Reportback from December 8 in Ottawa

From Montreal Antifasciste

On Saturday, December 8, around two hundred right-wing sympathizers gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” which was in the process of being approved by acclamation at a United Nations conference in Morocco.

After over a month of planning, the demonstration itself barely filled the space in front of Parliament and was in no way a triumph by the far right. That being said, the rally was at least superficially successful in uniting a host of far-right groups of differing ideologies to announce their xenophobic opposition to the UN compact and propagate their Islamophobic and racist views. Antifascists from Québec and Ontario, despite their clearly enunciated skepticism regarding the compact, organized to oppose the far right’s attempt to claim public space.

Further investigation into the far-right groups present, before, after, and during the rally reveals major rifts and extensive disorganisation on their part that belies the superficial unity the alliance cobbled together for this demonstration. The rally’s attendance also reveals that conservative student groups do not have a problem cooperating with far-right groups, and that populist right-wing groups are  willing to simultaneously work with militias and invite a Québec MP to address the rally.

Reports from major news outlets  paid little attention to the views presented on either side of the rally, essentially framing it as a disagreement among citizens about the Compact. Beyond that, the coverage obfuscated the open police protection of racists and, at its worst, characterized antifascists as violent extremists, while allowing members of far-right groups to portray themselves as nothing more than concerned citizens.

As comrades in Ottawa Against Fascism explained in their call-out for a counter mobilisation:

“Various anti-immigration groups are converging to Ottawa to protest against the adoption of the United Nations Organization’s so-called “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. This proposed international agreement is set to be adopted by a majority of countries at a UN summit in Marrakech on December 10-11, and has become the centre of a global xenophobic fear-mongering campaign. Far-right leaders in North America and Europe assert that this agreement, once adopted, will be implemented by force in signatory countries and lead to the erasure of borders and unlimited migration from the south. In fact, they now place this agreement at the center of their racist “globalist” conspiracy theory, in which they claim that there exists an international ploy to replace the white population. In reality, the UN global compact, like all other UN initiatives, is nothing but a superficial feel-good statement containing a wish list of liberal policies to ensure a fair and humane treatment of immigrants and minority groups. Like all other UN agreements signed before, it is non-binding and there is no actual armed force to back up its implementation by signatory countries. Similar, for example, to the Paris agreement on climate change, or to the yearly votes calling for the recognition of Palestine or for ending the embargo on Cuba, it will have no actual material impact on the world; it will be simply be exhibited by multiple world leaders like Justin Trudeau to give the appearance of a well-meaning liberal institutional order, while the same governments that signed on to it will continue waging wars across the globe and enforcing the capitalist economic order which is at the source of the global migration crisis.”

 

The Far-Right Opposition

The December 8th anti-immigration rally on Parliament Hill was organised by groups in English and French Canada, united by their opposition to immigration from the Global South. This cooperation has been developing over the past year, a key moment being Toronto white supremacist Faith Goldy’s attempt to join a Storm Alliance demonstration at the Lacolle border crossing in May and her subsequent rally at Roxham Road on June 3. This latter event brought together members of the III%, La Meute, Storm Alliance, and the Front Patriotique du Québec (all based in Québec), along with members of the Proud Boys, the Canadian Combat Coalition, the Canadian Wolfpack, and other far rightists from English Canada, in a show of growing collaboration across ideological divides.

Though there was some significant English Canadian presence at the December 8 rally, the organisational heavy lifting seems to have been done by an ad hoc coalition of far-right groups in Quebec, the so-called Table Ronde, or “Round Table.” Though  fifteen groups were allegedly involved in the organizing, it’s clear that only a handful of these groups are significant forces: the majority have only one or two members and virtually no street presence. The round table included:

The major groups:

La Meute: Founded on October 6, 2015, by two ex-soldiers, the group was initially solely focused on Islamophobic agitation but has since expanded the scope of its activities to include anti-immigrant and anti-left actions. The group’s claim of forty thousand members is vastly overblown. Nonetheless, despite numerous internal splits and absurd rhetoric, La Meute has established seventeen chapters (called “clans”) corresponding to Québec’s administrative districts and is the central “national-populist” organization in Québec, with the highest profile and stature on the Quebec far right … a position it is not afraid to use to bully and silence rivals.

