An outlet calling itself “Canada’s leading Caribbean newspaper” has been pushing anti-mask and anti-vaxx conspiracy theories and pseudo-science, including an article that calls vaccines “delayed death jabs.”
Toronto Caribbean News has over 62,000 combined followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aside from various pieces highlighting community and urban news that concerns Toronto’s large Caribbean population, the outlet and its social media platforms have taken a hard-right position on hot-button issues, primarily centred on the pandemic.
A home for conspiracy theories
One piece by freelance reporter “Jonathan” (TCN often doesn’t publish the full names of its authors) titled “How to REJECT the vaccine, REJECT the death stick (test), and keep your job,” gives “step-by-step instructions on how to keep your job, while rejecting the death jab, a.k.a. ‘vaccine’ and death stick, a.k.a. ‘tests.’”
The piece refers to COVID-19 tests as untrustworthy, calling them a disguised “vaccine delivery mechanism,” while attributing the pandemic and vaccine rollout to a ruse by world governments to attain further global dominance by destroying small businesses.
It then gives detailed instructions on how to avoid getting tested for COVID-19 at work, including printing off a template letter to fill out and give to the employer, saying that your job has to pay if you exhibit side effects from vaccines or tests.
The TCN website is filled with similar articles that peddle unsubstantiated pseudoscience while referring to the pandemic (and vaccines) as a strategy by global powers to disenfranchise ordinary people — a common conspiracy theory among the contemporary far right that has helped galvanize it through the pandemic.
“I get people in the community being hesitant and/or having questions about the vaccines or question why our government that has long neglected us now cares about our wellbeing,” says Kevin Edmonds, acting director of Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto, “but what is coming out of Toronto Caribbean News is very dangerous — much of it is just cut and pasted from far-right conspiracy sites like Infowars.”
Edmonds adds that he has seen print versions of TCN in various restaurants in Scarborough, but never knew about its anti-vaxx content.
“For me, it reveals that due to the longstanding neglect of our communities, there is serious work that we as a community need to do in terms of building alternatives that can confidently answer legitimate questions and debunk the garbage while keeping a critical and independent perspective, but ultimately spread the message that vaccines save lives,” Edmonds adds.
TCN is doing just the opposite of this. Another article by “Jonathan” refers to documents published by the UN and the World Economic Forum as telltale signs of the global powers’ nefarious plans. “Aside from the sterilization and depopulation goals,” he writes, “if you get injected and survive, Microsoft is all excited with their patent #2020-060606 to ‘farm’ you as a ‘resource.’”
In yet another article, this time by Michael Thomas, a study arguing that masks are toxic for children by discredited academic Harald Wallach, who also dabbles in parapsychology (the study of paranormal phenomena), is promoted as credible, despite it being retracted from publication by a medical journal. Thomas says the retraction had nothing to do with the merits of Wallach’s “evidence” but was politically motivated.
Aside from these written pieces, TCN also has a video platform where various issues are discussed, but again with a focus on COVID-19 and related conspiracy theories. One host, Simone J. Smith, who also contributes articles for the TCN website, recently interviewed David Icke, one of the world’s most popular conspiracy theorists, for a segment on TCN Video.
Icke was kicked off of multiple social media platforms last year for pushing COVID-19 conspiracy theories, such as how the virus’s symptoms are linked to the 5G mobile network. In his interview with Smith, Icke reiterates his assertion that “there’s no evidence” that COVID-19 actually exists.
Overt political messaging
TCN has also taken on a more overtly political tone within the past year or so. Specifically, the platform has been featuring content sympathetic to the far-right People’s Party of Canada (PPC) led by Maxime Bernier.
The outlet tweeted an 11-minute interview conducted by Smith last fall, where Bernier criticized lockdowns for killing the Canadian economy and small business owners. Bernier appeared again for a longer interview this April when he reiterated his criticisms of lockdowns and also the idea of vaccine passports.
In the text description for the April interview, Smith writes, “The People’s Party of Canada is the only political party that is fighting against lockdowns and vaccine passports, and today, I am honoured to be speaking with the Leader of The People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier.”
This general pro-PPC sentiment has carried over in recent days leading up to the September 20 federal election, as the TCN posted the far-right party’s ad onto their Instagram page this week.
Since its inception in 2018, the PPC has been riddled with accusations of racism, from having anti-Muslim candidates to at least one neo-Nazi staffer (now fired), to Bernier himself uttering racist slurs against at least one political opponent.
Moreover, the TCN Network, owned by free speech and expression activist (and ex-nightclub DJ) Grant Browning, is also working to hold a conference called “The Awakening World Truth Summit.” The first was already held this past February, virtually. It featured a wide range of well known anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists, from Icke to infamous COVID-19 denialist Chris Sky to American anti-vaxx activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Browning also started a GoGetFunding page for the “TCN Expansion Project,” asking for $100,000 in donations (it currently has just over $2000). In the promotional video for the page, Browning casts his media company as a truth-telling attempt “against the current narratives that are being pushed out by the mainstream media.”
“Anyone speaking out is being silenced,” he adds, “we need to have media sources that are not afraid to speak the truth.” According to him, the conference got 1.1 million page views in less than eight hours. A previous effort to raise money on GoFundMe was stopped when the crowd-funding site removed TCN’s campaign page for violating its terms.
Browning runs the TCN network along with his wife Trish Browning, who oversees sales and advertisements. According to one article on TCN, Grant “had already started the business Carib101, which at the time was online advertising and marketing,” when he met Trish.
He established Toronto Caribbean News Inc. in August 2018, though the company’s government registration page shows that he hasn’t filed the requisite tax information for a couple of years. Both have been involved with the outlet since the very beginning, having helped print what they describe as “the first ever Toronto Caribbean Newspaper.”
A “positive” community outlet
“When we originally started the newspaper, we set out to be non-biased, not taking a side, reporting on events how they happened as is,” Grant Browning said in a November 2018 TCN article about its new section, “Community Focused.”
“By picking up our paper, you can be sure that you are choosing to stem the spread of negative news and offer a brighter perspective helping in our mission to build, strengthen, and empower the community for success,” he added.
The piece framed TCN “as a prominent media outlet in the Caribbean community” that is “aware of who their readers are, and how they receive the news they share. The community is filled with people who feel they are at a disadvantage in modern day society.”
The argument is that since members of the community are often mis-portrayed by narrow-minded mainstream media culture that only portrays people from the Caribbean negatively, TCN is there to correct the record and put forth some positive news. Ironically, this original, sunny editorial mindset doesn’t seem to reflect the throng of pieces and videos on TCN and TCN TV warning of global conspiracies to control people and kill off small businesses via a fake viral pandemic.
Both Grant and Trish are also involved in The Caribbean Children Foundation, which helps deliver medical services to underserved and critically ill kids in the Caribbean. Grant helps with the foundation’s public relations while Trish does strategic planning.
According to an executive member of the foundation who says he wasn’t aware of TCN’s far-right, anti-vaxx messaging, Grant used to live in Trinidad and Trish is originally from Guyana. He also mentioned that TCCF is an organization based on medical science and scientific truth, which doesn’t fit with some of Grant and Trish’s TCN messaging around COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Trish did not agree to be interviewed for this article. No one else at the TCN responded to multiple requests for interviews.
Top Photo: Adapted from original
CORRECTION (September 18, 2021 11:15 AM): An earlier version of this article said that the first Awakening World Truth Summit was this April, it was actually Feb., the second summit was in March and a third was held in June. It is not an annual conference.