Thousands of people gathered on Sunday October 15 at Queens Park in Toronto to protest the rise of White Supremacy across Canada. Though this demonstration was followed by the passage of Bill 62 in Quebec and the Prime Minister's refusal to challenge it. Canadian Muslims are increasingly feeling uncertain about their rights in Canada.
Members of the Muslim community among others are feeling like terrorism charges are being reserved for Muslims and that the security forces are normalizing this. Canadian writer and activist Farheen Khan recounts a summer session with the RCMP, "Earlier this summer a number of "Muslim women leaders" including myself were invited to a "Awareness session" with the RCMP to discuss "deradicalization" within the Muslim community. My concern as an attendee was the emphasis that was being placed on Muslim radicalization. The notion of right wing extremism emerging in Canada was quickly dismissed by saying that it is "an emerging threat", but what's really important is that Muslim radicalization be addressed. When I brought up the issue of the mosque shooting in Quebec city, again, I was told that this wasn't really an act of terrorism, although the Prime Minister used that language. The current criminal code as it stands does not identify this was a terrorist act and therefore it is outside the scope of the RCMP's work."
The march in Charlottesville unmasked Canadian connections to White Supremacy and a growing trend of public organizing and infiltration (or being welcomed into) political spaces by white supremacists to spread hate here in Canada. Unclassified CSIS documents note that " extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideology has been the "main ideological source" for 17 per cent of so-called lone wolf attacks worldwide" .
Rebel Media's Faith Goldy, recently fired by Rebel, went to Charlottesville to march with hatemongers there. Alberta UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer called out Rebel Media and accused them "defending Neo-Nazis". He also called on other leadership candidates Jason Kenney and Brian Jean to speak out about this. The latter, according to Press Progress, had hired Rebel Media co-founder to be his campaign manager.
CSIS infiltrator into white supremacist groups, Grant Bristow, was responsible for helping to address a variety of threats and help "weakening of some racist efforts against Jewish groups, anti-racist and minority groups" has expressed concerns around what he is seeing today as being remincent of the the growth of white supremacy in the 80's. CSIS's own reports talk about increasing Domestic Extremism via online sites spouting anti-Islam rhetoric.
Bristow's fears are becoming all too evident on social media platforms such as Facebook where White Supremacist rallies are being organized under the guise of various platforms, most recently Anti-Trudeauism. Canadian journalists and concerned citizens have begun publicly tracking this growing extremism in the country.
More disturbing, is the lack of a clear public message and/or explicit strategy by the government to address this. Understandably, this is leading to increased fear amongst many racialized and Indigenous communities, and what led to the organizing of the October 15th protest in downtown Toronto .
According to Walied Khogali, co-founder of the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia "the government is comfortable leaving laws that target Muslims and creating 'radicalization' training that focuses only on Muslims, Black people continue to be killed by law enforcement but there is virtually nothing and almost no mention of the rising hatred and growing violence associated with White Supremacy in Canada.
Barbara Perry, one of the few researchers to study these hate groups has tracked over 100 of these groups across Canada with increasing reach because of the internet. In commenting about the new "alt-right" movements cropping up, she noted that these are the same type of white nationalist groups that carry Anti-Semetic and homophobic ideologies, just better packaged.
Recently, Canada saw a new armed militia - the III% (3%), Canada's armed, anti-Islam, patriotic group. A recent exposé on the group says that they are armed and ready for action on Canadian soil.
The Canadian government continues to vilify the Muslim community through both the Ministry of Public Safety and through the work of the Intelligence communities like the RCMP as recently revealed in a Toronto Star article - these groups are not facing the same scrutiny or any type of legislative focus. In the meantime, groups like the Sons of Odin continue to patrol Muslim predominant neighbourhoods.
All of this sends a very clear message - some Canadians are not as equally Canadian as others. As white supremacists continue to organize their hate using "free speech" as their banner, this is taking a toll on the mental health, well-being and safety of Indigenous, Black and racialized communities and on Canadian society as a whole.
Canadians have begun mobilizing across the country as seen in Vancouver and London, Ontario, recently and now in other cities such as, Winnipeg and Toronto . Our politicians, much like Vancouver Mayor George Robertson did, must decide which side of history they want to stand on. It is time for the Canadian government, politicians of all stripes and law enforcement to begin clearly articulating an explicit strategy about the rising hate being perpetuated by white supremacists across this country.
The Conservative party needs to distance itself from groups that perpetuate hate against Muslims and/or those that support white supremacy and hate. Politics on the right should not equate to hatred and racism. The government needs to articulate an explicit strategy and security arms of the government such as CSIS and the RCMP must acknowledge the threat to society that white supremacist hate groups pose. Charlottesville proved that.
We made a commitment after the holocaust by the Nazis for this to happen "never again" except it seems to be happening again - here in Canada. There is hope though, people are organizing and will not be silent. Let's hope our politicians follow suit before it's too late.