Storm Alliance: An anti-immigrant group founded by former national vice president of the Soldiers of Odin and president of the Québec chapter Dave Tregget in 2017, and currently led by Éric Trudel. Over the past two years, Storm Alliance has repeatedly shown up at the border to try to intimidate refugees, openly collaborating with more militia-type groups, including the III%.

Independance (sic) Day: Self-described as a “citizen’s political lobby group,” has shown support for Maxime Bernier’s PPC. Among their members, one finds Michel Laroque, the former grand wizard of the Montreal branch of the KKK (Longitude 74), who was charged in 1992 for attempted arson on a house inhabited by Black people in the east end of Montreal. Independance Day were present in Montreal at the unsuccessful July 1, 2018, anti-immigration demonstration in collaboration with La Meute and Storm Alliance.

III% Quebec: Also known as the “Threepers,” the origin of this group stems from U.S. militia groups centred on private gun ownership rights and anti-immigrant patrols on the US-Mexican border. In the U.S., their ranks include Alex Scarsella, who shot five people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, while other members have been tied to the attempted bombing of a federal building in Atlanta and of Arkansas State University. In Québec, they have provided security at events for groups such as La Meute and Storm Alliance, including at a march in Québec City and at anti-immigrant protests at the U.S.-Quebec border area of Lacolle.

Some of the minor groups:

Northern Guard: A 2017 split from the Soldiers of Odin, as several men in the SoO felt it was inappropriate for the group to have a woman (Katy Latulippe) as its leader.

Recours Collectif Contre Revenu Québec-Canada: An online group that spreads anti-tax and anti-immigration propaganda, sharing posts accusing Trudeau of treason for welcoming “illegals” into Canada.

La Horde: Another national-populist group, largely confined to social media.

Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens: Otherwise known as C4, considers itself a federal group, but its core member and founder Georges Hallak is based in Montréal. Although the group does not regularly organise activities and is essentially a one-man show, its Facebook page has 8,800 followers. Hallak’s two-hour video of the rally provides a lot of humourous entertainment, alongeven with some insight into the people who were there.

While all of the above groups were mentioned online as co-organizers of Saturday’s rally, the most visible were La Meute (which brought a bus), Storm Alliance, Independance Day, and the III%.

A look at those who addressed the crowd at the Saturday rally provides further insight into the networks that mobilized, including connections in English Canada and abroad. Several speakers repeated, “What unites us is more important than what divides us,” which can be understood to encompass not just the xenophobes from English and French Canada but also the political range of far rightists present in an official capacity, ranging from Act! For Canada through La Meute to the Canadian Nationalist Party. In order of appearance, the speakers were:

