During the insurrection on the United States Capitol Building on January 6, “As a Canadian” trended on Twitter, as many Canadians opined on the horrors we witnessed unfolding in Washington, D.C.
But, even in a contemporary setting, Canadians don’t have the moral authority to cast judgement.
We aren’t immune from the elements of fascist sympathy, toxic right-wing populism, and conspiracy theory that stoked the chaos in the U.S. last week.
After all, a small Trump rally took place at the Vancouver Art Gallery, at the very same time, where a CBC photojournalist was assaulted.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vocal Canadian supporters. Alberta’s Minister of Agricultural and Forestry, Devin Dreeshen, was (is?) an avid Trump supporter, MAGA hat and all. The Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Candice Bergen too, although her MAGA hat is camouflage-coloured.
It may seem unfair to paint Canadian Trump supporters as complicit, but the collective admiration for the cult of personality empowered the terrorists that swarmed the U.S. Capitol.
Notable Trump supporters within the alt-right movement are Canadian, too: Gavin McInnes (founder of the Proud Boys), Stefan Molyneux, Lauren Southern, Faith Goldy.
Canadian far-right commentary website, The Rebel News — which previously harboured McInnes, Southern, and Goldy — featured a reporter in D.C. proclaiming how Trump’s pre-insurrection speech warmed him.
More than a few fringe Internet personalities, Canadians have mobilized in ways that parallel last week’s events at the U.S. Capitol.
Two years ago, the Yellow Vest Movement organized protests across Canada — occasionally involving violence — including the February 2019 “United We Roll” truck convoy that surrounded Parliament Hill in Ottawa. As participants espoused bigoted, racist, wildly conspiratorial, and frankly, Trumpian views, the event was attended by then-Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer.
Now, current Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole’s political communications are a pastiche of MAGA. Instead of “Make America Great Again”, it’s “Take Back Canada”. Both slogans invoke a seizure of power to restore a nation’s past glory — yes, similar to how Hitler crusaded to restore Germany’s greatness.
O’Toole condemned the “assault” on the U.S. Capitol. But Trump’s “Save America” rally that day included the President’s call to “take back our country.”
This rhetoric speaks to an audience — a very male, very white, very bigoted, very conspiracy-minded, and very angry audience, just like those Yellow Vest protestors.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s conspiracy-driven campaign to “Stop The Great Reset” — “The Great Reset” is a conspiracy theory about globalist elites reengineering the world — fuels this audience, paranoid about losing “their” country.
The conspiracy theory-laden madness that mirrors the motives of the D.C. mob is not limited to the Conservative Party of Canada.
Over the holidays, former BC Deputy Premier Rich Coleman amplified anti-vaccine skepticism circulating the QAnon crowds. This was on the heels of the revelation that BC Liberal Health Critic Renee Merrifield had amplified COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Vancouver’s oldest political party, the Non-Partisan Association, includes three board directors who openly peddle in the bigotry and conspiracies of Trump.
Christopher Wilson is a former Rebel Media host, who recently encouraged Vancouver residents to “start harassing” homeless “low lives”. Wesley Mussio is an outspoken Trump supporter, who has supported anti-mask protests. David Pasin openly questioned the legitimacy of the U.S. election results, which was the key conspiracy theory that incited the D.C. insurrection.
These are seeds that have already sprouted within our borders: Conspiratorial distrust of all institutions; bigoted dogwhistles and violent rhetoric alike; right-wing populist anger; support for the very man who incited terrorism on his nation’s capital.
They demand our attention. Or else, like many Americans last week, we will wonder how something so catastrophic — in a robust democracy, like ours— could have ever happened.
Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, a politics and culture podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and www.thisisvancolour.com