This week’s CANADALAND sets out to answer the question “Is the People’s Party of Canada racist?”
You may find the notion offensive, if you happen to be among the 843,000 people who voted for one of the PPC’s candidates in last month’s election. Or you may find the answer offensively obvious, if you happen to be among the 16.1 million voters who didn’t.
And if you’re party leader Maxime Bernier, you perhaps might deem the very consideration of the question to be indicative of a “disgusting smear job.”
But while few who support the party likely consider themselves racist — and Bernier emphatically rejects the characterization — it does appear to have a habit of attracting those who do.
“Intentionally or not, the PPC is the party largely favoured by the Canadian far and racist right,” says Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Bernier, she says, “was using their language and their talking points” from day one, and “the words that he used signalled to them that he and the PPC were their guys. So whether he intentionally dog-whistled or not, he said the right thing and the messages were received.”
He did not respond to questions sent by Canadaland.
“But for those that aren’t racist,” Simons says, “they do attach themselves to the PPC and are primed for that kind of radicalization. They provide cover for those who are overtly racist and seek to use the party to infiltrate Canadian politics and shift the Overton window further right.”
On the show, we look at a pattern that has emerged among many of the party’s supporters, candidates, and members in the three years since its founding:
In the interest of adding context, here are some passages from the episode with links to their supporting sources:
• “…in the case of the PPC, racists helped found the party. In order to register as a federal party with Elections Canada, the PPC needed 250 signatories.…no fewer than three of them were connected with white-supremacist organizations. There was Shaun Walker, former leader of a U.S. neo-Nazi group called National Alliance. There was a former Soldiers of Odin member and a member of PEGIDA Canada, which stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident.'”
• “About Shaun Walker. In 2007, he was convicted in the U.S. for orchestrating racially-motivated attacks. Then a decade later, he helped found the PPC and became a PPC riding director in St. Catharines. After Walker’s criminal conviction was exposed by the media, Bernier did kick him out of the party, and he denied knowing about the attacks.”
• “…as the PPC was gaining steam in 2019, the Toronto Star reported that [alt-right podcast] The Ensign Hour’s hosts asked listeners to infiltrate the People’s Party of Canada, whether or not the party wanted them to.”
• “Bernier has taken pictures with a number of neo-Nazis and white nationalists. In one picture, he is smiling next to a guy wearing the emblem of the white-nationalist Northern Guard. In another, he’s joined by Paul Fromm, who was one of the most prominent white supremacists in North America.…[but] it’s possible that he didn’t recognize them.”
• “PPC candidate Chelsea Hillier was on [Canada First founder Tyler] Russell’s YouTube…here she is on Rogers TV during her election campaign: ‘My top, number-one platform policy is Canadian identity…’”
• “Chelsea Hillier’s riding director in the last election was a guy named Shane Marshall, the very same guy who was arrested for throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”
• “Shane Marshall has also been seen at anti-vax protests and, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, he ran multiple white nationalist accounts online. …after the news broke that it was Marshall who attacked the prime minister, Bernier denounced the gravel-throwing and removed Marshall from the directorship.”
• “In another video, Friesen, identified as ‘Grizzly Patriot,’ talks openly about what it is that might come next: ‘Our numbers are growing, and hopefully we can avoid that day where… it comes to lead or war or rebellion or… civil war.'”
• “…there’s Darik Horn, who described himself as Bernier’s security guard and is a founding member of the Canadian Nationalist Party, which openly promotes white nationalism. When Maxime Bernier sat down with the Toronto Star‘s editorial board [in 2019], Darik Horn was right there with him in the newsroom. He accompanied Bernier throughout his media tour that day.”
• “…Maxime Bernier says stuff like this: ‘When tyranny becomes law, revolution become our duty.’ That sounds a lot like a similar phrase, ‘When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes our duty,’ which is the slogan of the Three Percenters, a far-right militia on Canada’s list of terrorist groups.”
• “…the official party platform called for reducing immigration below [Stephen Harper–era] levels, to 150,000 per year, and threw in an end to multiculturalism.”
Top image: An October 2018 photo of the attendees of the founding meeting of the PPC’s St. Catharines riding association, edited to highlight the presence of Shaun Walker.