  • Valerie Price, the Montreal-based cofounder of ACT! for Canada, a satellite organization of ACT! for America and close ally of the Jewish Defense League. ACT! for Canada is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-Muslim … hate group”; its main public activity–beyond maintaining a website and sending out an email newsletter every week–is to organize racist talks and film showings. The group tried to arrange (with the JDL) for Paul Weston, head of PEGIDA’s United Kingdom branch, to speak in Montréal in 2016 (blocked by antifascists); for New Zealand conspiratorial anticommunist Trevor Loudon to speak at the Ottawa Public Library; and most famously, attempted to screen the racist movie Killing Europe in 2017, also at the Ottawa Public Library (canceled following public outcry).
  • Tom Quiggin is one of the denizens of that shadow zone where the various repressive and military state institutions overlap with far-right conspiracy milieu. He likes to describe himself as a “court qualified expert on terrorism” (whatever that means), and as a “senior research fellow” at the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. Despite this, we have been unable to find any mention of Mr Quiggin on the CCISS website. Quiggin produces podcasts and writes internet articles, including the eponymous “Quiggin Report,” in which he describes various Muslim conspiracies and accuses politicians like Justin Trudeau of supporting terrorism. Quiggin has also accused the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City–the site of Alexandre Bissonnette’s murderous attack in 2017–of funding terrorists. Thanks to his claimed ties to the intelligence world, Quiggin has had some limited success in finding a place in mainstream rightist circles. His work has been promoted by the Toronto Sun, he was invited to sit on a panel at the 2016 Manning Conference, and for a while he claimed to run what was probably a one-man show, the Terrorism and Security Analysts of Canada Network. According to Macleans, “Quiggin’s various research conclusions and work with the obscure TSEC Network have been vehemently criticized by acknowledged security and terrorism experts.”
  • Rasmus Paludan, from Denmark, the leader of the Stram Kurs (Tight Course) party, apparently drove to Ottawa from Miami, Florida, to attend the weekend rally as part of a “North American tour.” In its party programme, Stram Kurs calls for banning Islam in Denmark, stopping all non-“Western” immigration, and expelling everyone who is not Danish (defined as an “ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and normative community”). Paludan has also acted as attorney and administrator for the Danish group For Frihed (For Freedom), formerly known as PEGIDA Denmark. At a 2016 For Fihed demonstration, Paludan warned the crowd of a civil war to come: “We will fight side by side with the police and Home Guard, which make up our brothers, our streets and alleys will be transformed into rivers of blood. And the blood of the strangers will end in the sewer where the foreign enemies belong.” Paludan and Stram Kurs are known for organizing rallies in migrant neighbourhoods, with the intention of provoking and intimidating the people who live there.
  • Alexandra Belaire, spokesperson of the Ottawa chapter of ACT! for Canada, then spoke very briefly of her and her children’s great love for Canada.
  • Sylvain “Maikan” Brouillette and Steeve “L’Artiss” Charland spoke next – the two men sit on the La Meute council, and Brouillette is the group’s spokesman.
  • The final speaker was Travis Patron, who spoke on behalf of the “Canadian Nationalist Party,” a group almost exclusively represented by him and his publicity stunts. The CNP advocates for policy to fight what they consider an unacceptable reduction of the “European-descent” population, by deporting “illegal immigrants and criminals” and declaring the entire US-Canada border a point of entry, as well as for banning the burqa, discontinuing public funding for pride parades, and holding a referendum on same-sex marriage. On the day of the rally, he spent the morning filming antifascists. On Facebook, one of his followers responded, wishing brownshirts and blackshirts were still around to prevent antifascists from marching down the street. When the CNP emerged on the far-right scene in 2017, it was very quickly recognized as an outright fascist organization, and Patron met with quick opposition wherever he tried to organize publicly. As a result, the group modified its public programme to try to appear less obviously racist; the initial programme had denounced the “attempted genocide of the founding Canadian people” (defined as people of European descent), as well as advocating “the cancellation of all reparation payments made to Aboriginal peoples,” and called upon “the mutiny of current authority by all police enforcement/military personnel and subsequent support for this program.” We can see why they might have wanted to change that…

There was one man who did not speak Saturday, and whose absence was noticed. Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada had been the much-anticipated star speaker. Several groups, including his own fan club in Carleton University, spent the week emphasizing the former Conservative MP’s support for the rally and his plan to attend. But he was a no-show–the news that he would not be present was greeted with angry shouts, and later Georges Hallak bluntly stated that he and other politicians were all “chicken shits.” After the rally, in a statement directed to La Presse, Bernier tried to distance himself from the demonstration, stating that he chose not to attend because of La Meute’s presence, and in turn, Maikan called Bernier soft, retracted his support, and vowed to expose the CPP leader’s “true face.” But it’s clear that Bernier is playing a double game, securing his political legitimacy in the mainstream while maintaining his appeal to fascist, far-right, and racist action groups. Despite Bernier’s cancellation, Carleton’s CPP group endorsed the event and showed up alongside the very groups that Bernier is trying to disown.

