This text was produced by the Montréal Antifasciste collective and printed in zine format for free distribution at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, May 27-28, 2023.
In the wake of emerging crises (economic, climate, migration, health, etc.) and in the absence of a structured alternative on the left of the political spectrum, a right-wing wind is currently blowing across the world that nothing seems to be slowing down. In keeping with this trend, the far right is on the rise in a number regions across the world, both in its reactionary and institutional forms (loyal to the systems in place) and in its so-called revolutionary forms (hostile to the systems in place), especially in the United States and in some Western European countries, including Italy and France, but also in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, and in India, to provide but a few examples. With a few months’ or a few years’ delay, Canada and Québec are also impacted by this trend, as much in terms of institutional politics (e.g., the populist turn of the Conservative Party of Canada and the media breakthrough of the Conservative Party of Québec) as in terms of soft power (e.g., in Québec, the dominant influence of the Quebécor empire’s media on the “agenda”) and popular or pseudo-popular movements (e.g., opposition to health measures).
The so-called “Freedom Convoy,” which paralyzed the Canadian capital for several weeks in the winter of 2022, confirmed the convergence of several phenomena that are superficially distinct but all play a role in the re-emergence of the far right: a leadership partially derived from supremacist movements and groupuscules that are influenced by the alt-right and “accelerationist” principles (but that are above all rooted in the anti-Trudeau resentment that characterizes western Canadian populism/separatism), anti–health measures conspiracy theory (including a New Age and alternative health component) rooted in confusionism and misinformation propagated by far-right actors, and a populist undercurrent taking advantage of the growing (and largely legitimate) hostility toward political and economic elites.
In Québec, Montréal Antifasciste has documented the parallel emergence and rise of national-populist and neo-fascist movements and groups in the 2016–2020 period, roughly corresponding to the presidency of Donald Trump and the golden age of the alt-right in the United States. During this period, populist Islamophobic and anti-immigration groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance rubbed shoulders with overtly neo-fascist and supremacist activist and ideological organizations, including Atalante, the Fédération des Québécois de souche, Soldiers of Odin, and local incarnations of the alt-right.
On the one hand, a combination of anti-racist and anti-fascist mobilizations, as well as internal tensions and dissension, the institutionalization of some of their demands, and finally the global COVID-19 pandemic greatly destabilized (and in some cases neutralized and eliminated) these organizations. On the other hand, the pandemic provided some actors—both familiar faces and newcomers—the opportunity to push the populist right and the far right in new directions, and the current period is marked by the emergence of a number of new projects strongly to the right of the traditional conservative right. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, the mainstream and institutional political and cultural landscape continues to shift to the right, with potentially serious consequences in the short and medium term. In that context, we offer this—no doubt incomplete—overview of the current situation in Québec.
We are acutely aware of the difficulty of providing a concise and precise definition of a phenomenon as complex as fascism, but for the purposes of this pamphlet and the orientation of the Montréal Antifasciste collective, we propose the following definitions:
Fascism is an anti-liberal, ultranationalist ideology centered on re-founding an imaginary version of the primordial nation,* which has been lost to “modern decadence,” liberal values, and equality-seeking groups, and which is to be restored through the forced consolidation of hierarchies and the normalization of discrimination against different categories of humans (on the basis of gender, “race,” social status, sexual identity, culture, religion, ethnic origin, etc.). The far right designates the currents of thought and political action, both within and outside of the system, that are more radical than the traditional conservative right in consolidating these hierarchies and normalizing relations of oppression and discrimination, thus favouring the emergence of fascist formations.
Anti-fascism refers to the people, organizations, social movements, and currents of thought and action that oppose not only realized fascism but also all the political, social, and cultural factors that facilitate the re-emergence of a fascist spirit and the realization of old or new fascist forms. including xenophobic and reactionary national-populist agendas, neo-fascist, “revolutionary nationalist,” and neo-Nazi groups, as well as confusionist conspiracy theory currents that recycle far-right themes. Liberal anti-fascism largely operates within the limits established by the capitalist system and the bourgeois order. Radical anti-fascism favours a far-reaching egalitarian reorganization of society, i.e., freedom from systemic hierarchies and discriminations, including capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, and heteropatriarchy. The diminutive “antifa,” which was coined in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, generally refers to radical anti-fascism.
* This definition is based on the work of the British historian and political scientist Roger Griffin.
