As president-elect Donald Trump makes his way to power, acts of racism and xenophobia that have dominated headlines across the U.S. have made their way into Canada.
An Ottawa rabbi woke up Tuesday morning to a swastika and an anti-semitic slur spray-painted in red on her front door. That same day, the Toronto police force announced it was investigating posters plastered around the city’s east end calling on white people to join the “alt-right” movement— which holds Trump as its “god-emperor” — to take on things like “multiculturalism” and “political correctness.”
Several more incidents have been documented this week, including a man hurling racist insults on a Toronto streetcar who also reportedly shouted “Go Trump.”
“This is what has been unleashed by the American president-elect and those that support him,” Anna Maranta, the Ottawa rabbi, wrote in a Facebook post.
But experts say it’s too soon to tell just how connected the vitriol is to Trump’s victory, and that the incidents are more likely the inevitable outcome of long-held views by many Canadians, who may now feel encouraged by the successful campaign rhetoric.
“What you have is an opening where some of what has been in the shadows is coming out, and of course we must see the relationship between that and the U.S. election. But I want to stress that the seeds of it were already here,” Rinaldo Walcott, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto who researches racism in Canada, said in an interview.
“I think that what Trump represents is not just a recent phenomenon.”
He pointed out that very few people of colour hold positions of power in Canada, something that is an example of the more “banal” and “everyday” racism that permeates our society and provides fertile ground for violent acts of hatred.
“It angers me that individuals believe that they now can be emboldened to attack people on the streets, to vandalize peoples’ homes and so on,” Walcott added.
It’s still too early to tell whether hate crimes have spiked since Trump and because of him. But those those who study right-wing extremism in Canada are troubled by a possible resurgence of the movement here.
Very little research on the issue has been carried out regarding the Canadian context, but a recent study from in the Studies in Conflict & Terrorism journal found at least 100 such groups — including a variety of white supremacist groups, neo-Nazis, and skinheads — openly operate across the country.
This is especially the case in provinces such as B.C., Alberta, and Quebec, which has reported a 47 percent rise in hate crimes from 2013 to last year.
The day after the U.S. election, Paul Fromm, one of Canada’s most notorious white nationalists and anti-immigrant advocates put out a statement heralding Trump’s win as a “victory for the real America and Canada.”
“I think he has emboldened populists around the world,” Fromm said in a Youtube video in an interview with Brian Ruhe, another anti-immigrant leader who could hardly contain his glee. “Overwhelmingly, white people voted for Trump and we may finally have begun to reverse the immigration invasion, which will replace us.”
Daniel Gallant, a former member of white supremacist group from B.C. who now works on deradicalization, is calling on police officers and members of parliament to start taking right-wing extremists in Canada seriously, as opposed to focusing solely on jihadism. His province alone has seen a number of instances where flyers promoting the KKK have been distributed in neighbourhoods.
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“In retrospect, I understand a lot of people believe all sorts of crazy things. That’s not necessarily abnormal. That’s real. What’s abnormal is the propensity for violence,” Gallant told the Montreal Gazette in a story published Tuesday.
He warns that without adequately addressing these groups and ideologies early on, Canada risks “creating a situation of normalizing it further and it will birth a whole new generation of the violent right wing.”