On this night, he’s digging into the case of an Edmonton man who allegedly threatened two Muslim women at a public transit station with a noose, saying: “This is for you.” He looks at photos online of the suspect. A white male, likely in his 60s, with a thin build and thick black glasses. He could be somebody’s grandfather. (Since then, the man has been released by police without charge, but remains a person of interest in the case.)“This is something you see people saying in the US,” said Alex in a phone call from an undisclosed location. “Now we have similar situations in Canada.”On Sunday, a lone gunman opened fire inside a Quebec City mosque during Sunday evening prayers, killing six and wounding many more.While the motives behind the shooting remain unconfirmed, the alleged perpetrator is Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Quebecer who seems to hold right-wing sympathies, based on media interviews with those who know him.Alex, from Anti-Racist Canada, spoke to VICE News before the Quebec carnage unfolded, breaking a self-imposed rule of not speaking to media, citing the recent amplification of the hatred and intolerance as what made him change his mind. He’s keeping his identity anonymous for fear of backlash.
“This is something you see people saying in the U.S. Now we have similar situation in Canada.”
Antifa claim their comrades were recently involved in a particularly aggressive confrontation, when, according to them, right-wing extremists attacked a group of people gathering at a space known for leftist activities in downtown Vancouver with pepper spray on New Year’s Eve. Though Antifa is still investigating, they’re pointing fingers at the Soldiers of Odin.“Obviously it was a wakeup call,” Jay said of the attack. “People [in the group] are understandably angry and I’m trying to be a sobering influence on people because I really don’t think escalation is a good idea at this time … I don’t think my community is prepared for that yet.”Mike Montague, the president of the Soldiers of Odin Tricity B.C. Chapter, vehemently denied the accusations in a text message to VICE News.“To be honest, when I was made aware of this claim of violence against them it really came as no surprise, as Vancouver Antifa has on numerous occasions spread multiple lies about our organization when it comes to racism within our club here in Canada,” wrote Montague. “Honestly I find it hard to take anything they say seriously.”
“There’s a sense of holy shit this problem has been fermenting for a long time. These people didn’t spring out of nowhere.”
Alex says the group’s biggest success comes when right-wing extremists disavow their ideology and leave the groups. And, although there’s no way to measure it, he believes his articles and attempts to call people out for threats of violence may have helped curb attacks or other public gatherings.“One of the values of publicizing these groups is that they’re like cockroaches: they scurry when light hits,” says Alex.One former leader of a white supremacist group from B.C., who wished to be referred to only as ‘Dave,’ over fears of violent backlash from people in his past, said he and his colleagues used to check Anti-Racist Canada on a regular basis. “The site was the enemy of the white race, in their mind,” said Dave. And when group members were profiled on the site, it would force them to hide their activities or lay low for awhile.“It really affected the goings on in a lot of the groups because sometimes you will get infighting, which would weaken it in the long run,” he said. “I think groups like Anti-Racist Canada know more than the cops.”Perry said she’s not surprised that conflict is rife among anti-fascists and right-wing groups, and warns that it’s difficult to get out of that circle of violence and intimidation.“There’s so much more attention and chatter from the right-wing, that [anti-right wing groups] feel their role is to step up their efforts as well and to parallel the growth of the right wing with increasing the strength and capacity of the left,” she said. “I don’t think they’re terribly effective aside from drawing attention to the issue.”She pointed out that it’s more effective to combat right-wing extremists by presenting “alternative narratives” that reinforce Canadian values around respect, rather than confronting the racists head on in ways that could result in more conflict.“An aggressive stance can sometimes further anger and alienate the targets as well,” she said.
“This is something you see people saying in the U.S.. Now we have similar situation in Canada.”