By Sébastien Roback
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Éric Duhaime’s campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Québec has now been endorsed by three sitting senators.
Duhaime is a popular media figure in Québec, known for his outspoken conservative views and his history of making inflammatory statements on air.
He is also a former correspondent for Rebel Media.
More recently, Duhaime has been an active opponent of public health measures to address the ongoing pandemic, and even organized a protest denouncing mask mandates in public schools.
In a statement emailed to supporters on February 17, Senator Josée Verner, a cabinet minister under Stephen Harper, announced her intention to “actively support” Duhaime by becoming president of his campaign.
She joins Senators Pierre-Hugues Boisevenu and Leo Housakos, who had endorsed him in the weeks prior. Another politician, Conservative MP Alain Rayes, stated he likes Duhaime “a lot” when asked about his candidacy, but stopped short of endorsing him.
In 2014, he faced widespread criticism after saying that the Black community has “few heroes that they can be proud of” and that “unfortunately, when they do have heroes, they turn out to be zeroes,” pointing to ex-NHL player George Laraque and Barack Obama – whom he called “the worst President in US history.”
Duhaime has also questioned the existence of a “rape culture,” and compared sexual assault to car theft, saying “leave your keys in the car, leave your car doors unlocked, get your car stolen and then speak to your insurer and see how he reacts.”
“He’ll say, look, you have some responsibility. The guy who stole your car is guilty, and he’ll go to prison, he had no business stealing your car, but since you left the door unlocked, you’ll still be sanctioned.”
Duhaime, who denies the existence of systemic racism in Québec, has publicly cast doubt on the motives of several hate crimes against people of the Islamic faith, a religion he believes stands out from others because of its desire to “dominate the world.”
After a gift-wrapped pig’s head with a note saying “Bon appétit” was found in front of the Québec City Islamic Centre during Ramadan, he decried the media’s framing of the incident as an Islamophobic hate crime. He added that the criminal code doesn’t prohibit giving someone a pig’s head, and that it might simply have been a “dumb joke,” according to a report by Sortons les radios poubelles, an organization that aims to raise awareness about hate speech on Québec radio.
This same mosque would be targeted by mass shooter Alexandre Bissonnette just a few months later.
MAKING EXCUSES FOR HATE
This incident was not the first – or last – time Duhaime landed himself in hot waters for excusing hateful behaviour.
In 2017, while commenting on a publicity stunt organized by the fascist skinhead group Atalante, he argued their call for “remigration,” meaning the deportation of all non-white immigrants from Québec, was not hateful.
He then compared the slogan to the antifascist ethos “bash the fash,” calling the latter more hateful, and likened antifascist counter-protesters at the Charlottesville Rally to “savages” for destroying statues.
After members of Atalante stormed Vice Québec’s offices in 2018 to intimidate a journalist who had written about them, Duhaime deflected criticism directed towards the group. Instead he denounced “right-thinking Montréal leftists” for covering Atalante’s stunt but not the antifascist protesters who chased Faith Goldy from an anti-immigration rally.
“How many dirty antifas will get arrested, dragged in court, and fined? I’m afraid that none of them will. What they did was worse, in my opinion. They physically attacked Faith Goldy, they broke her equipment. [Atalante] didn’t break any equipment, they didn’t spit on anyone,” said Duhaime on air.
These comments were made about a year after Faith Goldy had been fired from Rebel News after making an appearance on a neo-Nazi podcast.
Atalante is led by Raphaël Lévesque, who sings in Légitime Violence, a band with lyrics including fantasies about stabbing “effeminate leftists,” and whose newest member, neo-Nazi label owner Steve Labrecque, proudly sports a “1488” tattoo on his knuckles. In December 2020, a member of the group was sentenced to 15 months behind bars for assaulting someone he believed was an antifascist in a Québec City bar.
Lévesque (with the baseball bat) with members of his band, Légitime Violence. Source: Facebook
After a woman affiliated with the anti-immigration Front Patriotique du Québec heckled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him whether he was tolerant of “Québécois de souche” (a term referring to white Québécois) in a premeditated stunt by far-right activists, Duhaime invited one of her accomplices and defended her actions. He also criticized the Prime Minister for calling her intolerant.
REBEL NEWS’ QUÉBEC ANCHOR
In 2015, Duhaime first appeared on Rebel News as a guest on several videos, which led to his hiring in 2017.
One of Duhaime’s first assignments as a correspondent had him collaborating with his then-colleague Faith Goldy to cover Alexandre Bissonnette’s trial. In the video, Duhaime says it is unclear whether Islamophobia fueled the killer’s actions, and alleged that politicians were making assumptions about his motivations in order to “score cheap political points and promote their multiculturalist agenda.”
