An Ontario police officer interviewed and promoted an “obvious and overt anti-Semite” vlogger on his YouTube show last week.
Constable Chris VandenBos is an active duty York Regional Police officer who has become well known in Canadian anti-lockdown circles for his vocal stance against COVID-19 regulations. He and other renegade police officers from Ontario teamed up with an anti-vax lawyer to challenge lockdown and masking regulations on a constitutional basis (similar constitutional challenges have failed in the past.) VandenBos has since started an anti-lockdown policing group called Police On Guard for Thee.
On the group’s YouTube page, VandenBos frequently interviews figures active in the anti-lockdown ecosystem. Last week, he invited a vlogger he simply described as "14-year Canadian Armed Forces veteran,” onto his show—but he failed to mention Jeremy Mackenzie’s history of anti-Semitism and ties to the far-right.
In audio archived on the Anti-Racist Canada site, Mackenzie can be heard describing the Nuremberg Trials as a “kangaroo court',' and saying Nazi war criminal Hermann Göring was killed because he made “too much sense.” In other recordings he promoted a immensely influential anti-Semitic text, and a guest he has on talks about “naming the Jew.” He also has a bit of a habit of promoting Holocaust deniers to his followers. Like many within the far-right, the vlogger coats his comments in a heavy veil of irony—for example, his small fan base, at times, call themselves “bigots” and he recently posted a photo of himself in a skull mask (a symbol of accelerationist neo-Nazis like Atomwaffen Division and the Base) which his followers then memed.
In a comment provided to VICE World News, Mackenzie said the accusations of being a racist or anti-Semitic arise from quotes that were taken out of context and he dressed as an accelerationist neo-Nazi for a joke. He pointed to several posts on social media pages where he denounces his openly racist followers and makes fun of hardline neo-Nazis.
“I’ve shared platforms and worked with people from all over the world,” he wrote in a lengthy response to VICE World News. “I served 14 years in the armed forces and have ROUTINELY denounced mindless racists. Any of my regular followers will tell you this, or that I've chastised and criticized ‘neo nazis’ and extremists on both sides of the political spectrum; publicly.”
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) has reported the man has a moderate but growing following and is part of a collective of Canadian vloggers who traffic in white nationalism. According to the CAHN, he’s also prone to calls for violence against politicians and journalists. Despite Mackenzie’s far-right leanings, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier promoted his channel after he made a viral video decrying the pandemic and Ontario politician Randy Hillier appeared as a guest on the show.
The photo the vlogger posted which he said was in jest.
“It's very concerning when there are, or at least appear to be, relationships between the racist right and law enforcement,” Elizabeth Simons, the deputy director of the CAHN, told VICE World News. “It's especially disturbing when that officer serves a large Jewish population and would give a friendly platform to an obvious and overt anti-Semite.”
In a CAHN report about an April stream, the vlogger tells his audience a "race war" is going on in the United States and calls for his followers to “accelerate” (a term when used among the far-right means to hasten the collapse of society in order to build a new, typically all white civilization from the ashes.)
“Accelerate, accelerate, there’s no way out. This is going to come to total shit,” they report him as saying on the now-deleted stream.
“There’s a race war happening in America, did you not know?” he added. “You might just get killed going somewhere because you’re a white person in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
One of the anti-fascists who first spotted the Mackenzie’s appearance on VandenBos’ show told VICE World News that he was “one of the more brazenly anti-Semitic people I follow” and someone who “has some really hardcore followers.” The CAHN wrote about the appearance last Tuesday.
York Regional Police told VICE World News they are investigating the situation.
“We are aware of the activities of this member,” a York police spokesperson told VICE World News. “He is employed by our police service, however, his views and associations do not align with the values of York Regional Police and he does not speak on behalf of our organization. “
A person working the email for Police on Guard for Thee told VICE World News to direct questions for VandenBos to them. When VICE World News sent the multiple questions regarding the interview between VandenBos and the vlogger they responded by telling VICE World News to contact their lawyer and that “our mission statement speaks directly to the objectives of Police on Guard, who stand for ALL Canadians.” Their lawyer did not respond to a follow up.
During the hour-long discussion, VandenBos and Mackenzie didn't touch upon race wars, but instead focused on policing during the pandemic and how VandenBos could not “sit idly by and do nothing about it.” They frequently spoke about how the media is actively hiding statistics and data and muzzling scientists so the only place their followers can get trustworthy news is from “alternative media” like Mackenzie’s vlog or On Guard for Thee.
One thing that is clear from the interview is that VandenBos is deep into some of the more out-there conspiracies surrounding COVID-19 in Canada. At one point during the rambling conversation, VandenBos raises the idea that the numerous viral videos of nurses dancing in hospitals during the pandemic were a secret “rallying cry to show you inside the hospitals” and prove to the public no patients are in there.
"There's nobody within those halls where they're at and they're all dressed up and in large groups doing their thing but where are the patients?” he said.
The conspiracy theory was even too much for his far-right guest who told VandenBos, “if that’s true, hats off to them but I totally missed that.”
VandenBos interviewing anti-lockdown figure Henry Hildebrandt on his YouTube show. Photo via screenshot.
As an active duty police officer who moonlights as an anti-COVID-19 regulations activist, VandenBos has gotten favourable coverage from some right-wing media in Canada. He brings some legitimacy to the movement but has been increasingly glad-handing with figures popular in the Canadian far-right and conspiracy community.
The Police on Guard for Thee group, created in late 2020, describes itself as “a group of active duty and retired police officers who have assembled to create a haven of truth and justice for all members of law enforcement.” While the group has plenty of retired officers attaching their name and badge number to the organization, VandenBos seems to be one of the only active duty members. According to the York Regional Police sunshine list, VandenBos made over $109,193 in 2020.
Police officers being involved in far-right or conspiracy communities shouldn't be surprising. Several officers have partnered with VandenBos on the lawsuit challenging COVID-19 regulations. Sheriffs and law enforcement officials in the U,S. regularly refuse to enforce public health mandates.
During the interview, VandenBos lavished Mackenzie with praise and told him he was introduced to his vlogs because of a friend. At the end of the stream, VandenBos thanked him for his service and told him “together we’re gonna win this, buddy.”
“I look forward to doing it again sometime soon, hopefully,” the active-duty cop said to the far-right vlogger. “And let's just continue to try to get the message of truth out there.”
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