Why did Andrew Scheer, leader of the federal Conservative party, share a stage with a white nationalist and neo-Nazi sympathizer this week?
It’s a pretty big question, so let’s look at how we got here.
The trouble started back in December, when Scheer jumped onto the conspiracy theory bandwagon with both feet. He was suddenly concerned – very concerned! – about the UN Compact on Migration. How could Canada give up “our sovereignty” to make decisions on immigration, he asked.
Well… we aren’t. As many, many people have tried to patiently explain, the compact is non-binding. It is not a treaty. It’s mostly a series of best-practices for countries dealing with migrants. A good portion of it is about trying to halt people-smuggling through better international cooperation.
But never mind that! The conspiracy theorists have been fanning the flames online! And Scheer clearly had their back.
This week, things got much, much worse.
The United We Roll protest, a group of truckers and resource industry workers, mostly from Alberta, headed into Ottawa. They’re against the carbon tax and for pipelines. So far, so good as far as ordinary conservative politics goes in Canada.
But some of them are also… wait for it… really, really mad about the UN Compact on Migration. What does that have to do with energy policy and oilpatch jobs, you ask?
Well, United We Roll has strong ties to the Yellow Vest Canada movement. You might have seen those folks, protesting on local overpasses.
Yellow Vest Canada’s Facebook page has been a hornet’s nest of racism, anti-immigration rhetoric, and conspiracy theories. The page’s creator, Tyler Malenfant, has a long history of making anti-Semitic and bigoted statements online.
He’s spouted such gems as “EVERY SINGLE major western news outlet is owned and run by Jews…” and “Whites will never be taken over. This is simply just another failed Jewish attempt at getting rid of us.” Anti-Racist Canada, which tracks the far right in this country, turned up those comments and many more, though Malenfant says he tries to remove posts that cross the line on Yellow Vests.
Some of those posts by members included calls to assassinate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
United We Roll has tried to distance itself from allegations of racism and threats of violence. It’s about jobs and pipelines, say organizers.
Until they got to Ottawa.
Speaking at the rally in front of the Parliament buildings were convoy organizers, a number of Conservative politicians including Scheer, and Maxime Bernier, leader of the new People’s Party of Canada.
And also Faith Goldy.
If you don’t follow far-right or Toronto civic politics, you might not know that name. Goldy is a quasi-journalist/commentator/political activist, who was let go from a job on The Rebel website after she appeared as a guest on a neo-Nazi podcast.
She’s a cheerful proponent of white nationalism, reciting the neo-Nazi “14 words” slogan, slamming Muslims, and promoting the “white genocide” conspiracy theory.
So Andrew Scheer, leader of Canada’s official opposition, a serious candidate for our next prime minister, has been sharing a cause and a forum with open racists.
The big question here is why.
Are Scheer and his advisors simply hoping they can isolate the issues of pipelines and carbon taxes?
It’s possible. Scheer and Bernier both avoided saying anything about the UN Compact on Migration at the United We Roll rally – to the annoyance of some in the crowd.
But surely there are ways to argue energy policy without dipping a toe in the fetid waters of Canada’s far right. Go meet laid off oil workers. Have town halls in Edmonton, Red Deer, Fort McMurray.
Maybe don’t share a forum with a neo-Nazi sympathizer in the nation’s capital?
The other possibility is that Scheer is terrified of Bernier’s new PPC.
With the Liberals dropping in the polls and the NDP still fumbling along with a leader struggling to win a by-election, this fall’s election could be the Conservatives’ to lose.
Yet there is a clear fear that Bernier’s PPC will shave off just enough votes to split the right and cost Scheer a victory.
So the Conservatives have decided, apparently, to veer to the right. To scoop up every vote they can from the populist, anti-immigrant, and even racist fraction of the Canadian public.
Even if that means sharing a stage with a white nationalist.