Duhaime with Faith Goldy. Source: Youtube
He also used the occasion to speak out against M-103, a non-binding motion in the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia. This would become a popular theme for Duhaime throughout his time at The Rebel.
In other videos, he refers to the motion as an “attempt to deprive the press of the right to free speech” and alleges that the Canadian government was creating a system where there is “one justice for Muslims, and another for all other religious groups” by sponsoring the non-binding motion.
Conspiracy theories and fake news regarding M-103 were shared widely by Islamophobes at the time of its passage.
Over the course of his tenure at Rebel News, Duhaime became their go-to person in Québec and helped found Le Rebelle, a francophone counterpart to the right-wing outlet.
During the 2017 French presidential election, Duhaime was dispatched to France. In the near-dozen videos Duhaime filmed in the country, he provides favourable coverage to Marine Le Pen, the then-leader of Front National, a party founded by her father, the convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen. In one video, he criticizes feminists, who he deemed “hypocritical” for not supporting Le Pen.
Duhaime in France. Source: Youtube
Duhaime played a “determining role” in Rebel News’ coverage of the so-called “Macron Leaks,” and allegedly translated leaked documents from the Macron campaign for Jack Posobiec. Posobiec is another past employee of Rebel News who has been denounced by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for spreading antisemitic hate. Posobiec left Rebel News in 2018 after he was caught plagiarizing the content of Jason Kessler, an American white supremacist.
Duhaime has denied involvement in the leaks, and while Posobiec first supported allegations of Duhaime’s role, he later retracted those statements. Posobiec said he was merely “trolling” the journalists interviewing him.
It is unclear exactly when or why Duhaime left Rebel News - his last appearance being in a 2018 video. Since his departure, Le Rebelle’s Youtube account has remained inactive.
A Controversial Endorsement
Appearing on a livestream with Duhaime, Senator Boisvenu explained he was endorsing the radio host because he has “the backbone to take on” the leadership of the Conservative Party of Québec, and that he has the capacity to unite “center-left, centrist, and centre-right voters.”
In the same stream, Boisvenu says he does not believe that many Québécois hold far-right beliefs, and that while there are right-wing extremists in Québec, the idea that their number is significant is a “fable.”
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu appearing on Duhaime’s livestream.
However, Boisvenu himself has faced controversy in the past for his ties with right-wing hate groups. In 2017, it was reported that he was an active member of two Facebook community groups affiliated with the far-right, PEGIDA Québec and Amis patriotes de Marine Le Pen (Patriotic friends of Marine Le Pen).
In one thread found in this first group, Boisvenu directly interacted with Sylvain “Maikan” Brouillette, at the time the spokesperson of La Meute.
When questioned about his belonging to these two groups, Boisvenu claimed he joined PEGIDA Québec “perhaps by accident” though he disagreed with their discourse. He also defended his belonging to “Amis patriotes de Marine LePen,” explaining that the French far-right politician was not anti-immigration, but rather anti-“unbridled immigration.”
In a speech delivered during the 2017 French Presidential election campaign, Le Pen criticized “the interlopers from all over the world” who want to “transform France into a giant squat.”
“Go to Marseille! Marseille is now a city that does not look like France did 20 years ago,” Boisvenu told the Canadian Press, defending LePen’s immigration policies.
In 2019, Boisvenu’s participation in far-right Facebook groups was once again a source of controversy, after Justin Ling reported the Senator had been a member of “Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens” and “Yellow Vests Canada.”
Just a few days later, Ling would also report that Boisvenu had appeared twice on Le Stu-Dio, a far-right podcast founded by André Pitre, a conspiracy theorist and past member of La Meute.
Boisvenu’s ties to far-right Facebook groups was the object of an ethics investigation which was eventually dropped in 2020 after offering what the National Council of Canadian Muslims described as a “contradictory and evasive” apology.
Senator Leo Housakos, who endorsed Duhaime back in November, faced criticism in 2019 for claiming that white supremacy was not a significant “threat to our way of life, to our communities, to our democracy” in a Parliamentary committee. He later clarified his comments, saying that extremism - including white supremacy - is a threat, though “nobody in the west, no politician, no government” condones white supremacy.
When reached for comments regarding his support for Duhaime, an aide to Senator Housakos told CAHN that “if you or anyone else thinks you’re going to depict Senator Leonidas Housakos as anything other than the decent, compassionate and principled man that he is, you have another thing coming.”
This emailed response did not mention Duhaime or his candidacy.
Éric Duhaime’s campaign team did not return our request for comment.