By renowned social media and data sciences expert Megan Squire.
State of Hate: Canada 2020
An overview of the activity of Canada's hate movements as we move further into 2020
February 26, 2020
Today the far-right movement is targeting Wet'suwet'en solidarity demonstrations and encouraging each other to murder or assault indigenous persons and allies. Source: Twitter.
At the end of January the CBC reported that the Canadian government was struggling with how to both define and respond to the dangers posed by far-right extremism. Groups such as the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and Anti-Racist Canada have been monitoring groups and individual tied to extremism for years. As such it might be instructive to discuss where we are as we enter 2020.
The Yellow Vest movement, characterized by hundreds of documented examples of threats and overt hatred towards Muslims, seems to have peaked with its convoy to Ottawa in February 2019. While there were rallies into the spring and summer in several Canadian cities, its supporters have largely retreated to their online echo chamber. Their much smaller than expected convoy and Liberal re-election has caused a great deal of disillusion and has resulted in infighting as different factions accuse each other of not supporting the cause enough to take to the streets, allowing the Liberals to win by voting for the “wrong” conservative party (most supported the doomed People’s Party of Canada), and financial malfeasance.
The Yellow Vest movement has since fractured in other directions. Prairie Yellow Vest supporters are now gravitating towards the even more fringe Wexit movement that wants the west to separate from Canada, but this hasn’t resonated with Ontario supporters. Many supporters and far-right vloggers are more preoccupied today with anti-anti-fascism, anti-leftism, and anti-liberalism than spreading hatred towards Muslims, LGBTQ+ and indigenous persons, etc., but the bigotry is still very prevalent, especially in response to the Wet'suwet'en standoff.
The anti-Muslim and so-called ‘patriot’ groups that participated in the Yellow Vests movement (but exist separately of it) continue to try to organize mass rallies but those that do occur have meager attendance. They are often countered by significantly larger counter-protests opposing them, leading to increased disillusion. Groups such as the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) and Canadian Combat Coalition have become primarily online groups that occasionally attend rallies. Anti-Muslim group PEGIDA Canada, whose founder and leader was identified as 2019 drew to a close, has not held a significant event since the fall. La Meute in Quebec has been quiet in part because of constant infighting, and in part because the election of Coalition Avenir Québec, which has enacted more restrictive immigration policies and passed Bill 21. The raison d'être for La Meute seems to now be in question since the provincial government has enacted discriminatory legislation in line with what they had been demanding.
Though many so-called ‘patriot’ groups seem to be stagnant or in decline, two exceptions are the Northern Guard based in New Brunswick and the Urban Infidels based in Alberta, both of whom are splinter groups of the Soldiers of Odin with whom they still work with on occasion. Both the Northern Guard and the Urban Infidels have been opening new chapters in cities across the country. One of their chapter presidents is Christopher Vanderweide, who became infamous during the spring of 2019 for attacking counter-protesters during a Pride event in Hamilton. Despite their growth, these groups are also subject to the same infighting plaguing other similar groups. The Northern Guard chapter in Calgary for example has already splintered twice, the most recent resulting in a new group called the Mammoths led by the former Northern Guard Alberta chapter president who had been voted out by the group months before, resulting in the usual recrimination and threats between erstwhile “brothers.” Also the vice-president of the Nova Scotia Northern Guard chapter abandoned the group and spoke out against the racist rhetoric of its members.
The electoral aspirations of the far-right seem to be thwarted, for now. The People’s Party of Canada, the favourite of most hate group supporters, failed to win a single seat. However, this election is notable in that for the first time since the 1930s an openly neo-Nazi party, the Canadian Nationalist Party, was registered and ran candidates. None of the three candidates from Travis Patron’s party managed much more than 100 votes, but Patron continues to post overtly antisemitic content on the party’s social media platforms, including a video referring to Jews as the “parasitic tribe.” Patron is under investigation for the willful promotion of hate propaganda and in November 2019 he was arrested and charged with assaulting two women in Regina.
Alt-right neo-Nazi activity continues, though this largely is limited right now to putting up posters and trying to recruit new members. Atalante in Quebec, a neo-fascist group more closely resembling traditional bonehead gangs, remains a significant concern. Some high-profile members have been identified by Montreal anti-fascists.
What’s more imminently dangerous on the neo-Nazi front is the pro-terrorism or ‘accelerationist’ groups. Members of these groups are facing arrests across the world, especially in the United States. These groups have members and supporters in Canada. Some have been identified. Others haven’t.
During the summer, journalist Ryan Thorpe identified a member of the Base who was recruiting for the group. Patrik Mathews, then a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces, later fled the country. He and other members of a Base cell were arrested on various charges in the United States in January while planning the murder of anti-fascists and a terrorist attack. We also learned that Mathews himself was slated to be murdered by his fellow Base members because he wasn’t trusted to remain silent.
Also concerning is the growth of the far-right vlogger ecosystem in Canada, which promote the conspiracy theories and ideologies that underpin all of the above, support their organizing or organize themselves, and lead campaigns of targeted harassment. More on that later.
This is the first in a new series of articles and investigations into trends and new developments among Canada’s hate movements. We would like to thank an anonymous donor and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations for supporting this project.