From La Meute to the CAQ: The Institutional Integration of Islamophobic and Anti-Immigration Demands
Montréal Antifasciste was formed shortly after the Islamophobic rallies organized by La Meute in Montréal and Québec City on March 4, 2017. These coordinated demonstrations, which came just weeks after a mass shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Québec City left six dead and many seriously injured, were intended to protest Motion 103 (M-103), a non-binding resolution aimed primarily at getting the federal government to recognize the importance of “condemning Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” which passed on March 23, 2017. In the following years, La Meute and other similar projects—Storm Alliance, the Front patriotique du Québec, Soldiers of Odin Québec, and later the so-called Gilets jaunes and the Vague Bleue among them—organized multiple Islamophobic and anti-immigration demonstrations and actions in Montréal, Québec City, Trois-Rivières, and Ottawa, as well as at the border crossing of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and at Roxham Road. These latter mobilizations demanded the closure of the “irregular” passage used by a relatively large number of refugee claimants under the provisions of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US. From the outset, these demonstrations were flanked by half-assed militias (inspired in part by the III% and US alt-right street-fighting groups like the Proud Boys), including the Groupe Sécurité Patriotique and the Gardiens du Québec, as well as various well-known local far-right figures seeking to pick a fight with anti-fascists.
Although these formations and mobilizations may have seemed marginal at the time, they were, in fact, part of a much broader right-wing drift of the institutional political field in Québec, which had been taking place since the so-called “reasonable accommodation” crisis in 2006–2007. The CAQ’s arrival in power in 2018 served to accelerate this process, as was quickly confirmed by Bill 21, which, under the pretext of ensuring the “secularity of the state,” clearly targeted Muslim women and other religious minorities. The CAQ’s obsession with immigration thresholds during the election campaign (now recuperated by the PQ) also betrayed a populist desire to satisfy the demands of an electoral base among whom the Islamophobic and xenophobic sentiments expressed by La Meute resonated strongly. Despite official denials, in an interview with Radio-Canada in 2019, François Legault half-heartedly admitted that Bill 21 was a “compromise” of sorts with the Islamophobic movements:
Pour éviter les extrêmes, il faut en donner un peu à la majorité. […] Je pense que c’est la meilleure façon d’éviter les dérapages. » […] On délimite le terrain, parce qu’il y a des gens un peu racistes qui souhaiteraient qu’il n’y ait pas de signes religieux nulle part, même pas sur la place publique. [To avoid extremes, you have to give the majority a little bit. . . . I think that’s the best way to avoid slippage. . . . We are marking out the terrain, because there are people who are a bit racist and would like there to be no religious signs anywhere, not even in the public square.]
No one missed the point, especially not the leaders of La Meute, e.g., Sylvain Brouillette, who during the 2018 election said that the CAQ advanced La Meute’s ideas, and vice versa:
“Si La Meute est sur le bord du racisme, cela veut dire que vous l’êtes aussi, M. Legault. […] c’est ceux qui pensent comme vous que vous traitez de racistes.” [If La Meute is a bit racist, that means that you are too, Mr. Legault. . . . You are calling people who think like you racist.]
Again in 2019, when Bill 21 was tabled:
Quand ils disent qu’ils n’ont rien à voir avec La Meute, c’est assez risible. Les revendications de La Meute, c’est exactement le programme de la CAQ et c’est là-dessus qu’il a été élu. [When they say they have nothing to do with La Meute, it’s quite laughable. The demands of La Meute are exactly the program of the CAQ, and that’s what he was elected on.]
The fact is that the institutionalization of the xenophobic and Islamophobic demands of groups like La Meute may have contributed as much—if not more—to their obsolescence and decline as the anti-fascist opposition and the many internal crises that have plagued them (power struggles, financial malfeasance, sexual assault accusations, etc.). Nothing illustrated this phenomenon as grotesquely as the Vague Bleue movement (2019), which ultimately demanded nothing more than what the CAQ government was already putting in place, while puerilely protesting against the media organization (including the TVA network) that is largely responsible for the right-wing drift that in no small way fed the growth of the national-populist movement.
Of course, the reframing of the political landscape on the right is continuing today without the contribution of these groups. Every day, the Québecor media empire, primarily through the work of a small army of reactionary columnists, engages in mass ideological structuring whose discourse is often found in the mouths of elected CAQ officials. The proof is in the fanatical resistance to recognizing the existence of systemic racism and François Legault’s recuperation of the “woke” strawman in National Assembly debates. Mathieu Bock-Côté, whose 2020 book L’empire du politiquement correct was praised by Legault, whose column “Éloge de notre vieux fond catholique” was recently diffused by Legault, and who peddles his rants about the imminent fall of Western civilization in the pages of Le Journal de Montréal and on TVA/LCN on a daily basis, is undoubtedly one of the most important purveyors of far-right ideas in the mainstream, both here and in France (where he served as a mouthpiece for Éric Zemmour during the last presidential election, and where he is still active as a columnist and regular contributor on various far-right platforms, including CNews, Causeur, Valeurs actuelles, etc.). Yet, at home, he is still portrayed as a moderate conservative, and any attempt to associate him with the far right is met with anti-“woke” hysteria.
