Understanding Populism In Canada

The rise of far-right populist groups is not a new thing for Canada, yet most people either refuse to acknowledge it or think that it is not a matter of concern. When the Liberals held a snap election in the hopes to gain a majority, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) saw a significant increase in their popularity. The PPC had about 300,000 votes in the 2019 election which increased to more than 820,000 in the most recent election. The PPC did not win any seats in either case, but they increased their visibility with their presence in anti-mask protests and other issues that go against the current pandemic measures.

Should Canada be concerned about the rise in far-right populist groups? A new study titled An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue identified about 6,660 right-wing extremist channels, pages, groups, and accounts across 7 social media platforms. The study goes on to elaborate on the “most salient topics of conversation which include anti-muslim and anti-Trudeau rhetoric.” While Canada boasts about its immigration policies and multi-cultural cities, the study stated that it is the third-largest nationality after the U.S. and U.K to be active “on forums associated with white supremacy” using 4chan.

The gradual increase in popularity of the PPC in Canada is yet another reminder of the necessary concern regarding right-wing extremists around the world. As reported by The Globe and Mail, the members of PPC include “those rejected by or left the Conservative Party because of their views on immigration, gender identity, free speech, and other issues.” Launched in 2018 by Maxime Bernier, a former long-time Conservative MP, the PPC continues to defend its stand on various issues thwarting allegations about being racist and xenophobic. However, the party’s agenda speaks to the contrary.

PPC stands for free speech for all with no stated exceptions for the propagation of hate speech. If elected the party is committed to reducing immigration and refugee numbers, removing funding for multiculturalism, and repealing the Multiculturalism Act along with continuing its support for public access to military-grade weaponry.

The increase in the number of political parties contesting in an election works well for democracy, but if the members constituting a party harbour far-right extremist views, then the safety of Black, Indigenous, and other minority populations becomes threatened. The United States and Europe receive a lot of attention for their far-right violence, but Canada is not far behind. According to a report cited in an article by Maclean, “Canadians are among the most active in online right-wing extremism, which includes spreading racist, white supremacist, and misogynistic views, and plotting acts of violence.”

The growing popularity of the PPC may be a small matter to some. People may also disregard these votes as a mere wave of support by those who are “anti-vaccine or supporters of conspiracy theories about Covid-19.” But is the party only about that? Do they represent a group of people who are not satisfied with the Conservatives and look at the PPC as a ray of hope to find representation? While everyone has a right to their opinion, it is important to monitor any propagation of hate and violence.