Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A crowd-funded convoy, ostensibly fighting against a mandate for truckers to be vaccinated, has raised over $6 million dollars. Its two GoFundMe organizers are previously known figures in Canada’s far-right ecosystem and have publicly made Islamophobic comments. Its loudest promoter, Pat King, is a racist who has tried to incite his audience to violence more times than you can count. (He’s so bad for their public image that the other organizers have even tried to put some distance between them.)
Some convoy supporters, like the Diagolon network, are even saying that they want this to be Canada’s very own January 6th, referring to the attempted insurrection in Washington, DC that led to multiple deaths and widespread arrests. Diagolon is an accelerationist movement, which means they believe a revolution is inevitable and necessary to collapse the current system. It’s also rife with neo-Nazis.
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Since the start of the pandemic, COVID conspiracies have been bringing various fringe and far-right elements together. The close connections between the People’s Party of Canada, the young white supremacists of Canada First, and the Diagolon network is one example. This convoy is another.
The mainstream media has been very slow to report on the far-right connections, just like they were in 2019, when the far-right had their much smaller “United We Roll” convoy. Most have given them uncritical coverage, using their language, and calling it a “freedom convoy.”
Now, arriving from different corners of Canada, the fleet of semi-trucks, half tonne pickups, SUVs and more than a few sedans is on its way to Parliament Hill. Many of their supporters swear this isn’t about the far-right, and even, bizarrely, that they aren’t anti-vaccine. Most of them probably believe it, too. But the organizers behind the convoy, and where it emerged from, paint a very different picture.
United We Roll 2.0
The convoy draws apt comparisons to a similar, albeit less funded, protest movement held in 2019: the “United We Roll” convoy. Organized primarily by associates of the Canadian Yellow Vest movement, UWR painted a narrative of disenfranchised oil and gas workers riding their rigs cross country to force a detached and distant Ottawa to listen.
Yellow Vests Canada was largely founded by individuals already associated with Canada’s far-right, which at the time was primarily united by anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia. Excited by the protests held by France’s Mouvement des gilets jaunes, they copied the signature uniform, name, and adopted new grievances that would get them a much larger audience. They said they were for oil and gas, and that they represented Western alienation from a distant, Liberal, Ottawa. But the Facebook groups were also full of hundreds of examples of explicit anti-Muslim racism and calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrest and execution – a theme that remains present among COVID-conspiracy demonstrations.
By the time United We Roll arrived in Ottawa, media had started to catch on. Neo-Nazi Faith Goldy spoke on a second stage. The anti-Muslim hate group Northern Guard were spotted in attendance. Christopher Hayes, who was previously convicted of uttering threats against Justin Trudeau – and who has a history of membership in Islamophobic hate groups – was also there. Ultimately, UWR was a bust, with far fewer vehicles showing up than promised, and only a few hundred participants. Demoralized, the Yellow Vests Canada movement started to die out, although some holdouts kept smaller demonstrations going for months.
The leadup to the 2022 “Freedom Convoy” is extremely similar to the leadup to UWR, and it shares many of the same organizers and participants. They’re even reusing UWR promotional materials. Except this time they have the weight of the COVID conspiracy movement behind them, and $6 million dollars. Let’s dive into this new convoy’s most public figures.
The Money Collectors
Tamara Lich and B.J. Dichter, neither of whom are truck drivers, are currently listed as the organizers of the GoFundMe page. Dichter was a late addition, only added this week.
Both have interesting histories when it comes to political organizing.
Lich, born in Saskatchewan, now hails from Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she served as an organizer for Yellow Vests Canada, a regional coordinator for the separatist Western Exit or “Wexit” movement in Alberta, and now as the secretary for the Maverick Party – another separatist movement and fringe political party.
Attending and boosting Yellow Vest events starting in 2018, Lich social media posts from the time show her, in one moment, calling out some hateful rhetoric within the movement, while also posting Islamophobic articles of her own, like conspiracies about the “Muslim Brotherhood” operating in Canada. She shared posts from The Clarion Project – “an organization that advances anti-Muslim content through its web-based and video production platforms” – as well as the deeply conspiratorial and, once again, anti-Islamic podcast The Quiggin Report, hosted by dubious security “expert” Tom Quiggin.
Lich heavily promoted Quiggin’s 2019 “Alberta tour” saying it was an “absolute honour to have hosted” him during his stay in Medicine Hat.
Tamara Lich pictured with Tom Quiggin. Source: Facebook
“The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is now just like the Liberal Party or the NDP. They are suffering from political entryism,” Quiggin said in an episode criticizing Member of Provincial Parliament Khalid Rasheed, a Muslim man. “They have members in their party who are … there to advance the cause of a foreign ideology. So either Progressive Conservative Party takes a very hard look at itself now or faces a future where extremism becomes normalized within the party.”
Lich shared the episode with the comment, “Canadians, are you paying attention yet? … We do not want the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada.”
Scrutiny of the convoy has increased, which according to the Canadian Press, briefly resulted in the crowdsourcing website freezing donations. Shortly thereafter, one-time Conservative Party of Canada candidate, People’s Party of Canada booster, and co-founder of the podcast network Possibly Correct, Benjamin “BJ” Dichter appeared as a co-organizer on the GoFundMe page.
