The rise of the anti-Muslim far-right in the West is something even Canada, host to over 1 million Muslims, is experiencing.The Canadian statistical agency, Statistics Canada, found that there was an increase of reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada from 2014 to 2015, from 99 incidents to 159, an increase of 60 percent. The agency also found that hate crimes against Catholics also rose by more than 33 percent; however Jews remain the most persecuted religious group in the country, making up nearly half of all victims.
The membership numbers of far-right groups in Canada might not be skyrocketing but they are steadily increasing nonetheless. While being accused of being Neo-Nazis and neo-Fascists, they do not in fact fly swastika banners, perform the Roman salute in rallies or do much of anything that would fall under the category of something like ‘white supremacist’ activity, they do, however, hold a very hard stance against Islam.
Much like Geert Wilders in The Netherlands, they are critical of Islam, saying that it does not comply with Western values. They are in-fact more radical than the civic nationalist Marine Le Pen and her Front National in France.
While there are currently no viable political parties in Canada which threaten the establishment like the Front National or Wilders’ Party for Freedom, they do have some public and online presence. While the situation in Canada might sound like it’s increasingly volatile, the numbers say that such activities in Europe and the United States are much, much more widespread both online and with boots on the ground.
Tattooed and wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with a wolf paw, Patrick Beaudry admits being in the second year of a political movement “that is perhaps more radical” than others. La Meute, a far-right group in Quebec of which Patrick Beaudry is a founder, does not promote extremist or racist views, he insists.
La Meute is not a lone actor in Quebec. Other groups seeking independence or opposing immigration include the Federation of Native Quebecers (FQS). They are all close or affiliated to the far-right. Engaged by issues such as secularism or the veiling of Muslim women, they are no longer shy to speak out to try and influence political debate.
“Until very recently, these extreme right-wing groups refused to be part of political debates and public discourse,” said Aurelie Campana, a far-right specialist in Canada, and a professor at Laval University in Quebec City.
“Many associate the extreme right with racism and, to say racist is to be stigmatized. These groups want to be seen as legitimate,” Campana added.
Tensions, however, have run high. Last fall, 50 far right sympathizers protested outside the Quebec legislature waving placards that read: “Death to Terrorists, Islam out.”
And in March, nearly 200 demonstrated against a motion in Canada’s parliament condemning Islamophobia. The motion was adopted after a shooting rampage at a mosque in Quebec City killed six worshippers. The far right quickly distanced itself from the action of the young attacker.
In June of 2016, a pig’s head was left at the mosque’s door with a note reading “Bon appetit” during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. Identical actions have occurred outside various mosques throughout Europe. Some nationalist charity groups in the winters of the past two years have given out hot soup to their homeless fellow citizens, albeit they intentionally put pork in the food so that Muslims can’t have any.
An immigrant-advocacy group attempted to link the shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, with figures such as American President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and FN leader Marine Le Pen.
The far-right groups in Canada have taken a firm stand against immigration, seizing on problems arising from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s welcoming of 40,000 Syrian refugees.
“Extreme right-wing groups in Quebec have a number of objectives,” said Maxime Fiset, a former FQS member.
They are “anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist or neo-fascist,” and see secularism as a means to combat radical Islam, he said.
La Meute and its contemporaries hope to make a breakthrough in next year’s elections in the French-speaking province where liberals now rule. Horizon Quebec Actuel, another party affiliated with France’s National Front, contested a by-election in late May in Montreal. Its campaign posters featured the split image of a young woman wearing a blue bonnet on one side and a black veil (niqab) on the other.