Many anti-immigration protesters present on Parliament Hill wore yellow vests associated with the “gilets jaunes” movement in France. The far right seem to have interpreted popular resistance against neo-liberalism as populist resistance against immigration, and the aesthetic was also apparent in protests against the UN Migration Compact in other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina. Missing a beat, Sylvain Brouillette, La Meute’s spokesperson, had previously associated the gilets jaunes movement with the far left, describing the French protesters as far-left puppets of Soros and the New World Order, and issuing a proclamation forbidding participants from attending the event in such attire, and even attempting to police those wearing the vests. Nonetheless, the overall mood was definitely in favour of the yellow vests, with other speakers and people on the ground claiming that this was a revolt against migration and against the elites that govern Europe. Since last Saturday, various far-right forces across Canada, including Hallak’s CCCC, have been pushing the idea of cross-country yellow vest days of action. The original gilets jaunes movement in France is also now infested with right-wing populist elements and has been endorsed by far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement National [formerly the Front National]. French antifascist activists have had to respond to the presence of fascist groups such as Action Français as a result of such infiltration. In Germany, PEGIDA and AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) have also latched onto the “gelbenwesten” movement, using the symbolism to protest immigration to Germany.

One man who showed up in a yellow vest on Saturday was Pierre Dion, an obscure figure in the far-right milieu, who was expelled from La Meute for his public criticisms of the group (including their failures on July 1 in Montréal, and the vast inflation of its membership numbers). Dion likes to shoot off his mouth online, including accusing La Meute members of working with “antifa.” On Saturday he was accosted by Sebastian Chabot, who was part of La Meute’s security team, and was physically ejected. Dion’s expulsion led to a new round of social media griping about Brouillette’s leadership of La Meute and the group’s arrogant and bullying stance towards others on the far right.

Others present on Saturday included Lebanese Kataeb (aka Phalange) supporter Georges Massad, of “Phalange Media,” along with his co-host Leigh Stuart. With white nationalist Ronny Cameron, Massad and Stuart had previously published a fake news video filmed without the consent of residents that led to an an arson attempt at the Radisson Hotel Toronto East, which was housing predominantly Nigerian refugees. Their video claimed that refugees were slaughtering goats in the hotel bathroom and were responsible for damages to the hotel, including the graffiti “free money” obviously written by Massad himself in order to discredit the residents. Georges Massad later went on to claim that the hotel fire had in fact been the act of the refugees being housed there.

As has previously been mentioned, Georges Hallak of CCCC was also present. Hallak, an oddball who sometimes happens to be in the right place at the right time, represents many of the contradictions and complexities of the far right. As can be seen in his livestream of the rally, early on he engages two antifascists in conversation. They ask him if he has ever even met a refugee. Belying the common stereotype many have of the contemporary far right, Hallak answers, clearly amused, that he himself is a refugee from Lebanon. He is then asked why he is perpetuating white supremacy, to which he answers that he’s not a white supremacist. In the big tent of today’s national populist movement, there is plenty of room for people like Hallak; indeed, the presence of far-right immigrants and people of colour is welcomed by sections of the movement. This is consistent with some of the less overtly discriminatory groups’ attitude, which stresses that their members are not individually racist, while reinforcing systemic oppression by pushing for measures such as immigration restriction policies. Which isn’t to say that Hallak is not a racist: as a Christian fundamentalist prone to conspiracy theories, Hallak’s personal obsession is Islamophobia. As he explained later in his livestream, “Islam teaches evilness…. Muhammad is an evil person. He is not a good guy. He’s a warlord, he’s a killer, he’s a pedophile. So, you know what? If a Muslim follows the teachings of Muhammad, then you know basically he is a Muslim, he’s going to do evil acts. I’m sorry, but this is the facts.”

There were also a number of QAnon conspiracy theorists present at the rally. The QAnon hashtag refers to a far-right conspiracy theory that claims Trump is being undermined by a network of deep state agents; the theory is extreme and baseless and involves among other confabulations the claim that Hillary Clinton is involved in a child sex-trafficking ring (otherwise known as”Pizzagate“). Like the popular far-right belief that left are funded by George Soros, this is merely a node in a network of antisemitic, alt-right conspiracy. QAnon conspiracists here have in turn posted about the Canadian “deep state,” clearly echoing this theory. Despite relatively small numbers, they’ve taken up calling themselves the “silent majority,”; lest we forget, the  Parliament Hill Yoga Group has brought out larger numbers than the far right ever has.

