Last weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., has thrust America’s racism, violence and toxic political climate into the global spotlight.
But experts warn that right-wing extremist views are also on the rise in Canada, and should not be ignored.
“The far right is becoming very bold in Canada as well and we’ve seen that in the run-up to the last (federal) election and right after that as well,” Barbara Perry, a global crime expert at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
Perry was the lead author of a report published in 2015, which found more than100 right-wing extremist groups that exist across the country.
“And that was probably a conservative estimate,” she said.
Most of those groups are active in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. The targets of their hate include visible minorities, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community and feminists.
Perry said that, in the past year, there has been a “dramatic” increase in the number of such hate groups in Canada – about a 30 per cent jump from her previous tally.
Some of those groups may only have three members, while others are very large and well-organized, she said.
“We have kept our heads in the sand about the threat from right-wing extremism.”
Many have blamed U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric for the resurgence of hate crimes in America. After a woman was killed when a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday, Trump initially bemoaned violence “on many sides.”
After three days of pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump made another statement on Monday, in which he specifically condemned white supremacist groups.
The rise of anti-immigrant sentiments in North America and western Europe and the arrival of Syrian refugees, along with Trump’s influence, have created a “perfect storm” for the proliferation of extremist groups in Canada, Perry said.
When juxtaposed with Trump, the far right sees Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as too far to the left, she added.
In expressing his condolences to those affected by the Charlottesville violence, Trudeau tweeted Sunday that Canada “isn’t immune to racist violence & hate.”
Perry said her research has found that, between 1985 and 2015, there were “well over 120 incidents” in Canada linked to right-wing extremism, including arsons and homicide.
“We don’t talk about that as terrorism,” she said. “There’s a fear, I think, of looking at those who are more like us than they are unlike us and pointing a finger and saying: ‘You’re a terrorist.’”