Canada First on Campus: Friendly Ties Between Conservative Student Group And White Supremacists

A Ryerson campus group previously accredited by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has been entertaining ties with Canada First, a white supremacist group attempting to “infiltrate” Canadian politics and create a white ethnostate.

Sébastien Roback
Canadian Anti-Hate Network



The Ryerson Conservative club has recently been disavowed by both the Ontario PC Youth Association and the Ryerson Student Union after “multiple anonymous sources alleged the group had been derogatory towards their membership and on social media,” and had failed to “operate democratically.” Today, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network can also report that we have uncovered and documented significant ties between the student club and the white supremacist group Canada First. 

Canada First is a white supremacist group that borrows its rhetoric and aesthetic from the American Groyper movement. Its primary objective is to infiltrate Canadian politics with the ultimate goal of establishing a white ethnostate.

In recent weeks, the Ryerson Conservatives’ president, journalism graduate Harrison Faulkner, has received both scorn and praise for his defence of Egerton Ryerson, the Ontario university’s namesake and one of the primary architects of the residential school system. 

This controversy began after a leaked excerpt from a Zoom event hosted by the club featuring Erin O’Toole showed the federal Conservative leader telling students that residential schools were “created to provide education.” 

O’Toole has since walked back these claims.

The members of Canada First have been some of Faulkner’s most ardent supporters, cheering on the young firebrand for months.

On social media, self-identified members of the group -- including its leader Tyler L. Russell -- frequently share and comment on content published by the Ryerson Conservatives, calling on their supporters to “raid the leftists” who express disagreement with the club.


Screen capture of Tyler L. Russell’s Instagram story.

When a petition calling for Russell to be expelled from Ryerson began circulating in June 2020, a member of the Ryerson Conservatives executive messaged its sponsor, warning them that there would be “consequences” for speaking out, and that they should not “ever forget that.”

Leaked messages from the Canada First Discord server show the ties between the white supremacist group and the Ryerson Conservatives go beyond surface-level support or interactions on social media between individual members.

“Calling all patriots, boost my CON group’s post! They’re hitting the CPC from the inside,” wrote Russell, sharing an Instagram post from the club in the chat. 

Far from being the only evidence of collaboration between the student club and Canada First, Russell’s reference to the Ryerson Conservatives as “his” group rang alarm bells.

Posing as a prospective member of the club, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network contacted Faulkner over the phone. During this conversation, he discussed his objectives of ”giving a platform to candidates who are Canada First, who are real conservatives” and to “speak out against fake conservatives.” 

These talking points directly mirror those of Russell and his group.


Screen capture from the Canada First Discord server.

Faulkner also called the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the Conservative Party of Canada “ret*rded,” and talked about building a good rapport with the Ryerson People’s Party Club.

After this phone call, CAHN gained access to the Ryerson Conservatives Facebook group, and found Russell’s Facebook account within its membership list. The group’s description states that it exists “for verified Ryerson Campus Conservatives’ members and alumni.”

Russell was removed from the group after CAHN reached Faulkner for comment.


Screen capture from the Ryerson Conservatives Facebook group.

After we published our months-long investigation exposing Canada First, a past member of the Ryerson Conservatives offered to speak to CAHN on the record. They had left the group shortly after Faulkner became the club’s president.

In a conversation over text, the ex-member claims that upon taking over the reins of the student group, Faulkner immediately created a “toxic and hateful environment”, attempted to “push the PPC into the club,” and even prevented members from running for the club’s presidency. 

These allegations are consistent with the reasons cited by the Ryerson Student Union and the Ontario PC Youth Association for disbanding the Ryerson Conservatives.

The ex-member also confirmed that Russell had attended at least one event organized by the Ryerson Conservatives, and claimed that members of the executive interacted with him on social media at different times.

Faulkner unfollowed Russell on Instagram after being reached for comment on this story. Other members of the club have been found responding to comments left by Russell on the Ryerson Conservatives Instagram page.

Screen captures of comments left by members of Canada First on the Ryerson Conservatives Instagram page.
All these posts have been “liked” by members of the Ryerson Conservatives executive.

When asked about Russell’s status within the Ryerson Conservatives, Faulkner confirmed that Russell was “no longer a member” of his club, but chose not respond when asked when he had been removed. 

Faulkner is currently employed by the True North Centre, a registered charity and right-wing news site which features the writings of former Jason Kenney spokesperson Candice Malcolm, as well as Andrew Lawton, who ran as a candidate for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives in 2018.

 

A Way Into Mainstream Politics

 

Walking in the footsteps of the American Groyper movement, Russell has sought to “infiltrate” Canadian politics, stressing the need for white nationalists to get involved in a number of conservative organizations and raise “an army of nameless, faceless members.” He believes this approach will help further polarize Canadian politics, and push conservative political parties to adopt white nationalist policies.

University campuses are increasingly being approached by white nationalists as a key battleground for their ideology, with Ryerson being the latest example of this trend. In December 2020, a “Right Wing Politics” club was decertified, and an accredited PPC group was denied club status after an event featuring Russell was cancelled at the University of Ottawa.

Shortly before this, CAHN published an exposé about members of the McMaster University Conservatives club with ties to a white nationalist group named the “Macdonald Society.” Richard Carmichael, one of the members mentioned in the article, recently injured himself after a failed stunt organized in collaboration with Tyler L. Russell resulted in him falling “off a John A. Macdonald statue in downtown Hamilton. 

After being disbanded by the RSU, the Ryerson Conservatives posted to their social media saying “In light of recent news, we would like to take this chance to apologize to absolutely nobody,” and a statement on the decision on July 4.

“We said we would never back down and never apologize, and we won't. We have done absolutely nothing wrong. We aren't going anywhere,” they wrote. 

They have not posted since.

Screen capture of Ryerson Conservatives' latest Twitter post.

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