The Antifascist Response

The antifascist counter-mobilisation began grouping at the Ottawa City Hall on the corner of Elgin and Lisgar at around 8:30AM. Our side consisted of local antifascists from Ottawa Against Fascism (OAF), Industrial Workers of the World General Defence Committee (IWW-GDC), No Pasaran, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and others, as well as out of town contingents from Intersectional Antifascists (INAF), Montreal Antifasciste (MAF), Toronto Against Fascism (TAF), and comrades from other areas of Ontario, totalling around fifty people. OAF had initially made a call-out on social media announcing the nearby Confederation Park (on Elgin and Laurier) as the rendez-vous point, with a disclaimer that this was not the actual mobilisation point, but had left individuals there to redirect people to City Hall. This was to prevent the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) from hindering the initial mobilisation from taking the streets. Scouts from our side had spotted members of the III% already mobilising on Wellington at 7:30AM and deduced that they were using the private Supreme Court parking lot as a meet-up spot.

By 9:00AM, we had begun marching northward along Elgin towards Wellington to block them at their meet-up point, with minor police accompaniment. We managed to take the street and distribute flyers about the racist demonstration to passersby, eventually making our way along Wellington to just west of Kent, by the Supreme Court of Canada. At this point we could clearly see a group of thirty to forty far rightists with an OPS escort mobilising on Vittoria behind the Supreme Court. They began to march eastward on Vittoria towards Parliament Hill, and we marched parallel to them via Wellington. At Kent and Wellington, we were blocked by the OPS, who attempted to impede us from marching farther east. The head OAF banner (a large banner on a wooden frame with handles) was seized by the OPS, and later destroyed and thrown over a fence by the pigs. Our group had managed to use a gap in the OPS line to get  to the corner of Parliament Hill, but the OPS diverted some of their forces to block us from moving onto Parliament Hill. Open chatter from OPS walkie talkies discussed three more busses and other vehicles carrying Quebec-based far rightists that would be arriving later and would need a police escorts to Parliament Hill.

After roughly ten minutes, we were able to gain access to Parliament Hill via the gates on Wellington, arriving just as the tail end of the fash were entering the barricaded “freedom of expression” zone. We came up from the west side of the caged area, with no initial police presence to create a line between us and them. Some scuffles broke out as their tail end was met by our front end. The security detail on their side (Threepers, La Meute, and Storm Alliance) lined up on the west side of the barrier and began taking sucker punches at us, as well as grabbing our flags and banners, all of which the police completely ignored. At one point an elderly man had his banner stolen by their security detail, while Threepers attempted to drag him over the barrier onto their side. The police reacted to this situation as if the elderly man was the aggressor, violently pulling him off the barricade and throwing him to the ground. The cops also used excessive force to arrest another comrade, with several officers taking him down.

Eventually a fifty-strong detachment of RCMP riot cops showed up and attempted to drive us out by forming a line northwest of the “official protest zone” and pushing us southward, continually hitting people with their batons in the process. RCMP officer number 144 seemed to be setting the standard for brutality, with his peers calibrating their level of violence accordingly. More arrests were made as we formed a line to hold them back, using the MAF banner as a shield. The RCMP seemed to have a penchant for striking young women in our crowd, as well as individuals wearing helmets. One of the cops seemed to be itching to pepper spray antiracist activists.  At one point the RCMP tried to grab the MAF banner, which resulted in a tug of war. After pushing us about five metres south, the RCMP eventually reformed their line and things seemed to get a bit less tense, with the shoving match having come to an end with no real change in the ground held by any side. A few from our group fell back at this point to assess the damage.

While leaving Parliament Hill for Sparks, we noticed the second wave of Quebec far rightists, numbering around twenty or so, arriving and being escorted into the caged area from the southeast.

