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A new organization in the fight against far-right hate groups

A new organization in the fight against far-right hate groups

Evan Balgord is the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a new organization devoted to investigative journalism focused on white supremacist, white nationalist, far right, violently misogynist, anti-Muslim, or otherwise overtly hateful groups. They aim to supply information in a strategic way to anti-racist community groups, media, and law enforcement as part of multi-pronged campaigns to shut hate groups down. Scott Neigh interviews Balgord about the current landscape of far-right hate groups in Canada and about the work of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

In the last few years, Canada has seen a dramatic upsurge in street-level activity by a spectrum of groups that are, variously, white supremacist, white nationalist, far right, neonazi, violently misogynist, anti-Muslim, or otherwise overtly hateful.

On the one hand, this is happening in most Western countries. In recent years, many far right groups in North America and Europe have begun to make skillful use of online strategies to recruit and radicalize members, particularly young white men. The election of Donald Trump in the United States and the presence of overt white nationalists in prominent postions in the White House further energized these groups, prompting increased brazenness in overt public activity, including greater frequency of organized demonstrations and violence.

On the other hand, this is not in the least a new phenomenon in Canada. After all, Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was an ardent white supremacist. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan had upwards of 25,000 members in Saskatchewan and elsewhere on the prairies. A range of fascist, white supremacist, and neo-nazi groups persisted through the decades after that, on through the resurgence led by the Heritage Front in the 1990s and the various sects and grouplets documented by the volunteers at the Anti-Racist Canada blog more recently.

Of course, overtly proclaimed racism is only the most visible manifestation of white supremacy. So much about life in Canada is organized in ways that harm Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour, from the country's very basis as a settler colonial project, to the workings of everything from policing, to the economy, to the media, to borders, to education. So combatting overt hate groups must be seen as only one part of a much broader anti-racist and anti-colonial politics. Nonetheless, in this moment when the far right has more political influence than it has had globally since the Second World War, combatting organized, overtly racist groups is urgently necessary.

From the famous Battle of Christie Pitts in Toronto in 1933, to the diligent work of Anti Racist Action chapters against the Heritage Front in the 1990s, to moblizations by local anti-fascist groups today, one element of that has always been direct confrontation in the streets. But that is far from all that we need.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network offers another component that can be a useful part in such struggles. It brings together journalists, leaders from within targeted communities, scholars, and activists. Modeled loosely on the Southern Poverty Law Center in the United States, the group's investigations of hate groups and hate group members in the few months since it launched have already been part of efforts that have shut down Canada's most prominent neonazi podcast, exposed several leading Canadian figures on the far right, provided information to local anti-fascist organizers who have confronted hate group mobilizations in the streets, and been part of various efforts that have interfered with the ability of far right groups to recruit and radicalize new members.

Image: Used with permission of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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