Two main organizers behind #Wexit, the campaign calling for Canada’s prairie provinces to secede, have a prolific history of pushing far-right and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
Over the past year, Peter Downing, an ex-RCMP officer and Patrick King, a self-styled journalist, have accused Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government of “normalizing pedophilia,” tolerating ISIS terrorists penetrating the country apparently disguised as refugees, and pursuing an immigration policy aimed to “depopulate the white, Anglo-Saxon race.”
Their secessionist campaign is represented by the #Wexit hashtag, which trended on Twitter last week after the Liberals won a minority government in the federal election. #Wexit stands for Western Canada Exit, a movement calling for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and even B.C. to leave the rest of Canada to become separate nation-states. The goal is to form a “nationalist” party in Alberta like the Bloc Quebecois while steadily working towards full separation.
The main #Wexit Facebook group, VoteWexit.com, more than doubled in size after the election and currently sits at over 250,000 members. The #Wexit Alberta Facebook page, created this June, sits at just under 30,000 likes.
The founder of these pages is Downing, a former RCMP constable who served in both St. Albert and Morinville, Alberta, and whose own Facebook page has over 10,000 likes. According to a now-deleted report by the St. Albert Gazette, Downing was suspended in 2010 for uttering threats to his wife. He was eventually convicted, but ended up leaving the force with a clean record after completing a nine-month probationary term.
VICE reached out to the RCMP for comment on Downing but did not hear back by press time.
Downing also ran in the 2015 federal election for the Christian Heritage Party, which states in its latest platform that it’s against Sharia law and other “Islamic cultural practices” like “inhumane animal slaughter (Halal slaughter).”
One of VoteWexit.com’s Facebook admins is Downing’s Alberta Fights Back lobby group, which was behind a billboard campaign in the province this June targeting the Trudeau Liberals. The billboards asked, “Is Trudeau leading us to a civil war?” Phrases like “Normalizing Pedophilia,” “Mass Immigration,” “Socialism/Communism” and “Globalism” were printed above the main text.
When asked by VICE about what he meant by “normalizing pedophilia,” Downing said, “The Trudeau Foundation printed a document with the symbol used by pedophiles and you just can’t ignore it.” He’s referring to a triangular graphic used by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation on one of its annual reports that vaguely resembles something the FBI uncovered in a child abuse investigation.
Downing also linked Trudeau to other, now-debunked rumours: that Trudeau left a school he worked at over a sex-scandal, and that the Canadian government might be involved in its own version of “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory which falsely connected U.S. Democratic politicians to a child sex ring.
King is one of Downing’s main #Wexit co-campaigners and a member of the #Wexit Alberta board of directors. He also posts numerous videos of himself on Facebook pushing racist, far-right conspiracy theories, including one where he talks about the “depopulation of the Anglo-Saxon race” by global forces seeking to marginalize white people because “they’re the ones with the strongest blood lines.”
“There’s a smear campaign against white people right now where when we speak up, we’re called racist, anti-Semite, or xenophobe,” King said. “True-blooded Canadians are being weeded out while our corrupt government is letting in ISIS terrorists across the border.”
King is referring to the thousands of “irregular border crossers” who’ve come into Canada to seek protective asylum. Less than half a percent have been linked to a serious, criminal past.
King also pointed out how Ottawa is ignoring the plight of real, “true-blooded” Canadians while giving “ISIS terrorists like Omar Khadr millions of dollars in compensation for violating his human rights.” Khadr, a child soldier who was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and in Alberta, has never been linked to the ISIS terrorist group.
A handful of Downing and King’s information sessions have been recorded in full and posted onto the #Wexit Alberta Facebook page. They show relatively innocuous talks and discussions on Alberta separating from Canada.
Downing insists that his movement is not racist. But a closer look at the comments made in the #Wexit Facebook groups and pages reveal racist, often violent discussions that mirror the same far-right views that Downing and King present—some comparing Muslims to termites and rapists.
Their discussions reflect conspiracy theories prevalent throughout the Canadian far-right that have weaponized Islamophobia against the Trudeau government, which they believe is courting radical Islam for votes while hollowing out Canadian values.
Many of these hateful posts suggest that participants feel comfortable expressing these views within the #Wexit space.
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