At one time, Elizabeth Moore and Elisa Hategan had a lot in common: In the 1990s, both were young members of the Heritage Front – among the very few women in the Toronto-based neo-Nazi group.
Both provided the voices for racist telephone hotlines operated by the Front.
Both were featured in Hearts of Hate, a 1995 documentary about the Canadian white supremacist movement in the early to mid-1990s.
Both defected from the Heritage Front and became vocal anti-racism activists, speaking to audiences about the dangers of the far right. For a time, the two were good friends.
Hategan ended up converting to Judaism, while Moore married a Jewish man.
Now, they are on opposite sides of a lawsuit: Hategan is suing Moore, alleging that Moore appropriated Hategan’s life story for a movie about a fictional young woman who falls in with a fictional hate group.
Hategan alleges that the 1998 CBC telefilm starring Sarah Polley, titled White Lies, is an aptly-titled lie. She is seeking a total of $200,000 in damages for “wrongful appropriation of personality,” among other allegations, because the film said it was based on Moore’s life and experiences.
Moore has denied the allegations and is countersuing Hategan for a total of $125,000 for defamation, invasion of privacy and other claims.
According to Hategan, White Lies was her story: A high school student, Catherine Chapman, joins a far-right group, the National Identity Movement, becomes its spokesperson, spies on the group’s leader, steals evidence, and ultimately defects.
In a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Hategan said she joined the Heritage Front as a 16-year-old high school student and became its “female face.”
After quitting in late 1993, Hategan claims she helped bring down the Front by collecting evidence and testifying against its leaders. Her “defection and whistle-blowing (were) well-documented in the media between 1993 and 1995.”
She is now “an expert on anti-racism, extremist political movements and terrorist recruitment tactics,” and has enjoyed wide media exposure, her claim says.
Hategan concedes that while White Lies used “significant aspects” of her experiences, Moore “has publicly represented on several occasions that the story of the protagonist in White Lies is based on her own unique experience, which is false.”
The “primary intent” for Moore’s “appropriation” of Hategan’s identity has been for “royalties, honorariums, promotional publicity, and other financial benefits,” Hategan claims. She says Moore was a “paid consultant” for the film project.
Hategan also names Bernie Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, in her action, claiming Farber helped “disseminate a false narrative of Moore’s life,” and that both Farber and Moore were credited in White Lies. Farber, now chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, is seeking to have his name dropped from the suit.
Moore also joined the Heritage Front as a teenager in high school and left in 1995, according to her statement of defence. Since that time, she “has denounced the organization and has spoken and written publicly about her experience as a Heritage Front member and the dangers of neo-Nazism in Canada,” her filing states.
Moore says she was compensated for being a “consultant” on White Lies.
She says she is “entitled to speak publicly about her lived experiences, and feels that it is important to speak out against fascism, hate and white supremacy in Canada.”
Similarities between her experiences as a member of the Heritage Front and those of Hategan “are not surprising, given that the two were involved with the same radical, extremist organization for years and were two of the very few women in the organization.”
Hategan may believe her accomplishments, “but this does not amount to a legal claim,” Moore contends.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.