NDP leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a speaker during a news conference in Ottawa on November 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Singh says government must move to counter hate groups, which have tripled since 2015

Singh says government must move to counter hate groups, which have tripled since 2015

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the Liberal government must do more to tackle the growing threat of hate groups.

The past five years have seen a proliferation of neo-Nazi groups and online content from the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist movement, with experts saying the number of hate groups in Canada has tripled to 300 since 2015.

Fatal attacks, including at a Toronto mosque in September and the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017, make demands for a federal response all the more urgent, Singh said.

“Radicalized white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the alt-right have resulted in the deaths of people,” he said, highlighting the threat to Canada’s Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and racialized communities.

“Mothers talk to me of the fear they have for their kids going out into the community, worried about the violence they might face.”

At a virtual meeting with advocates Tuesday, Singh endorsed an action plan by the National Council of Canadian Muslims calling for federal legislation that would allow authorities to shut down white supremacist organizations that do not meet the threshold for a militia or terrorist entity.

The plan also demands authorities move more proactively to dismantle hate groups under existing provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act and the Criminal Code.

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says national law enforcement agencies need to establish dedicated anti-hate crime divisions.

“Right now it is, in my view, one of the most dangerous times in Canadian history when it comes to extreme right-wing violence,” said Farber, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, which disbanded in 2011.

Twenty-two people have been killed as a result of right-wing radicalization over the past four years, he said, including the 10 who died during the van attack in Toronto two years ago.

The trial for Alek Minassian, who told police he planned and carried out the attack in April 2018 but has pleaded not criminally responsible, began via video conference Tuesday.

Minassian told interrogators he corresponded before the attack with two mass murderers motivated by the misogynist “incel” culture propagated by males claiming to be “involuntary celibate.”

Hate groups and white supremacist ideas are “wildly enabled” by mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and message boards like 8chan, but also fringe platforms including Gab, Telegram and Parler, says Barbara Perry of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

“We’re also seeing a lot more of what I’ve been calling floaters — people who don’t necessarily affiliate with any particular group but, given the availability of online venues, sort of move in and out of social media platforms, cherry-picking narratives that seem to fit their own grievances or their own lot in life,” Perry said in a phone interview.

A toxic blend of borderless white nationalism, sporadically enforced social media policies and flimsy legal resistance has metastasized into radicalization and occasional acts of deadly violence.

“I think it’s been a perfect storm. Now into the current context you add COVID and the conspiracy theories that are circulating around that — ‘Blame the Jews,’ or ‘Blame the Asians,’” Perry said.

Advocates, including Perry and the national Muslim council, met virtually with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger on Monday evening to discuss possible solutions.

The Liberal government has repeatedly pledged to do more to combat hate speech online. During the last election they promised new regulations for social media platforms, including a requirement that they remove “illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties.”

“White supremacy and violence have no place in Canada,” Blair said in an email Tuesday.

He highlighted law enforcement efforts such as listing terrorist entities under the Criminal Code, a step that freezes their assets and makes it a crime to knowingly handle them.

The neo-Nazi groups Combat 18 and Blood & Honour were listed last year, the first time right-wing extremist groups were added, Blair noted.

“There’s 298 more,” said Mustafa Farooq, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“It’s rare to see prosecutions, despite the preponderance of hate materials that we see,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, policy director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise since 2016, exceeding 2,200 last year, according to advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said most of them begin online.

He and Conservative MP Marty Morantz are part of a task force launched this fall that includes politicians from Australia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States who aim to push their legislatures to pass similar laws and collectively pressure web companies to act.

“Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has tweeted vile anti-Semitic content multiple times in the past month, and Twitter has not flagged it,” Housefather said in a phone interview.

He said companies should work harder to contextualize or remove hateful posts.

Facebook has been slow to root out insidious conspiracy theories, but banned hate speech linked to harmful stereotypes earlier this year, including anti-Semitic posts. It went further last month by banning Holocaust denial.

The Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism hosted its first virtual briefing with community organizations Tuesday evening.

Monday and Tuesday marked the anniversary of Kristallnacht — also known as the “Night of Broken Glass” — a 1938 pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany that saw scores of civilians killed, stores and synagogues smashed and thousands rounded up for concentration camps.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2020.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Hate crimes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Most Read