Denouncing Hate and the Groups that Perpetuate It

Watching the past four years culminate in the Trump-incited riot on Jan 6 in the United States, I am turning my gaze to Canada and Alberta. Over the past few years, we have seen the much more public emergence and growth of similar groups across our country, notably in Alberta and Ontario. We see these groups show up in numbers in gatherings and protests against things such as masks, COVID restrictions, and BLM. We hear from both federal and provincial conservatives the same language used by Trump in statements, on mainstream and social media, and in everyday conversations with citizens. This is greatly concerning given we’ve seen where this type of behaviour leads.

Starting at the provincial level in Alberta

I do not see the UCP government denouncing these people and standing against the hate and conspiracy theories they spew. If anything, I see encouragement (silence or weak language is acceptance) and stoking the anger and unrest with a never-ending victim narrative against PM Justin Trudeau; near-conspiracy theory on a foreign, pro-environment bogeyman impacting Oil and Gas (when really it’s global business trends); and railing against anyone who wants taxpayer dollars to be used to strengthen public education, healthcare, and supports for our most vulnerable.The UCP continue to be part of the problem as is clearly evident with:

  • Members of the UCP posing for pictures with Soldiers of Odin (known White Supremacists) during the last election
  • Premier Kenney dragging his feet on firing Paul Bunner once reports emerged of his racist writings
  • Minister LaGrange allowing Chris Champion to continue to act as an advisor on school curriculum despite his characterization of the inclusion of First Nations perspectives as a fad, and casting doubt that children suffered in residential schools
  • The inclusion of Devin Dreeshen as Minister of Agriculture who is a very public MAGA-supporter (do a quick search on how he’s engaging with Albertans on Twitter)
  • Support from the government every time an anti-mask/anti-restrictions/anti-PM Trudeau rally occurs in Edmonton or Calgary where you say it’s their right and ask them to adhere to health guidelines (which they clearly don’t do)
  • Silence from the government on the pro-Trump rally in Red Deer on Jan 6
  • Premier Kenney in pictures with Keean Bexte (whose Twitter feed tells you everything you need to know)
  • Premier Kenney in pictures with Ted Cruz (who tried to cast doubt on and overturn America’s presidential election)
  • Premier Kenney’s blaming of the South Asian community for the rise in Covid cases in Calgary
  • Premier Kenney’s constant cries that PM Trudeau is to blame for Alberta’s woes (when in fact, this province wouldn’t be here if the PM hadn’t bought a pipeline or made hundreds of millions of relief dollars available for Albertans)

Looking more broadly at the federal level

Members of the Conservative Party of Canada – including leader Erin O’Toole, Michelle Rempel, Derek Sloan, Pierre Poilievre, Andrew Scheer, and Candace Bergen – employ language and rhetoric to encourage and stoke the same anger and unrest in our country. Phrases like “Take Canada Back” and “Canada First” are similar to the slogans that Trump has broadcast to his base for years. The CPC’s constant attacks on the character of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; the air time that party members give to anti-vaxx and conspiracy theories; and hyperbolic criticism of the Liberal government trying to navigate a global pandemic by using taxpayer dollars to support Canadians and businesses who’ve faced financial ruin is shameful and embarrassing. So too, the Conservative Party of Canada needs to stop being part of this problem:

  • Erin O’Toole’s entire leadership campaign ran a very similar playbook to Trump in 2016
  • Candace Bergen standing up on social media as a proud MAGA supporter
  • The CPC’s irresponsible claim that PM Trudeau is moving to rig the next Canadian election
  • Party insiders pushing conspiracy theories that the insurrectionists in the United States were actually members of Antifa
  • Members of the CPC – including Erin O’Toole’s – active participation on the social media platform, Parler, which is an echo chamber for alt-right narratives of hate and misinformation including racism, misogyny, white supremacy, anti-LGBTQ2+, anti-Semitism, anti-vaccine, and conspiracy theories
  • Derek Sloan supporting an anti-vaccine petition regarding the COVID-19 vaccines
  • Andrew Scheer’s public support for those in the Yellow Vest movement
  • The CPC’s support and endorsement of Post Millennial, True North, and Rebel Media
All of this breeds contempt for others and gives license for members of these groups to act in bolder and more aggressive ways. These people and those who disseminate conspiracy theories are not very fine people, patriots, or a “handful of kooks” as Jason Kenney put it. They are spreading dissent and hatred against the people and institutions of Canada and are gaining more followers as each day passes.

Which leads me to conclude

Leaders and members of federal and provincial conservative parties have not done enough. Provincially, the UCP talks about wanting to re-earn the respect and trust of Albertans. Federally, the CPC asserts it wants to stand up for Canadians and protect our country, and proclaims it most closely represent our country’s citizens (certainly someone saw the irony and hypocrisy of Mr. Poilievre proclaiming 2021 as “the year of the worker” followed by attacking the money we’ve spent to support them).

To this I say: show Albertans and Canadians you mean what you say by standing up for what’s right. You don’t want members of hate and conspiracy-theory groups as supporters – they want to tear apart our country, provinces, and institutions – and courting them (even passively) tells me you support doing the same.

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