While unquestionably a win for the CAQ, the recent closure of Roxham Road was also another triumph for the xenophobic movements that have been clamouring for it for years.
Finally, the relative vacillation of the CAQ on various issues, including immigration thresholds and, more recently, its flip-flop on the third link, opens up a space on its right, which Éric Duhaime and his Conservative Party of Québec are happy to occupy with a toxic mix of libertarianism and populism that has enormous appeal for the disappointed fringe of the CAQ’s base and carries current far-right obsessions into the mainstream (including the “anti-drag” hysteria, to which we will return below).
Whatever the institutional context, in 2023, La Meute only survives online and is a shadow of its former self (which was not much to begin with), and Storm Alliance has completely disappeared from the map. The same goes for the Front patriotique du Québec, which organized nationalist marches every July 1 for several years, the Groupe sécurité patriotique, the Gardiens du Québec, the Gilets jaunes du Québec, and all the groupuscules of greater or lesser consequence that formed during that period. However, some of the leading activists of these organizations, including Steeve “l’Artiss” Charland (La Meute) and Mario Roy (Storm Alliance), recycled themselves into the anti–health measures movement that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we shall see below. Donald Proulx’s Parti patriote and other similar fringe groups continue to exist but have no significant influence.
What Happened to the Hardcore Fascists?
One of the Montréal Antifasciste’s major preoccupations in the 2017–2020 period was to track and document the trajectory and activities of the group Atalante, which, in some ways, is both a contemporary iteration of the Québec white power movement, whose origins can be traced back to the bonehead groupuscules of the 1990s, and a sort of vanguard of the European-inspired identity/neo-fascist (specifically, revolutionary nationalist) movement in Québec. Atalante has arguably been the most developed and determined group that Montréal Antifasciste has opposed to date.
When Atalante was founded in 2016, the organization could already count on a number of activists from the Québec City Stomper Crew and, more generally, from the Québec neo-Nazi milieu. Unlike most of the other groups discussed in this text, which we have watched emerge and disappear in recent years, Atalante’s members were already ideologically and politically trained, notably through the activities of the Fédération des Québécois de souche and its own precursors, such as the Bannière noire. Moreover, the organization that clearly inspired Atalante, from its foundation to its most minor actions (to the point of using the same style of lettering on its banners), did nothing to reassure us: CasaPound is an Italian neo-fascist organization, founded in 2003, which claims several thousand members, is well established in several Italian cities, and makes life hard for immigrants and anti-fascists.
Atalante is, to all intents and purposes, based in Québec City, despite some unsuccessful attempts to create a functioning cell in Montréal and the presence of a few activists scattered across the province (notably in the Saguenay). As for our collective, as its name indicates, it is based in Montréal, and this distance has prevented a full and far-reaching mobilization against this Québec City–based neo-fascist group. We must salute the anti-fascist activists in Québec City, who were initially few in number but nonetheless tirelessly fought on the ground against Atalante, its members, and its ideas.
The existing context—a favourable political climate (Islamophobia and the resurgence of identity-based nationalism) was initially a winning recipe for Atalante, which reached sixty members and sympathizers at its peak in 2018–2019, in addition to having a receptive audience within the national-populist movement. When it opened its boxing club in 2017, we feared that the next step would be opening a meeting place for organizing its political activity, which would have marked a clear turning point. Following the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” we decided to put the necessary energy into preventing Atalanta from flourishing and taking root. From 2017 to 2022, the Montréal Antifasciste collective produced a series of articles aimed at combating Atalante’s toxic ideas and publicly exposing its members.
The existing context—a favourable political climate (Islamophobia and the resurgence of identity-based nationalism) was initially a winning recipe for Atalante, which reached sixty members and sympathizers at its peak in 2018–2019, in addition to having a receptive audience within the national-populist movement. When it opened its boxing club in 2017, we feared that the next step would be opening meeting place for organizing its political activity, which would have marked a clear turning point. Following the adage “prevention is better than a cure,” we decided to put the necessary energy into preventing a group like Atalanta from flourishing and taking root. From 2017 to 2022, the Montréal Antifasciste Collective produced a series of articles aimed at combating Atalante’s toxic ideas and publicly exposing its members.
Under the combined impact of constant negative attention from anti-fascists and the banning of the organization from the main social media platforms, which had served the dual function of showcasing the group’s politics and recruitment, Atalante’s activities had dramatically dwindled by late 2019. Raphaël Lévesque and Louis Fernandez’s legal setbacks certainly didn’t help: the assault at the bar Lvlop in December 2018 cast a pall over the organization, and Lévesque’s trial in the Vice case did not provide the political showcase hoped for. It also appears that a number of interpersonal conflicts may have diminished cohesion within the group and led to the creation of sub-cliques. Finally, the members of Atalanta, as “anti-system” as they say they are, seem to have gotten caught up in the system as they have passed their thirties and forties: more comfortable jobs, families, and houses in the suburbs do not lend themselves to revolutionary nationalist militancy.
