstitutional way of doings things" get quoted in various histories of racism in Canada?

It comes as a surprise to learn that the Klan was estimated to have 25,000 members in Saskatchewan in the late 1920s, this in a province with less than a million inhabitants.  The prairie Klan had only the most tenuous links with its American progenitor, although it adopted the same regalia and cross-burning antics.  It exploited fears about East European immigration and the influence of the Roman Catholic church in some of the province's public schools.  If John Evans sought to ride the Klan tiger - and he would have known of another popular, secretive, oath-bound society from his native parish, the Rebeccaites of Radnorshire - his political enemies rode it better; Evans' defeat in the 1930 General Election being put down to Klan backing for his Conservative opponent.

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