The Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Most Canadians watched in horror as the scene in a Franklin, Tennessee parking lot played out. Heckling and jeering anti-mask protesters aggressively approached those who had just exited a local school board meeting, while law enforcement begged for participants to be peaceful. The protesters then followed one man to his car, shouting “we know who you are and we will find you.”
Tennessee isn’t alone. Across the US, school boards are being targeted by the far-right and racist-right in what many are calling the new frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic -- classrooms. In some cases, these demonstrations are turning violent.
Now, these anti-education protests are coming to Canada.
A new Facebook group created on August 19 is the organizing nexus point for people in the Edmonton and Sherwood Park areas vocally opposed to what they call the “asinine mask mandate” in Elk Island Public School.
Inside the group, one user shared a news story referencing “hostile” school board meetings prompting board members to quit. They added the caption, “this could be us but ya’ll don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
“If we were allowed inside the building,” replied a group member who claims to work for school boards.
The group also posts consistently about vaccines. In one post about the Alberta Health Services vaccination program at Elk Island Public School, comments included disinformation about Alberta parental consent rules, calls for a class action lawsuit, and even threats against any educators who try to vaccinate children. In Alberta, school vaccination programs require parental consent.
One member claims she works for two school boards, and in schools, telling others that schools require signed consent forms for each vaccine. Some members didn’t believe her: “You're way too trusting of a dishonest system.”
“I don't trust anything when it comes to this crap. That shot is pushed and required on everyone and those in charge will make sure it happens. Masks again and by the end of Oct mandatory shots to enter the school.”
Another post to the group promotes protesting school boards against mask mandates and critical race theory -- a recent trend in the United States.
The group has 800 members as of the time of writing, and they have already executed two well-attended events.
On August 26 members from the group protested directly outside of Elk Island School Board, facing off with a small counter of around 10 people.
Many attendees stated on livestream that they felt that their actions and beliefs were in line with the government of Alberta’s pandemic guidelines. One demonstrator accused members of the school board of acting against Chief Medical Officer of Health, Deena Hinshaw, claiming that Hinshaw does not support mask mandates.
“Anybody who didn’t follow her rules before, were crazy people. Now, if you do follow her rules, you’re crazy people. Make up your mind.”
One demonstrator spoke repeatedly about his alleged previous career as a police officer, telling counter-protestors that if he was in uniform he would arrest them for child abuse: “They’re... just looking for attention, and excuses to be bullies, and abusers. I’ve arrested people for less abuse to children, and I wish I was still back in uniform, ‘cause I would be doing it right now.”
About 100 demonstrators appeared at a small local park on August 30. According to one livestreamer, they were “making a stand against masking and muzzling our children.” Holding signs that read “our kids our choice” and “protect freedom,” the peaceful protest engaged with vehicles and passersby.
A well-known demonstrator and livestreamer suggested the small number of counter-demonstrators was being paid by the NDP.
Not all signs were about masks. One demonstrator held a sign emblazoned with the word “vaccine” and the image of a needle, both with lines drawn through them.
Cody Frederickson was present at the park. Frederickson caught some attention in Alberta ever since he first showed up to a Wet'suwet'en solidarity blockade in a truck with a confederate flag decal. Since then, he’s appeared at a Red Deer anti-racism rally with a megaphone, wearing a QAnon shirt. Frederickson also participated in the September 2020 parking lot confrontation in Edmonton, shortly after the Red Deer event. Footage of him becoming aggressive with a counter-protester at that event is seen in media reports.
One man brought what appears to be a cattle prod with a Canadian flag attached to it.
A demonstrator holding what appears to be a cattle prod.
Not for Teacher
These protests aren’t limited to Sherwood Park. Organizers planned a “citywide boycott” in Calgary on the first day of school -- September 1. According to the poster, demonstrators intended to protest health measures and vaccines outside the Calgary Board of Education, followed by the Calgary Catholic School Board.
Around 200 people arrived at the Calgary Board of Education building, where organizers gave speeches on the dangers of masks and vaccines. One organizer declared that masks are “the biggest symbol of oppression, power, and control that the government has,” and said mask mandates have “nothing to do with your health.”
The organizer then called masks “medical apartheid,” and government officials “bureaucratic re***ds.”
Another organizer urged parents to “come at this like a tsunami,” referencing a “global agenda and war against humanity” where the “number one target is the children.”
Anti-Muslim vlogger and soon-to-be failed Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin Johnston took the microphone, and quickly launched into untruths about why he was imprisoned, claiming it was because he “told the truth.”
In reality, Johnston was held in custody due to his high risk to reoffend after being charged with a number of offences. On July 12, Johnston pled guilty to criminal harassment of Alberta Health Services officers, as well as causing a disturbance. An Alberta judge called him “dangerous and out of control” in early July.
Johnston told the crowd at the Calgary Board of Education that people in Australia had contracted HIV from the vaccine -- after telling them that it is “nearly impossible” to be infected with a virus.
“There is no pandemic… there is no delta variant,” he told the crowd.
The group then departed for the Calgary Catholic School Board, carrying signs and accompanied by Calgary police.
Arriving at the CCSB building, similar speeches were made, with organizers calling the current system “fascism” and “global tyranny.” One told the crowd that their alleged “inside source” with the government informed them that another lockdown was being “planned” for a month from now.
“Police are blocking the road for us, they’re always good to us, not always, but usually,” one attendee says on livestream. “Most of them got really sick after getting the, you know, thing. They just complied.
“Hopefully they don’t comply soon because they’re going to be told to do worse things.”