Dichter’s website shares The Quiggin Report, and Dichter himself shares similar Islamophobic sentiments in public. In 2019 he claimed that “Islamist entryism” is “rotting away at our society like syphilis.”
Benjamin Dichter giving a speech at a People’s Party of Canada conference in Quebec. Source: YouTube
“[The Conservative Party of Canada] is suffering from the stench of cultural relativism and political Islam,” he said during the first PPC conference held in Gatineau, Quebec. “It is suffering from the stench of extremism that same way in third-world countries suffer from extremist groups, separatist groups, communist guerrilla factions, paramilitaries, organized crime, and more.”
Pat King Is So Toxic He’s (Sort Of) Disavowed
Patrick King – another former Yellow Vester, one-time major figure in the Wexit movement as well as United We Roll – is listed as the contact to join the “Alberta North” portion of the convoy. A conspiracy theorist and streamer, King made headlines when he and supporters confronted members of an anti-racist rally in Red Deer, Alberta. Several instances of violence occurred during this event, including against an individual who attempted to serve King with a restraining order.
“Black Lives Matter and Antifa are planning a huge rally to disrupt our community [sic]," he said at the time. "Help support us to help drive out these left-wing anarchists that are trying to disrupt communities and trying to threaten people."
He also drew attention after a wild misinterpretation of court documents led to him claiming he forced Alberta to abandon its public health lockdowns.
In the past King has gone on record about his feelings about the “Anglo-Saxon replacement,” that plans to “flood [Canada] with refugees,” and subvert the education system -- a thin rebranding of the great replacement theory touted by ethnonationalists.
At other points, King has expressed overtly racist and antisemitic statements. In a 2019 stream about the then-upcoming federal election King complained that he had to leave the movement due to their lack of success: “[The election] won’t matter…unless you want to change your national language to Chinese or Mandarin or Hebrew,” and going on to compare Chinese names to the sound of change falling down stairs.
He’s publicly distorted established facts about the Holocaust – a form of Holocaust denial – saying, “I do know that the Holocaust [sic] was reduced to 1.5 million and not the 6 million that it was said to be.” He then invoked the antisemitic conspiracy theory that the Jewish people are secretly in control of world governance, media, and finances: “The questions have been asked several times to the ADL and the Jewish government and communities. We have Jewish world [bankers] who are dictating our government policies and controlling our Politicians.”
The Extremists Are Coming
Over the last week, King has made numerous livestreams to social media, frequently stating he is conducting his own crowdfunding for the trip and is not benefiting from the GoFundMe. King’s involvement led to some initial tension among those interested in supporting the convoy, but who were not enthused about what they perceived as potentially enriching King through the larger fundraiser. Among this group was Diagolon concept creator and far-right streamer Jeremy “Raging Dissident” MacKenzie.
Banned from several platforms, MacKenzie once told his audience to read a piece of neo-Nazi fiction called Day of the Rope. MacKenzie defends his endorsement by saying it’s about murdering pedophiles. In the book, all these pedophiles just so happen to be Jewish. The title of the book is taken straight from a chapter title in the infamous neo-Nazi novel The Turner Diaries, in which “race-traitors,” like people in interracial relationships, politicians, and journalists, are strung up on the streets. The novel is regularly found on mass murderer’s desks or bookshelves. “Gun or rope” is MacKenzie’s slogan.
While some participants swear it’s a peaceful convoy, MacKenzie’s antisemitic friend and fellow Diagolon streamer Derek Harrison is wishing for the opposite. "I would like to see our own January 6th event,” he says in a live stream, “see some of those truckers plow right through that 16-foot wall."
Since massive public attention has thrust the convoy into the spotlight, MacKenzie and many of his followers now plan to attend the Ottawa protest. However, MacKenzie had previously exited an organizing group on the chat app Telegram when he saw Pat King was involved.
MacKenzie is a retired combat veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces, and his animosity towards Pat King may be about stolen valour. King still faces accusations that he presented himself as a former military member, before later releasing a video where he appears to apologize for the claim.
The controversy around King resulted in a statement being released onto the fundraising page saying: “King is not and never has been affiliated with our movement nor has he been a part of our great team of volunteers.”
This update appears to have since been deleted, and King claimed in a later video that the statement was a public relations move because he was being attacked online. In a previous live stream, King also scrolled through a private Facebook chat titled “Convoy 2022” and appears to contain Lich, Canada Unity president James Bauder, and others discussing organizational details about the convoy. King remains listed as a contact on the Unity Canada website.
Truck Driver Associations Condemn The Convoy
Initially, the issue addressed by the convoy was narrowly focused on the vaccine mandates for truck drivers who would be required to cross the US-Canada border as part of their work.
“We talked to our members and they said we encourage our drivers not to participate, but you know, I feel like they just want to be heard and this is the way they’ve been doing it for years,” Jean-Marc Picard, executive director for the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, told CTV News during an interview.
Likewise, the Canadian Trucking Alliance issued a statement saying it does “not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges.” The CTA’s president also followed up more recently in a joint statement with the ministers of labour and transport.
“The Government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance both agree that vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians, and to protect public health,” it reads.
The CTA told the CBC, that the mandate could impact 12,000 to 16,000 Canadian commercial drivers – around 10 to 15 per cent of the industry’s cross-border drivers.
Tamara Lich and Benjamin “BJ” Dichter did not respond to requests for comment.