While we were recuperating in the café, a group of ID Canada locals from Ottawa, numbering twenty to twenty-five, arrived. Led by Tyler Hover, they accessed Parliament Hill from the gates on Wellington without a police escort.

ID Canada, formerly known as Generation Identity Canada, is associated with the Génération Identitaire movements in Europe, known for its failed attempts to block refugees vessels and NGO rescue ships (such as Médicins sans Frontières) on the Mediterranean Sea with their C-Star ship (whose crew included former Rebel Media host Lauren Southern). Its membership is drawn from the alt-right, with an emphasis on a clean-cut “nipster” image (Tyler has dismissed the “skinhead” look as detrimental to recruiting). ID Canada embraces a Western chuavinist ideology and claims to defend European-Canadians from “white genocide”. Hover (also known as “Kanadisher” and “SilasXIV” on the neo-nazi forum Stormfront) and his group have mainly been involved in racist postering and stickering campaigns on university campuses across Canada. They have had very little physical presence at anti-immigration rallies until recently (they were present at Faith Goldy’s November 24 anti-immigration rally in Toronto) and have mostly been relegated to the role of internet trolls. There was a scuffle when they arrived at Parliament Hill, with Tyler Hover losing his ID Canada flag and some comrades being arrested.

A final wave of fifty or so (presumably the three buses and handful of cars from Québec) arrived at this point.

Eventually the rest of our comrades on Parliament Hill retreated to Sparks Street, where we rejoined them and continued to march south towards the OPS station on Elgin and Argyle to demand the release of the nine comrades arrested earlier. The OPS lined up to defend their station, and we chanted slogans for the release of our comrades for several hours, while a known alt-right troll filmed and observed us from the corner. Eventually we received news that eight of the arrested had been released with a ninety-day ban from Parliament Hill, while one individual, who was being charged for allegedly assaulting an RCMP officer, remained in custody. Coffee and pizza eventually arrived, and after some hours we headed out, following a brief photo op with the ID Canada banner and a Canadian flag—our spoils of war—near the Museum of Nature.

In Lieu of Conclusion

On relatively quick notice, close to two hundred far rightists managed to mobilize to Ottawa to hold an anti-immigrant rally. They brought together forces from English and French Canada representing a broad range of far-right political positions. A minor but not negligible segment of them had latched on to the current yellow vest uprising in France, while others were tapping conspiracy theories and jumbled thinking from the United States. The bulk of their forces seem to have been from Ottawa and Québec.

It is clear that the far right is seeking broader unity, as no single organization or tendency is able to mobilize a significant number of people. However, together, they are not insignificant. That this openness is creating a space for actual fascist forces to intervene is something we have already seen in Québec with the rapprochement between Atalante and the national-populists. We saw it again last weekend, as the Canadian Nationalist Party was given the microphone to speak, and members of ID Canada were present with their flags.

Our role in this situation is clear: to oppose and block the growing racist movement, while exposing their connections and the politics underlying their activity.

That the Migration Compact became a hot potato was largely due to xenophobic and racist rabble-rousing by the far right in Europe. Fake news was spread to the effect that the Compact would suppress any opposition to migration and oblige nations to open their borders. While we wish this were so, unfortunately the Compact is merely another nonbinding agreement, indicating a political commitment but in no way guaranteeing any right to move freely or any obligation to provide safe haven to those fleeing hardship and violence. But to the far right even a nonbinding agreement is tantamount to “genocide” against the wealthy countries of the West. To which we say: the entire world has been plundered for hundreds of years by the West, to the point of real genocide. That people fleeing the conditions this has wrought would seek to come here is only normal, and if this provides even a small relief from the wreckage of Western imperialism, then that is something we can only welcome with joy.

Support our Comrades

Funds are being raised to help those arrested for opposing the far right on December 8th; to help out, check out these links:

Fundrazr: https://fundrazr.com/c1R223?ref=ab_f7lG5b

Merch store: https://iww-gdc.ca/shop/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.