The aftermath of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., continues to be felt in the United States and here in Canada. Since the tragedy took place, events for several white nationalist rallies have popped up across the country.
In Vancouver, a rally set for Saturday called the “WCAI Canada/CAP rally” was posted on Facebook by right-wing media group “ProperGander Promotions,” and lists speakers from several anti-immigrant groups. This prompted a counter rally, organized by an ad-hoc group calling itself Stand Up to Racism Metro Van.
On Sept. 14, the Canadian Nationalist Party is holding an event in Toronto to “discuss the nationalist movement in Canada and the future of our country,” according to a Facebook post. The post says the rally will be held at the University of Toronto, but the campus has denied this.
“There are several of these rallies planned for Toronto and one in Calgary too,” Barbara Perry, a University of Ontario Institute of Technology professor who studies hate crimes.
“These alt-right rallies are going to be springing up more and more in Canada.”
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After the white nationalists marched in Charlottesville over the weekend, Perry said it sounded like it was a call to arms. Ex-KKK leader David Duke said the rally was a “turning point” for the movement. That messaging was heard all the way in Canada.
“We like to believe as Canadians this does not happen here… but the pendulum is swinging,” Michael Bach, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion said.
He said since Donald Trump took the presidency in January, and even during his campaign, there has been a rise of hate crime in Canada.
This reality wasn’t lost on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In a tweet Sunday afternoon, he the prime minister condemned the violence in Charlottesville and offered Canada’s support. But he also reminded Canadians that our country is not immune to racism.
Changing language, look of white nationalists
Right-wing extremism is nothing new in Canada. The Ku Klux Klan has been present in many provinces since the 1920s and the Heritage Front was once Canada’s most influential white supremacist organization in the 1990s.
There are now more than 100 white nationalists groups in Canada and it’s on the rise, Perry said. However, there has been a changing look in the language and appearance of people in these white nationalist groups.
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“There is a bit of a demographic change in the alt-right movement. It’s more sanitized, more coded language and more professional,” she said. “They are not talking about racism but they are talking about themselves…the need to preserve their culture.”
These groups also appear to be changing their look and wearing more polo t-shirts and khaki shorts, she said. “They have created a new uniform in terms of presentation, it looks quite preppy now, like frat boys.”
Perry compared this shift to the early 1980s when ex-KKK leader David Duke attempted to professionalize the organization, trading robes in for business suits and actively pursuing legitimate political power to advance a white supremacist agenda.
Despite the shift in tone and looks from these groups, the idea is still the same.
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“The underlying message is still racist. It’s about anti-immigration, the dissolution of white European Christian culture and a loss of privilege and power,” Perry said.
Canada is not immune to racism, but Bach believes the number of people who claim to be white nationalists is still far and few between here.
“In the U.S. it is less so… but they are the fringe here,” he said.