Source: Vote Against Woke
With municipal elections approaching across much of Canada, school board trustee positions have become a target for far-right candidates set on removing education about racism, homophobia and transphobia from elementary schools. Now, there is a coordinated effort to recruit both far-right trustees and voters.
While some candidates are running as a slate, others are more disparate and lack the tools to connect with the parts of the electorate that share their worldview. Our research found two prominent organizations consolidating “anti-woke” candidates into an easy-to-access website.
Vote Against Woke
Vote Against Woke is dedicated to crowdsourcing “non-woke” candidates for trustee races across Canada. The site contains a lengthy section, written by Quillette editor Jonathan Kay, explaining the dangers of “wokeism,” an umbrella term for nominally progressive causes, and has a tool to guide voters in finding aligned candidates in their ward.
Those on the list include Hamilton, ON Ward 15 candidate Catherine Kronas and Ward 13 candidate Larry Masters, who are running in tandem under the banner of Stop Woke.
Kronas was originally the founder of a similarly titled project called Stop Woke, a failed campaign against Ontario’s Bill 67 that mandated education on anti-racism and queer identities in public schools. Kronas’ campaign fixated on “woke ideology,” railing against “critical race theory” and “gender ideology'' that “threaten the well-being of our students and our community.”
Masters’ campaign meanwhile distributed flyers in Dundas, ON about “(saving) our children from the insanity of critical race theory,” going on to mention “gender identity” as a specific threat.
Also on the Vote Against Woke list is Van Nguyen, a member of the far-right New Blue Party. Her platform opposes masks and mandatory vaccinations, telling parents that “their choice matters with regards to their childrens’ health.”
Much of her focus, however, is on students’ sexualities, recommending a full and unspecified overhaul of Ontario’s sex education curriculum to “stop any and all ideologies that hypersexualize and confuse our children.” Her platform also contains obligatory references to “wokeness” and “critical race theory.”
Critical race theory is a high-level interdisciplinary academic concept completely inaccessible to elementary-aged children and is often conflated with general social justice and anti-racism taught in schools. The far-right uses CRT as a dog whistle to demonize any discussion of anti-racism or criticism of whiteness as indoctrination.
Other candidates include Shannon Boschy and Chanel Pfahl, running for Wards 6 and 8 in Ottawa respectively. Boschy and Pfahl are anti-trans activists who have expressed opposition toward “gender ideology” and “critical race theory” long before declaring their candidacies. For instance, Boschy has penned blog posts calling transgender identity a “dangerous contagion” in society, and applauded the swatting of trans Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti.
Then there are some ambiguous candidates who don’t publicly mention these issues, but still tacitly endorse anti-diversity and dog whistles enough to make the anti-woke list.
One of these is Ward 3 candidate Larry Pattison. His platform is vague, focusing on broad issues like “mental health” and “connecting schools with surrounding communities.” He bases his platform on the so-called “Moral Courage” methods of Canadian educator and author Irshad Manji. Manji’s Moral Courage platform teaches “diversity without division,” and her book Don’t Label Me argues for teaching children not to “cancel” each other or “be offended.”
Blueprint For Canada
Then there’s the least ambiguous candidate of all: TLDSB Ward 7 candidate Peter Wallace, founder of Blueprint for Canada. Wallace’s “blueprint” has already received support from mainstream right-wing pundits.
The language of Blueprint starts relatively tame, focusing on “common sense” solutions to the perceived issues of racialization and queerness. It also includes familiar language about “equality of opportunity,” and “sane spaces, not safe spaces.”
Further down the list, the policies become more clear.
“We will support policies which put an end to ‘critical social justice’ political bias and activism in our public education,” says one bullet point.
“We will advocate that actively promoting harmful ideological beliefs ("gender ideology") on children is abusive,” reads another.
And despite opposing “indoctrination” in schools, Blueprint also calls for all educators to undergo mandatory training against “critical race theory,” claiming it promotes “anti-caucasian racism.”
When asked by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network why he started Blueprint, Wallace responded, “to oppose the divisive manifestations of ‘critical theory’ based education in K-12 classrooms. We maintain that this worldview perpetuates animosity, division, and ultimately hate by promoting an “us vs. them” mentality among people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc.”
He added that he opposes “gender ideology” in schools as children, “particularly those more susceptible to suggestion and suffering other unrelated mental health issues,” are placed at risk.
Where Blueprint differs from other far-right ramblings is its call to action for supporters not just to vote in trustee elections, but contact their MPPs and demand they endorse and implement the website’s platform. The website’s Contact Us page also encourages people to contact them with information, saying “whistleblowers are welcome.” However, it isn’t clear what, if anything, is done with the submissions they receive.
The combined efforts of Blueprint and Vote Against Woke, along with informal networks on social media, signal an intent not just to disrupt school boards but push out progressive educators entirely and push a white supremacist, anti-trans agenda on children.
“We should be concerned.”
“While the goal is certainly to impact what is taught in schools, it will also serve to galvanize the momentum of the far-right in general,” says Tyler Shipley, a political scientist and history professor at York University and Humber College, and author of “Canada in the World: Settler Capitalism and the Colonial Imagination.”
“Right-wing politics typically point to a mythical past, and instil fear about the way things are changing. Targeting parents makes a lot of sense in light of this,” says Shipley. “It’s a smart tactic, and we should be concerned.”
The core of this movement lies in manipulating parents by stoking fears of losing control of their children. Efforts to educate kids on complex, anxiety-inducing issues like race and gender make a perfect wedge issue for fear-mongering.
Shipley stresses the need for not just parents, but the Canadian left as a whole, to understand the severity of this attempted far-right school board trustee takeover. Ignoring or voting against them is one thing, he says. But this ultimately needs to be recognized as a struggle against burgeoning fascism.
“If we don't stop this, we will find ourselves unable to talk about racism in our classrooms, unable to support gay and trans children, and ultimately facing a legitimate fascist threat in our society.”