Picture of Trump rioters outside the US Capitol.C/O Carol Guzy

The recent capitol riots, the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacist sentiments are present in our own backyards

By: Ruchika Gothoskar, Contributor

CW: white supremacy

On Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of United States President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol, claiming that the latest federal election was stolen from them, rioting loudly and violently against Trump’s imminent defeat. As police officers responded (with little to no urgency) and rioters broke windows and came fully armed, the online maelstrom was just beginning. 

Social media was awash with Canadians glued to their televisions and refreshing their feeds, only to move on from the incident days later, having learned little about the insidious nature of white supremacist organizing. The general sentiment among many Canadians tends to be relief; contentment with the idea that, well, stuff like that just doesn’t happen here

But the stark reality is that this “stuff,” meaning violent racism, white supremacist beliefs and outrageous conspiracy theory-driven drivel not only exists in Canada, but thrives and originates here. 

One well-known white supremacist group that was central to much of the action at the Capitol in Washington was the Proud Boys. Founded by Canadian Gavin McInnes, the Chilliwack Progress writes that the Proud Boys are a right-wing group that is misogynistic and increasingly connected to white supremacist ideals.

Facebook and Instagram banned the Proud Boys in October 2018 for violating their hate policies and Trump famously declined to condemn the Proud Boys during a U.S. presidential debate with Joe Biden in September 2020. Instead, he told the group to “stand back and stand by,” even after malicious hate-fuelled tirades by the group and its supporters. 

But the stark reality is that this “stuff,” meaning violent racism, white supremacist beliefs and outrageous conspiracy theory-driven drivel not only exists in Canada, but thrives and originates here. 

Present amongst the rioters at the capitol were many folks who identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys; a group with roots that are unequivocally Canadian.

Trumpism also isn’t something reserved for those in the US, with pro-Trump sentiment and subsequent racist and white supremacist thought and actions seeping into Canada. Alberta Minister of Forestry and Agriculture Devin Dreeshen proudly attended a Trump rally, sporting the infamous “Make America Great Again” hat and even campaigned for Trump in multiple states back in 2016. 

During the storming of the Capitol, a pro-Trump convoy took up close to three city blocks in Toronto, honking and proclaiming that they were trying to “Stop the Steal,” referencing the apparently stolen election. 

While such violent groups with such polarizing beliefs may seem distant even still, the truth is that pro-police, anti-government, white supremacist movements are alive and well in Canadian cities.

This summer, the destruction of Sipkne’katik First Nation lobster storage sites on the east coast was proof of continued violence against racialized peoples in Canada, as commercial fishermen incited violence against Indigenous fishermen while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reportedly did nothing to help.

During the storming of the Capitol, a pro-Trump convoy took up close to three city blocks in Toronto, honking and proclaiming that they were trying to “Stop the Steal,” referencing the apparently stolen election. 

Similarly, RCMP violently raided Wet’suwet’en blockades in British Columbia, the Ontario Provincial Police tore down 1492 Land Back Lane land reclamation camps in Caledonia, and in our very own #HamOnt, 2019 Pride events were interrupted by “hateful protests” led by yellow vest protestors who were fuelled by white nationalist sentiment. 

Our innocent little city of Hamilton has some reckoning to do with the part it plays in white supremacist insurgence. Paul Fromm, a self-described white nationalist, was permitted to run for mayor in Hamilton, even after losing a mayoral race in Mississauga the year earlier, due largely to his pro-white, anti-immigration rhetoric. 

Executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network Evan Balgord cites that the neo-Nazi movement is aligning itself with so-called free-speech events or “men’s rights” events, which are increasingly popular on university and college campuses. This is something we’ve seen attempted at McMaster University, in our own Clubs department, too.

The reality is that Canadians don’t have room to be sanctimonious in the face of violence. Rather than painting our country as the place of harmonious maple syrup dreams and socialized health care, we need to come to terms with the ways white supremacy and racial injustice has become so deeply ingrained in our daily lives.

Rather than ignoring the signs of growing tensions, police brutality and the role that policing plays in encouraging and fostering anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and white supremacist sentiment, Canadians need to start taking an active role in advocating for anti-racism and anti-fascist policies and movements.

It is not enough to just claim that we are better without doing any of the hard work. It is high time that we come face to face with the extremism in our own backyards and address the ways white supremacist organizing has, and will continue to hurt Black, Indigenous and racialized Canadians if not dealt with headfirst in the coming months and years.

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