Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Update: After publication, the Ryerson Conservatives put out a statement saying the group does "not associate with any other political groups, especially Tyler Russell and 'Canada First,' or the 'Plaid Army'" and would be withdrawing from the event. The statement adds, "we will never tolerate threats of violence at our event and will never associate with those that seek to cause violence." Following this statement, members of the Plaid Army and PPC leader Maxime Bernier have said the entire event is cancelled.
On Saturday, the unofficial Ryerson Campus Conservatives club is hosting what they’re calling the “single largest conservative event ever held at Ryerson University.” The rally will feature People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier and Ontario MPP Randy Hillier.
Ostensibly, their rally is to protest the renaming of the university, which is being done as a result of advocacy that highlighted Egerton Ryerson’s role in designing the residential school system and genocide of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples.
“Join us on December 18th at 1:30 on Ryerson University campus as we are joined by Maxime Bernier, Randy Hillier and other high-profile speakers,” reads a post by the club. “We do not stand for mandates on campuses. We do not stand for mob justice and the tearing down and renaming of our institutions.”
Quickly noticed by concerned student groups, a call went out for bodies to attend a counter-protest to the far-right rally. Socialist Fightback at Ryerson, Toronto Against Fascism, and Toronto IWW GDC are planning to counter-demonstrate.
The rally has also attracted overt white nationalist groups, which are calling for violence against counter-demonstrators and to "take over the campus." Some of their supporters are encouraging each other to bring weapons.
They have not had a real chance to attack anti-racists and anti-fascists en masse in the Greater Toronto Area since 2019 because of the pandemic, and they are excited for the possible opportunity.
“Saturday is the day that Canadian right-wingers make their voice heard against globalists, leftists, careerist ‘conservative’ actors, journos, and most importantly - the establishment,” one post about the event reads.
Never missing an opportunity to disparage his alma mater, news of the rally was spread by Tyler Russell, who's connected to the Ryerson Conservatives.
During the most recent federal election, Russell live-streamed coverage of the night’s events from PPC candidate Chelsea Hillier’s election party – Chelsea is Randy Hillier’s daughter. Both made appearances on the stream over the course of the evening.
After calling Quebec “based” for “firing that Muslim teacher,” Russell laid out how he approaches the issue of “free speech” during his December 14 live stream.
“When it comes to free speech, we have to defend this at all costs,” he said. “You know when it comes to when we’re in power, and you see these communists out there and our society is polarized and you have all these gross free communists spewing their rhetoric, we can worry about that later down the line – if you catch my drift.
“Right now free speech is vital. Anything that is going to be anti-free speech, anything that diminishes our ability to communicate right-wing ideas, and to just free think, to speak freely about anything and convey any thought or convey any story, we have to protect that.”
In Canada First online spaces, supporters have been sharing racist and violent fantasies relating to the counter-demonstrators.
“Just hearing him talk makes me want to genocide them again,” one CF supporter says in response to a video encouraging people to come and stand against the far-right.
“RACE WAR,” another poster replied.
“It's A Prime Propaganda Opportunity For Us."
News of the counter-protests quickly spread, igniting more ire and calls to action from active far-right networks across the country.
“You’ve heard me talk about protests before, I don’t think they’re viable,” said a Plaid Army streamer about the event. “You know what I do think is viable? This Saturday at Ryerson University, a bunch of communist and antifa fucks are going to show up to confront the people at the Randy Hillier/Maxime Bernier rally. There’s someone to confront. You can go make a statement. Get in their face, be like fuck you.”
Plaid Army began as a collective of far-right streamers sharing conspiracy theories online. It has since blossomed into an increasingly offline, militia-style movement preparing for a coming societal collapse. Recently broken into smaller and regional groups, the Alberta streamer – who will not be attending – asked his audience to assault the opposition.
“You know those Proud Boys videos we all love to see where they just march down antifa and start cracking them? Don’t you want to be one of those guys? It’s your chance. If you can go, go. It's a prime propaganda opportunity for us."
He also encouraged attendees to wear armour, saying, “If you don’t have knuckleduster gloves, like the padded gloves, you can get them at the dollar store. If you don’t have those, get them because you know what? Punching people in the head hurts your fucking hands.”
“Put lead in them,” someone responds, laughing.
Far from being a solitary voice within this community, that same streamer welcomes other “bigots,” a satirical nickname adopted by the fans of the Plaid Army, onto his stream.
“We’ve been saying the same thing this whole time,” he commented to others joining him through audio and video, “that these mother fuckers need to die.”
In posts about the event, Plaid Army members continued to encourage a variety of tactics to inflict upon counter-demonstrators.
“Bring piss filled water bottles and throw it on them. They can go home or turn to pissicles,” one influencer wrote. Later on the same user told his followers, “I have had a similar thought in the past ... What you want is smallish super soakers filled with anti-freeze (way better than water .... More 'applicable' if it gets real cold ;) ).”
“I'm so fucking down for a Diagolon Dust Up,” said another.
Diagolon is the name of the fantasy state envisioned by the Plaid Army. Starting in Alaska and running diagonally southeast across North America. Those who do not support the Plaid Army state are called “circs,” for “Circulon,” the name they use for the rest of North America.
The flag of the hypothetical nation is a white slash cutting through a black background. Originally designed as a meme by Plaid Army streamer and leader Jeremy MacKenzie, “ol’ slashy” as the flag is sometimes called has come to represent the secessionist beliefs held by many of the collective’s members.
Followers attending the protest have been asked to fly the Diagolon flag during the event at X University, as well as a stylized dark-camouflage version of Canada’s original flag, the Red Ensign.
“Someone please live stream this. I want to see dags kick circ ass,” one supporter said, using the nickname “dags” to represent supporters and “circ” to represent their opposition.
The dark-camo Ensign and the Diagolon flag. Source: Instagram.
On Instagram, a Plaid Army supporter threatened one of the organizers of a counter-demonstration, telling them “your followers would be wise to stay home and save lives that day.”
Others speculate as to whether another organizer, who they call a “crazy b****” is Jewish or "Middle Eastern." The Alberta streamer replies, “Who cares, commies are commies and the only good one is a dead one.”
In July of 2021, a statue of Dr. Egerton Ryerson was toppled at the campus by demonstrators demanding the school decouple itself from the genocidal history of its namesake.
In August, the university announced that it had accepted the 22 recommendations of the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force, which included changing the name of the school.
In a release sent to Ontario First supporters, the nascent party promoted the event as fighting “anti-Canadian political forces that seek to redefine our culture, rewrite our history, and exercise total control over our population.” The party says these forces have infiltrated both the government and public institutions, and decries the “social justice mob” and “radical leftists.”
Ontario First is the de facto provincial branch of the People’s Party of Canada, and a political home for Ontario’s COVID conspiracists.
According to The Eyeopener, the Ryerson Campus Conservatives were disavowed by 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.”