Photo Credit: From top right: COLE BURSTON /Bloomberg; CARLOS OSORIO/ Reuters; CARLOS OSORIO/ Reuters; Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press; CARLOS OSORIO/ Reuters; CARLOS OSORIO/ Reuters;CARLOS OSORIO/ Reuters

What Kind of Canada Do You Want?

Death threats, racial slurs, and misogynistic goons greet candidates on the campaign trail

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The election and vaccine mandates have brought shadowy groups into the public spotlight.

It’s okay to not like politicians. In Canada, complaining about politicians is basically a national sport.

In fact, it’s your right as a person in this country to think that a politician is full of crap.

You might think Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau is all fluff because he loves photo ops and sound bites.

You may think People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is all about conspiracies, with his anti-mask, anti-lockdowns, and anti-vaccine COVID views.

You may think Conservative leader Erin O’Toole does a lot of flip-flopping or has worrying ideas about big guns.

The question is, if you really don’t like these guys, what can you do?

You can protest. Protesting is such an important part of our democratic process.

And in an election campaign, you have every right to show up to a town hall with a big sign and a bunch of embarrassing questions for the candidates.

That’s what freedom looks like. That’s what democracy looks like. It can get messy. People disagree—sometimes very loudly.

But a small group of Canadians aren’t satisfied with this sort of civil protest. Instead, they’re trying to use threats and intimidation to undermine the election.

Instead of civil protest, these anti-mask, anti-vax goons are hurling racist and sexist slurs at police, politicians, and their staff. Sometimes they’re even uttering death threats.

That’s unacceptable. Hell, uttering death threats is illegal.

Something has changed, and not in a good way

Canadians have always had their favourite political parties. But the hatred toward the ones they don’t like has gone up. And not just a little.

Evan Balgord is the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. He agrees. He told the Hill Times that he couldn’t think of another election campaign like this one. He said that in this election, the protests are based on “misinformation, very raw hatred” and “vitriol.”

These attacks certainly seem to be multiplying.

There’s the loud angry mob of rock-throwing conspiracy theorists at Trudeau rallies.

And the racist threats hurled at Green Party leader Annamie Paul and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

That one guy broke an egg on Maxime Bernier’s head.

So far the only one who doesn’t appear to have been bullied on the campaign is the Conservative Party’s, Erin O’Toole…

These attacks show that American Trump-style tactics can happen in Canada, too.

Unfortunately, these uncivil protestors are taking Canada’s democratic process in a dangerous direction.

It’s sickening to watch.

COVID brings out shadowy groups

Yasir Naqvi, the Liberal candidate from Ottawa Centre, told the Hill Times, “it’s not just the targeting of political leaders and candidates, but of campaign workers, law enforcement, and professional media who are targeted because of their ethnicity or their gender.”

“We, as Canadians, tend to think we are immune from these kinds of things,” said Naqvi.

But these actions aren’t just one-offs. They’re all being organized online on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and fringe websites like Iron March, Fascist Forge, 4chan, and Gab.

Last year, a report from the federal committee, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, warned that the policies to keep Canadians safe from COVID could “lead some to radicalize online.”

By policies, they mean lockdowns and vaccines. And their prediction came true.

Back in 2015, there were roughly 100 hate groups in Canada. Now there are more than 300.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, based in London England, tracks hate groups worldwide. They have identified 6,600 online, active alt-right channels in Canada.

6,600!

We might think this is surprising, but their report said that Canadians are “highly active” in hate groups, “even more…than users in the US and Britain.”

Until recently they were operating below the radar. No one was really paying attention to them.

But the election and vaccine passports have brought these fringe groups out of the shadows. Memes that were only shared on shady alt-right channels on are now written on posters at these election protests.

While most of these groups existed before COVID, fear around the pandemic has added fuel to the fire.

We know that not everyone who is out protesting masks, vaccines, and vaccine passports is an alt-right conspiracy theorist. They’re just not.

Some of them are frightened people who are worried about their health and about governments abusing their power.

They don’t know that the protests are being organized by people linked to alt-right fringe groups. They don’t know that these groups are using the COVID conspiracy as a Trojan horse to get media attention and build support for themselves.

But they are willing to go out and protest with those groups. That’s what’s troubling.

“There’s the far right, who are people who may not express racist beliefs or hateful beliefs themselves, but they will hang out in a room with other people doing it,” said Balgrod.

“And really, what motivates them is the hatred of their perceived opposition… That might be the defining factor of what the far right is, is really a hatred of their perceived political enemies.”

In plain language, it’s not COVID these frightened people are protesting. They’re really mad at the people who they think are against them. In internet slang, they’re owning the libs.

“I’m not saying every person who is part of the COVID conspiracy movement is racist—far from it—but they are willing to organize with and stand next to those people,” Balgord told the Hill Times.

It seems un-Canadian

As Canadians, we generally don’t care if someone is right or left. We just know that there’s no place for that kind of hate and nastiness in Canada.

But that’s how this fringe mob works. They don’t have useful ideas about the kind of Canada they want to live in. So they use conspiracy theories to get attention and make people upset.

That’s the kind of thing we normally see on CNN, not CBC.

And behind their toxic smokescreen, they funnel their anger and hate into racism, sexism, and violence.

We live in a democracy. That means sometimes we need to be okay with protestors pulling stunts to get their point across.

But when those stunts get violent, and when they threaten people’s lives, we better start paying attention.

Thankfully, most Canadians are above these bully tactics. Let’s keep it that way.

What kind of Canada do you want?

Not that one, we hope.

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