The Storm Alliance claims to have 3,000 members across Canada, but this figure really only represents those who have joined its Facebook groups. In actual fact, the group has difficulty getting more than a few dozen of its own members out for any of its events. The anti-Muslim far-right group La Meute joined the Storm Alliance July 1 “patrol” at Roxham Road, in Hemmingford, and still there was only a total of 60 or 70 of them.
Storm Alliance also tried to join a protest against refugees outside the Olympic Stadium on August 6 organized by open white supremacists. When it became clear that they would be outnumbered by anti-racists, the organizers of this protest canceled the event, and Storm Alliance did not show up.
Storm Alliance attempted to participate in La Meute’s August 20 demonstration in Quebec City, but as the two groups were at odds at the time, La Meute refused to allow them to. Storm Alliance had also participated in a much smaller August 19 protest in Quebec City that La Meute had publicly disavowed, due to the presence of known racists and the likelihood of violence.
On September 30, 2017, the Storm Alliance returned to the border, this time to the official St-Bernard-de-Lacolle crossing. Compared to their previous mobilizations, this was a relative success for them. Approximately a hundred people participated in this demonstration “against the Liberals.” Although the Storm Alliance claims this border action was not anti-immigrant, antifascists had no trouble identifying a number far-right participants among the Storm Alliance supporters gathered there, e.g., Shawn Beauvais-Macdonald and Vincent Mercure Bélanger (active in the Montréal alt-right neo-Nazi scene and present in Charlottesville in August 2017) and other notorious racists, including Chantal Duchesneau, Robert Proulx, and René Blaireau. (See https://montreal-antifasciste.info/fr/2017/10/07/storm-alliance-a-lacolle-une-manif-pas-raciste-mais/.)
Storm Alliance also mobilized for the November 25, 2017 demonstration in Québec City, in collaboration with La Meute. Several hundred people took to the streets to denounce public hearings into systemic racism, which, ironically, had already been cancelled by the Liberal government on October 18. As well as members of the III% (a far-right militia primarily based in the U.S.), the Soldiers of Odin, and people from the Montréal alt-right scene, the neo-Nazi group Atalante openly participated, with its contingent being warmly greeted and applauded by other demonstrators when it arrived.
Since Dave Tregget stepped down in the face of sexual harassment allegations in early 2018, the group’s new leader Éric Trudel seems to be having trouble organizing anything meaningful.
Is Storm Alliance really racist? Are they fascists?
Storm Alliance insists it is not racist, or even against immigration. They insist they are only against “illegal immigrants”; this is part of Tregget’s strategy of softening the image of the far right.
It is important to note that according to the Quebec Bar Association, there is no such thing as an “illegal immigrant” – this is not a legal category. The “Safe Third Country Agreement” between Canada and the US obliges people who wish to receive refugee status here to cross irregularly at places like Roxham Road. Referring to these people as “illegal immigrants” is a verbal trick to imply that refugees are doing something wrong or are in fact criminals.
Storm Alliance willfully spreads confusion on this point, accusing refugees who crossed this summer of “queue jumping” and complaining about the number of men crossing, buttressing racist fears of black and brown men. Indeed, Tregget himself has said of the current arrival of newcomers, that “I won’t say it’s an invasion, but I won’t say it’s not one either.”
Storm Alliance attracts a variety of people, ranging from those who are sincerely concerned about what the media tells them about immigration, to outright white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Storm Alliance member Jean Francois Dionne attended La Meute’s demonstration in Quebec City with a Nazi flag; whereas even La Meute made a point of distancing themselves from this man, Storm Alliance refused to expel him, saying it was all just an honest mistake. This is not an isolated incident, as Storm Alliance has made a point of welcoming all opponents of immigration to its demonstrations, including outright racists and fascists. A new anti-immigrant men-only group, the Northern Guard announced its plans to march beside the Storm Alliance on September 30, 2017, while the self-styled “ethnically aware” neo-Nazi Canadian Nationalist Front took responsibility for organizing the Peterborough rally inspired by Storm Alliance’s national day of action.
That said, Storm Alliance itself is not a fascist organization – it does not seek to overthrow the government, or to set up a dictatorship. It is better understood as a populist and nationalist organization, based on an inherently racist hostility towards immigrants and multiculturalism, which tolerates members who are personally pro-fascist and openly white supremacist. This is just one example of a tendency observed by antifascists in 2017: the national-populist milieus are increasingly prepared to collaborate with openly fascist groups and individuals.
We are in a catastrophic historical epoch, with war, famine, and climate change threatening the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Wealthy countries like Canada are in many ways to blame for this sorry situation – it was the Canadian and Quebec governments, for instance, that supported the coup against Haiti’s duly-elected president Aristide in 2004; it is the Western powers whose interference in the Muslim world created the space for horrific entities like Daesh(“ISIS”) to take form; it is our carbon emissions that are to blame for the famine in sub-Saharan Africa and the deadly flooding in South Asia.
As a result of these catastrophes, migration is at its highest point in human history, and is likely to continue rising in the future. Canada is not currently doing its part to support people who are seeking safe places for themselves and their loved ones; indeed, it is, in fact, worsening the situation by keeping its borders closed and by participating in structures like the G7, while viciously exploiting labour and resources throughout Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.
Unopposed, groups like Storm Alliance are able to present themselves as mere “concerned citizens” with a “legitimate”position, as their racist and far right connections and agenda go unnoticed. They can play an important role in confusing issues, reframing what is a humanitarian crisis into one of “illegal” and “unworthy” human beings. They provide an alibi for the government to continue to deport people to unsafe conditions, and help maintain a situation in which undocumented people must go without basic services, rights, or security as they live in Canada. And when the government, on behalf of the rich and multinational corporations, cuts back on social services and deprives other poor and working-class people living in Canada of basic support, groups like the Storm Alliance point to our friends and neighbours from other countries as scapegoats, thereby shielding those who are truly responsible.
It is up to all of us to take a stand against anti-immigrant scaremongering, to show we are not afraid of racists, but are angry about the agenda of groups like Storm Alliance that will spell heightened violence and risk for refugees and immigrants to Canada. It is important to show up, so that refugees and other targeted people do not feel alone or unsupported when faced with the far right.