If you search the name of Quebec’s largest far-right group on Facebook, something wonderful happens—something you wouldn’t expect.
Your top result for La Meute isn’t a group full of rabid anti-Islamic activists who want to do something to make “Quebec for Quebecers." Instead, you get yourself a delightful page of furries—one that operates under the name “La Meute Officielle.”
The extremist La Meute (french for "The Wolf Pack") is a Quebec-based anti-immigrant group that has been rapidly growing—both in numbers and in recognition. It is one of the largest far-right groups in Canada. Like many of the nation’s far-right groups, their focus is primarily on halting Muslim immigration.
The leader of the furry La Meute, which started before its far-right counterpart, is named Mr. Wolfenstein and he damn well wants you to know that the far-right version of La Meute is “the false wolf pack. "If we stay silent, they will win. If we don't do anything, they will win," Wolfenstein told VICE. “Facebook is one of many ways we express ourselves and show support for our comrades that are oppressed by these white supremacists."
"The point is to fight back with our identity… We are the real wolf pack and they the false one."
The furry La Meute describe themselves as "anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-open borders, pro-love, and pro-furry hugs." They have been around in some form or another for several years now—always referring to themselves as “the wolf pack” or La Meute. The group didn’t feel the need to become public until the far-right wolf pack began to rise.
"We [went public] because we saw that la fausse meute (the false Wolf Pack), began to get really, really big and they were giving us furries a really bad reputation,” said Wolfenstein. “Everybody thought that we were a racist bunch, but that's not us. We're all about love so that's why we created this page."
"We're now 1,600 or so furries against the false wolf pack."
At the heart of the furry wolf pack is Mr. Wolfenstein and his partner Captain Cat—both requested that their furry names be used in this piece out of fear of reprisal from the far-right group. Wolfenstein told VICE that the group also takes its activism offline but he didn’t want to elaborate for fear of reprisal.
Facebook has been criticized for many things, including being ground zero for the fake news phenomenon, but one of the most insidious uses of the social media site has been for recruitment and organizing in the modern wave of far-right activism.
One of the groups in Canada who has utilized Facebook to a great extent is La Meute. Mostly organized on secret Facebook pages, the group has held numerous rallies across the province.
That said, the far-right group made one glaring error.
"La Meute does have groups, but they don’t have an official Facebook page. We saw that as an opportunity to clear our name and clear the reputation that the wolf pack gave us,” said Wolfenstein. “It's a really different way of fighting back. It's something we didn't know we could use, to use our identities as furries to fight.”
The furry wolf pack’s page is full of memes shading the far-right, and the occasional sharing of pro-furry news (usually with an immigration angle). More than anything though, they are disrupting the far-right Le Meute’s online recruitment. Since, typically, the furry page is the first one to come up upon a search, the group will get messages from people—including those in the United States or Western Canada—asking to join La Meute or expressing their support.
"There are a lot of people emailing us about joining the false wolf pack,” said Wolfenstein. “They will say things like, 'we want to make contact with you because we're also tired of the terrorists and we want to take control of the country back.'”
“I try to argue with them, saying 'who are these terrorists? Are they the neo-Nazis?’”
In just a few months, the furry page has earned more than a thousand followers. Its founders say it works as a “laboratory” for them to use their own identities to confront and disarm. Often, far-right groups foster a very specific and intense type of masculinity, Wolfenstein said, so they “know that our identity as furries will hurt them.”
“We take that awkward culture that is our fandom and we use it against those bad people,” he added.
While the duo says they have garnered the support of many a French-Canadian furry, there are a few that come on the page to argue. Likewise, the far-right group, who are annoyed by the constant poking by furries, will come in and start a fight.
"Some people, especially one particularly bad boy, get mad at us and say we're making the reputation of the fandom really bad because we're anti-fascist. There are some comments too, from members of the false wolf pack, where they're arguing that La Meute isn't racist or sexist but our job is to argue with them, to prove to people that they are racist."
Mr. Wolfenstein’s fursona is that of a wolf and it’s a very personal creature and symbol for him. He said La Meute taking the symbol of a wolf, in a way, was a personal affront to his identity.
"In Quebec, there are a lot of racist groups but the false wolf pack is the biggest. Seeing that group of bad people taking our name, taking our identity, taking the image of the wolf as a racist symbol it's just so offensive—it hurts."
"We had to do something about it; we had to restore the wolf image. We had to take a stand.”
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.