According to Statistics Canada, 23% of people accused of hate crimes in the last 10 years were between the ages of 12 and 17, 86% of them were male.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A video showing a group of eighth graders marching across their North Bay, Ontario school’s athletic field shouting antisemitic and pro-Nazi epithets sparked widespread shock, but statistics show hateful incidents involving youth are not as rare as one might think.
In the footage about a dozen students are seen holding roman (nazi) salutes with some students yelling “Heil Hitler” and “fuck the Jews.” Though the age of the students involved adds to the upsetting nature of the video, it is no aberration.
Many other hate-related incidents involving young people have made headlines in the last few months.
On September 11, a 44-year-old man was transported to the hospital for injuries he received after a religious ceremony in Mississauga, Ontario he and his family were participating in was interrupted by a flurry of rocks and racist insults. Two teenagers, ages 15 and 16, have since been arrested and charged with assault.
A few months prior, in June, two 16-year-old students at Cawthra Park Secondary, also located in the GTA, were arrested after burning a Pride flag on school property, filming and posting a video of the act online after the fact. A similar incident took place at a high school in Huntsville, Ontario, mere days later.
In Edmonton, Alberta a Black student was assaulted. While police have said they do not believe the attack to be hate motivated, the victim reports being berated by racial slurs and insults over the course of the assault.
These events add to the growing evidence that Canada is in the midst of a hate crime epidemic, and according to the available data, this epidemic is disproportionately driven by young men.
Between 2010 and 2019, 86% of persons accused of committing hate crimes were male. The median age for persons accused of hate crimes is 28, though this statistic varies depending on the accused’s motivation. For crimes targeted towards 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, the median age of accused persons is much lower, at 23.
Concerningly, 23% of persons accused of hate crimes in this time period were teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17.
Statistics Canada estimates that 223,000 self-reported hate crimes took place in 2019 alone.
The Kids Are Alt-Right
In an extremely online world, youth are at an increased risk of coming across hateful propaganda and racist content on social media platforms. Though Youtube has been described as a primary cause of right-wing radicalization, several hate groups maintain accounts on a variety of other platforms used by young people, notably Instagram.
Other self-described fascists like Alberta’s Shannon Dobson traces his origin story within the movement to learning about Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists in grade five. Bernie Miller, a Canadian with ties to Blood and Honour, claims to have begun his journey at 14-15.
3. In the RWDS group, Shannon recounted what a nazi he was in his youth, careful to use shorthand for racial slurs and echos. He details the cruelty with which he treated people and takes pride in a family member saying he would make a perfect Nazi. pic.twitter.com/Ah7ceiU9IP— YVCE 🧛♂️🧛♀️🧛♂️🧛 - ARCHIVE (@VestsCanada) June 4, 2020
When the neo-Nazi Iron March online forum was still active, numerous young people were drawn into the fold through the literature and message boards contained within. Canadian users “Qaysar,” and “One Good Injun” both purported to be in high school in their introductions. Tyler Blair AKA Vittorio Giurifiglio joined both Iron March and the Canadian Super Players Club all while still a minor. In his introduction post on Iron March, he claimed to have begun his journey toward fascism at age 10.
The ability for hate peddlers to reach young people online has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic -- something that hateful groups and movements know full-well.
At the pandemic’s onset, the Groypers -- a white nationalist movement selling the antisemitism, misogyny and homophobia of the alt-right to Generation Z -- made the strategic decision to build a presence on TikTok, a platform primarily used by young people, allowing them to expose a larger audience to their hateful content. Despite the platform cracking down on their activity, a number of Groyper content creators remain active on TikTok.
Beyond simply reaching young people on the social media platforms they use, hate-promoting movements often seek to connect with young people by targeting their hobbies and interests.
To this end, underground music scenes -- particularly black metal -- have long been co-opted by groups seeking to promote hateful beliefs.
Video gaming culture has been a particularly potent medium for this kind of outreach. Popular streaming platforms like Twitch, DLive and Trovo, used primarily for video game streaming, have also been a digital home for far-right influencers. These same platforms allow streamers to monetize their content through the sales of subscriptions and advertisements, and have faced criticism for providing a lifeline to hate groups.
This has led to online features of popular video games like Minecraft, Roblox and Red Dead Redemption 2 being used as vehicles to target POC players, form extremist communities, and even recreate Islamophobic mass shootings.
Inoculating Students Against Hate
The new frontlines are the dinner table and the classroom. That is why the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has developed a practical guide aimed at helping students and faculty identify and intervene in harmful situations before hate becomes violent.
Confronting Hate in Canadian Schools, is based on the acclaimed Confronting White Nationalism toolkit, by the Western States Center in the US, with their permission. Confronting Hate in Canadian Schools looks at the problem through a Canadian lens, with Canadian examples, and provides real-world, practical steps that students, educators, administrators, parents, and community members can take when these issues arise. From the symbols, terms, and themes traded online, boosted by hate spreaders and repeated in our classrooms, the goal is to get tools into the hands of those who need it most -- and to empower youth to lead that fight.
Our online education portal with the toolkit and other resources will be launched soon.
If you’re an educator or staff member and interested in learning more about our new toolkit, reach out to us at [email protected].