By Peter Smith and Sébastien Roback
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Source: Joey Coleman
The statue of former Prime Minister John A Macdonald in downtown Hamilton was draped in a black tarp by protesters over the weekend. On Monday, National Indigenous Peoples Day, four men gathered to attempt to remove the shroud.
Things did not go as planned.
Since the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in an unmarked grave in Kamloops, British Columbia, monuments honouring Canada’s first Prime Minister have become the subject of heated debate, with Indigenous groups and allies advocating for them to be covered up or taken down.
Macdonald was one of the primary architects of the residential school system. In 2015, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission deemed the system a cultural genocide.
The four men who arrived on the scene are associated with a small collective using the always popular group name Canada First. Tyler Russell, photographed on scene in a floral print shirt and red “Canada First'' baseball hat, organized the action, according to sources. Russell is the host of a live stream bearing the same name.
“Four young men attempted to climb the Sir John A Macdonald statue to remove the tarp. One of them fell, breaking their arm,” wrote Joey Coleman on Twitter, an independent journalist with The Public Record. “Members of Hamilton's historical community were present trying to convince the men to not remove the tarp.”
Coleman told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network that the man’s “left arm was definitely broken,” and they transported themselves to the hospital.
Russell has not made any updates to his social media about the incident and has deleted several tweets that disparage Indigenous peoples, including one calling them “animals.”
Tyler Russell (left) pictured with other members of the protest. Source: Joey Coleman
The man reportedly injured has been identified by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as Richard Carmichael. Carmichael is an undergraduate student at McMaster University who tried and failed to bring the white nationalist Macdonald Society to campus in 2019. In 2020 he was elected to the executive committee of the McMaster Conservatives alongside his friend, former Iron March forum member Tyler Blair.
Russell borrows his program’s name and aesthetic from white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ web show America First, but with a distinctly Canadian flavour. His northern caricature of Fuentes managed to net him a large amount of opposition at Toronto’s Ryerson University in 2020, including the creation of a petition to remove him.
Despite his efforts, and his father’s efforts to manage his media career, Russell remains largely obscure as he tries to build a name for himself using another man’s brand. Like America First, Russell regularly trades in overt racism and antisemitism. Recent episodes of his program discuss what he calls “The Indian Question.”
This is an obvious Canadian take on the “Jewish Question,” a reference to the Nazi regime’s policies and a popular phrase -- sometimes referred to as the JQ -- in white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles. Its usage infers that Indigenous peoples must be removed from Canada.
“After what I’ve seen today, I’m ready for some war,” he told his meagre but active following after the statue of Egerton Ryerson was torn down outside of Russell’s former university.
“We are going to be covering the IQ, the Indian Question, because it’s about time that we called out what this type of animalistic behaviour is, which is terrorism, okay? These are Indian terrorists, feather not dots, that are running around Canada, intimidating and inciting violence for political gain.”
He later adds in the same monologue, “These Indians are terrorists just like the Black people in Black Lives Matter,” and that Indigenous peoples “deserve to be locked up in cages.”
Members of this version of Canada First self-identify as “Groypers,” an attempt at rebranding the alt-right’s specific blend of historical revisionism (including Holocaust denial) and white nationalism for people born in and after the 1990s. Like Fuentes, Russell bills himself a "paleoconservative," and frequently utters talking points associated with the alt-right neo-Nazi movement.
Russell's aesthetic, from the suits he wears to the greenscreen background he uses for his show, mirror much of Fuentes' style. For all intents and purposes, it seems Russell is attempting to copy his counterpart's formula, with limited success. Fuentes currently counts over 130,000 followers on Twitter, whereas Russell's follower count is in the hundreds.
Russell and his supporters are set to visit Ottawa on June 30 for CFPAC, an event modelled after a white nationalist conference organized by Fuentes in Florida in February 2020.
They are also expected to participate in a far-right rally on Parliament Hill on Canada Day, a day later.
Tyler Russell and Richard Carmichael did not return immediate requests for comment. We will update accordingly.
With files from Hazel Woodrow and Étienne Quintal.