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New Brunswick professor says far right used trucker convoy as an opportunity

Click to play video: 'N.B. professor studying extremism looks at recent Ottawa protest against COVID-19 restrictions'
N.B. professor studying extremism looks at recent Ottawa protest against COVID-19 restrictions
A University of New Brunswick professor who studies extremist movements says the trucker convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions was an opportunity for some people to latch onto a cause. David Hofmann says while some of what we've seen this weekend is troubling, there's another silent level to extremism that is far more dangerous. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Feb 1, 2022

A University of New Brunswick associate professor who studies extremists and extremism in Canada says the minority actors who took part in the trucker convoy that descended on Ottawa used it as an opportunity.

The trucker convoy, which originally protested vaccine mandates for truckers, had moments that shocked many Canadians including disrespecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Nazi symbols and turning the Canadian flag upside down.

David Hofmann said latching on to these movements is opportunistic.

“What has happened here is the far right, the far right elements in Canada, essentially are opportunist,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “They seized upon and used the visibility of this movement to essentially to rabble-rouse, to spread messaging of hate, and essentially steal the pulpit.

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“It is no longer about the truckers. As misguided as their anti-vax views are it was wrestled away from them by these extremist elements.”

He said this is done with purpose.

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The central ideology around both the trucker convoy and the far right share things in common, he said.

“I’m not saying all anti-vaxxers are far right and I’m not saying all far-right actors are anti-vaxxers, there is an intersection between the two,” he said. “But essentially they are both about anti-authority and (anti-governmental) stances.”

Many within the trucker convoy carried profanity-laced flags calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be removed from office.

Some politicians, though, did show support for the convoy, including People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

For Hofmann, that lends legitimacy to the far right clinging on to the convoy. He called the support the “absolute wrong choice.”

“When the establishment legitimizes these types of worldviews, the moral and behavioural barriers to engage in these types of reprehensible behaviours becomes loosened,” he said on Tuesday.

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“Even remaining silent would have been better than addressing them.”

Hofmann said while it’s too hard to say whether events like the truckers convoy might become more common, even with continuing COVID-19 restrictions, there is a faction of the far right to be more concerned about.

“My greater concern, though, is the movements we don’t see and don’t hear about — those are the truly dangerous ones. These folks are the rabble-rousers, they are trying to use their language to red pill, to wake people up,” he said.

“The vast majority of them engage in reprehensible behaviour but don’t pose a violent threat to Canadians and Canadians’ public security.”

He said the ones who are doing these kinds of things in secret are the real problem.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to meet with any organizers involved in the trucker convoy and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has asked politicians to speak out against the continued protests.

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Ford says ‘it’s time’ to let Ottawa residents ‘get back to their lives’'
Trucker protests: Ford says ‘it’s time’ to let Ottawa residents ‘get back to their lives’

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