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Election 2019: mainstreaming hate

John Bell

September 19, 2019

The decision by the official Leaders Debate Commission to invite Maxime Bernier to televised debates is a disgrace, helping to legitimize far-right racism in Canada. 

After narrowly losing leadership of the Conservatives to Andrew Scheer, he led a split to create the even more racist People’s Party of Canada.

Centrists argue that, although they dislike the anti-immigrant rhetoric that is stock in trade for Bernier’s People’s Party, the decision is a victory for “free speech”. 

Some even celebrate the move, arguing that a stronger showing for the PPC will take away votes from Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

(It is worth noting that the move comes the same day as the Globe and Mail provided Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant an op/ed platform in the name of “press freedom”. More on that below.)

What it will do is give anti-immigrant racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and misogyny a boost. 

Have we forgotten the vile billboards adorned with Bernier’s face and the slogan: “Say no to mass immigration.” The PPC leader pretended that the ads were nothing to do with him. They were in fact paid for by a corporate third party, True North Strong and Free Advertising. And True North is the tool of mining CEO Frank Smeenk, who is a major financial supporter of the PPC.

Tory bigots

So far the election has been a parade of right-wing bigots being exposed. Far-right and white supremacist candidates abound in both the PPC and Tory ranks.

The more traditional haters–homophobes and anti-choice crusaders–appear more frequently among the Tories. It starts with vintage video clips of parliamentary speeches by Scheer, denouncing same-sex marriage and comparing gay couples to a dog’s anatomy. Old news, the Tories complained, Andrew has moved on. But when explicitly given the opportunity to do so by reporters, Scheer refused to apologize and changed the subject.

Scheer is backing candidates like Rachel Willson, running in York Centre, a life-long anti-abortion activist who pushes for laws restricting abortion, and for a public monument to “the unborn”. Scheer has said he will not reopen the abortion debate; then with a wink to the likes of Willson and her supporters he says his MPs will be able to introduce legislation according to their conscience.

It happens that a lot of Tory candidates are well-known opponents of a woman’s right to choose. Like Heather Leung, Burnaby North candidate, who is a liar to boot. She put out a meme with entertainer Rick Mercer’s face and a made up quote telling people to “vote Conservative.”

“Not true. All fake. Please stop,” tweeted Mercer, with the hashtag #whoarethesepeople .

Not all the racists left with Bernier. Take Mississauga Tory candidate Ghada Melek. Her history of islamophobic statements is so foul that she was disqualified for running for Doug Ford in the provincial election. Too racist for Ford, but okay with Scheer.

Photos of Cloverdale-Langley Tory candidate Tamara Jansen in blackface have emerged. Constituents report Jansen canvassers are warning that Somali and Muslims are “taking over our country”, and condemning the LGTBQ “agenda” being crammed down our throats.

Then there is Justina McCaffery, Scheer’s candidate in Kanata. She is being haunted by videos of her with BFF Faith Goldy, neo-Nazi and failed Toronto mayoralty candidate. Rather than answer a CBC reporter’s questions, McCaffery jumped in a car and literally peeled out of a parking lot.

So many Tory candidates have left slimy trails, like slugs, that Scheer had to issue them a blank get-out-of-jail card. Who among us hasn’t been a Nazi, a liar or a dirty trickster at some point? All his gang has to do is issue an apology, and all is forgiven and forgotten.

Max racism

Scheer is in a tough place. The swing voters he needs to form a majority like their public services, support a woman’s right to choose and don’t like Nazis. But if he starts expelling candidates for being far-right, he’ll lose a lot of troops and drive part of his base into the arms of Maxime Bernier. 

Remember that Bernier got 49% of the votes (after 12 ballots) in the last Tory leadership contest.

As PPC leader Bernier doesn’t have to worry about being embarrassed by surprise far-right candidates–they’re all far-right.

One PPC candidate who found that out was Brian Misera. The Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam candidate was getting tired of being called a Nazi while door-knocking. He publicly asked Bernier to condemn the overt racism, and to cull the “racist idiots” and “human garbage in our ranks.”

Bernier and the party responded by expelling Misera.

Far more to Bernier’s liking is Saskatchewan PPC candidate Cody Payant. He took to social media to call for more hate speech: “Our country could use more hate speech, more offensive comments, more 'micro-aggressions', more violation of safe spaces with words and more critical thinking.” 

Racist Rebels

In the midst of this election, where it has suddenly become acceptable to give far-right bigotry a mainstage platform, a common thread is Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media.

Faith Goldy, the neo-Nazi gadfly, is directly connected to numerous Tory candidates (including Andrew Scheer, who she interviewed for Rebel). On the campaign trail she has been endorsing PPC members.

The Tory campaign manager, and Scheer’s close political advisor, is Hamish Marshall, who was a founding member of Rebel. Although he left Rebel when Scheer won the Tory leadership, he was there when the “news source” launched campaigns demonizing Muslims, arguing that whites were being replaced, and hiring Nazi sympathizers like Goldy and Gavin McInnes.

It should be noted that Levant’s bullshit disguising racist hatred as “free speech” did not end up in the Globe’s editorial pages by accident. His column was solicited by editor-in-chief David Walmsley, over the objections of the rest of his editorial board.

Unionized workers at the Globe published an open condemnation of the decision: “Mr. Levant, head of the far-right media outlet The Rebel, has a history of giving favourable coverage to white supremacists, wilfully promoting their racist rhetoric – even employing them as contributors. The Rebel does not practice responsible journalism in accordance with any reasonable standards of integrity. Publishing his undisputed claim of being a persecuted journalist legitimizes his viewpoint, and is harmful to the credibility of The Globe and Mail, as well as the reporters and editors we represent.”

Studies in the US have shown that hate crimes spike in counties following Donald Trump rallies. The same thing will happen when Bernier comes to town.

Extending an invitation for nation debates to Maxime Bernier does exactly the same sort of harm to public discourse. It gives racist hatemongers legitimacy and helps them organize and recruit. These people do not stop at words. They pose a real threat of violence to oppressed communities. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, attacks on LGTBQ folks will increase.


Updated September 23, 2019

Global News reports that several signatories of papers for the PPC receiving official party status have intimate ties to white-supremacist or neo-Nazi organizations.

 One, Shaun Walker was head of a St. Catharines PPC riding association. He was exposeed as past leading membe of a neo-Nazi organization in the US, and felon convicted of hate crimes. When he was exposed Bernier kicked him out of the party.

Another, Janice Bultje, is a leading member of Pegida. There she tried to hide behind the pseudonym "Jenny Hill", as she organized far-right and anti-Islamic demonstrations around southern Ontario. Pegida is a group based on hatred of non-white immigrants. They deny being violent, but encourage and ally with open fascists. (Bultje and her husband also run a private "Christian" school in Chatham.)

Also sponsoring the PPC was Justin Smith, headd of the Sudbury chapter of the Sons of Odin, another anti-immigrant group imported from Europe.

NDP leadeer Jagmeet Singh has appealed to Elections Canada to disinvite Bernier. It isn''t likely.


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