A Canadian Conservative senator has been a guest on a YouTube channel that frequently promotes far-right conspiracy theories and endorses the 9/11 truther movement.
Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu was interviewed by host and failed political candidate Gilbert Thibodeau for Le Stu-Dio, a YouTube channel based in Montreal that has amassed more than 12,000 subscribers in recent years.
The first interview was published in May 2018 and the two sat down again for a video in February 2019. Both times, the senator ventured to the Le Stu-Dio space and talked to Thibodeau for more than an hour.
Le Stu-Dio is mostly known for giving a platform to fringe conspiracy theories and far-right extremism. The YouTube channel was featured in a Radio-Canada report on the rise of far-right online Quebec personalities in August 2018.
Le Stu-Dio was started by André Pitre, who also goes by Stu Pitt, in 2006. It didn’t gain prominence, however, until Pitre positioned himself as a voice of the Quebec far right by giving a platform to La Meute, an anti-Islam and anti-immigration group that styles itself as a militia.
Since then, Pitre’s network has grown. Early in 2018, he added former union executive Ken Pereira as his sidekick on the network. Pereira became a known name in Quebec in 2013 as a whistleblower, exposing graft from within Quebec’s largest construction union.
Since then, he has become a conspiratorial voice, promoting the baseless predictions of QAnon——a wild theory that an individual who goes by "Q" is leaking information detailing a massive secret war Trump is waging against the "deep state" and an international cabal of pedophiles—and calling the 9/11 terror attacks a “false flag.”
Pereira is now a candidate for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party near Quebec City.
Pitre also brought on Thibodeau as a host on the network. The former restaurateur has made a slew of runs for office in Montreal. Dating back to 1994, Thibodeau has run for two different municipal parties, the federal Liberal Party, and, most recently, as an independent for the office of mayor. Thibodeau has placed a distant third in those races.
Thibodeau’s show is more politics-focused, while Pitre and Pereira tend to focus on conspiracies and the so-called “deep state” (a conspiracy theory about a hidden government within the ruling US government actually running things, yada yada.)
Over the two interviews, Boisvenu and Thibodeau talked about a variety of issues, from electoral reform to criminal justice and the Senate.
Immigration was a large focus of the conversation.
“Our border officials are saying: ‘we can’t guarantee that the people who are crossing right now don’t have a conviction for terrorism or other crimes,’” Boisvenu told Thibodeau. “That’s the biggest fault of the Trudeau government, to leave the door open to these people, who can infiltrate amid these illegal immigrants. We’ve seen it. This has happened.”
It’s not quite clear what example Boisvenu is pointing to, but there appears to be no examples of terror suspects crossing the American-Canadian border at irregular points of entry.
The issue of Quebec’s religious symbols ban also came up.
“I have the same position as the [Coalition Avenir Quebec],” Boisvenu said, referring to the Quebec government’s ban on religious symbols for government employees in positions of authority, such as teachers, judges, and police officers. “If you’re in an official function, all religious signs need to disappear. It makes me a bit uncomfortable to say that because the leader of the NDP, he wears a religious symbol. I don’t know how the NDP are going to have a strong position on laïcité [religious neutrality] as strong as possible…” Boisvenu’s train of thought is cut off by Thibodeau.
VICE reached out to Boisvenu’s office to ask about his appearance on the channel.
“I expressed myself without knowing the political and ideological positions of each interlocutor or interviewer,” reads a statement from his office attributed to the senator himself. “My mandate has always been and remains the fight against all forms of crime and the safety of each and every Canadian.”
Boisvenu is not the first politician to appear on the YouTube page. Two sitting provincial politicians ventured on the network: Catherine Fournier, formerly of the Parti Quebecois, appeared on Le Stu-Dio in the summer of 2018; and Youri Chassin, then a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Quebec, came into the studio for an interview that May.
It seems Boisvenu is the only politician to appear twice on the network.
While he might seem the more reasonable host on the network, Thibodeau’s views are nevertheless outside the mainstream. Recently, he endorsed a 2007 essay from U.K. politician Boris Johnson, where the now-prime minister wrote that Islam put the Muslim world “centuries behind.”
Pitre and Thibodeau also host a show together. Recently, the pair mused that Muslims in France and Quebec were celebrating the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral.
Thibodeau’s show also featured reports from Philippe Magnan, a blogger who was ordered by a Quebec court to pay out more than $60,000 in damages for repeatedly defaming feminist activist Dalila Awada, incorrectly claiming she had ties to Islamic extremism.
Last week, VICE reported that Boisvenu was an active member of two far-right Facebook groups, known for their anti-Islam and anti-immigrant positions. Since that story was published, the senator quit both groups—Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, or C4, and Yellow Vests Canada.
While the senator’s office did not initially respond to emails from VICE about his membership in these groups, he addressed his membership in these groups on Tuesday: "I do not support the extreme right nor the groups that promote it,” he said. “I was added to these groups without my knowledge.”
But this isn’t the first time the senator has gotten in trouble for cavorting with the wrong types online.
In 2017, the Canadian Press reported that Boisvenu had been a member of a variety of far-right Facebook groups, including La Meute and PEGIDA, a German anti-Islam and anti-immigrant group, and had posted on the pages. He initially defended his membership, saying he had joined the PEGIDA page by “accident” and liked La Meute out of “curiosity,” only to later quit the groups. He suggested reporting on his involvement in those groups amounted to a “witch hunt” by the media.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story said Boievenu remained a member of Yellow Vests Canada. He has, in fact, quit that group as well.