Since 2020, the group’s outings have become less frequent, and there are fewer activists in the photos. The pressure on the region’s anti-fascists has almost entirely dissipated. The podcast L’armée des ondes, launched in October 2020 to revive the group’s activities and mainly broadcast on its Telegram channel, was initially released every month but has been slowly fading since 2022. In the winter of 2021–2022, the group did attempt to gain a foothold in the anti–health measures movement, without much success. On June 24, 2022, we were informed that the band Légitime Violence participated in the “La Saint-Jean de la race” event organized by Nomos.tv and Alexandre Cormier-Denis.
Since then, key Atalante members seem to have recycled themselves in counter-cultural or professional projects. Cerbère Studios, registered with the Registraire des Entreprises under the name of Félix-Olivier Beauchamp, probably gives graphic design contracts to the couple Étienne Mailhot-Bruneau and Laurence Fiset-Grenier. Louis Fernandez was for a time registered as head of the company Saisis la foudre/Éditions Tardivel, with Gabriel Drouin, but the company was struck off in 2021. Jonathan Payeur, for his part, has teamed up with neo-Nazi musician Steve Labrecque to run a distributor of identity/neo-Nazi clothing under the banner Pagan Heritage (at the time of writing, however, the distributor’s website appears to be empty and inactive). The group’s suspected main ideologue Antoine Mailhot-Bruneau keeps a low profile and continues to work as an ambulance driver in Lévis. Raphaël Lévesque, now a father, seems to be alone when he tries to intimidate anti-fascist activists. That said, we cannot say that this means the official end of Atalante. Nothing prevents a future resurgence of the group in one form or another. A handful of militants, including Jo Payeur, recently emerged from under their rock to pay homage to their intellectual master Dominique Venner, who committed suicide. Nevertheless, it can be said that the group’s activity is largely at a standstill at the moment.
The Rest of Them
For its part, the neo-Nazi-inspired Islamophobic group Soldiers of Odin Québec, which drew attention to itself with a series of public outings and provocative actions in 2017 and 2018, did not last long after coming up against real-life anti-fascists. Despite a change in leadership, the group never recovered and now seems to have disappeared completely.
The Fédération des Québécois de souche (FQS), with its website and its newspaper Le Harfang, has long been one of the most important Québec far-right platforms for information and ideological formation. Founded in 2007 by neo-Nazis, the FQS has been taking a large-tent approach for more than a decade, creating a milieu where reactionary and “revolutionary” far-right families rub shoulders—probably not without tension. At the time of writing, the domain name quebecoisdesouche.info seems to have been hijacked or not renewed, and the last posts on the FQS Twitter account date back to 2020. Le Harfang’s Telegram channel, which has 288 followers at this point, is still very active, however, and appears to be the group’s main platform. Le Harfang, whose most recent issue (Spring 2023) focuses on the “Great Replacement” theory, continues to be published as well. Based on the most recent available information, the paper is headed by the pseudonymous FQS author Rémi Tremblay, as well as by Roch Tousignant and François Dumas, dinosaurs from the Cercle Jeune nation, who were already trying to unify the different tendencies of the far right in the 1990s. (On this subject, see the pamphlet Notre maître le passé?!? Extrême droite au Québec 1930–1998.)
In the same family, the Front canadien-français, which was inspired by its fundamentalist Catholic precursors, the Cercle Tardivel and the Mouvement Tradition Québec (close to the FQS), as well as the Alexandre Cormier-Denis’s projects, proved to be a shooting star in 2020, its key activists never quite recovering from an article exposing them to the light of day. However, a few of its activists bounced back in 2022, creating a new nationalist project, the Nouvelle Alliance (NA). Strictly speaking, it would be going too far to call this groupuscule fascist at this point, but it is also rather difficult to pinpoint its political programme, except to say that it is part of the conservative pro-independence tradition and tends toward confusionism. What can be said with certainty, however, is that its activism is directly based on Atalante’s methods (posters, collages, banner drops, commemorative rallies, all relying heavily on an ostentatious social media presence). As we have seen, these tactics are derived from European neo-fascist movements. Recently, NA activists have been seen at CF Montreal games (making explicit threats and successfully alienating all fan groups in the process), signalling an intention to enter “cultural” spaces historically contested by fascists. We are also told that NA activists are intimidating environmentalist students, which also indicates a clear desire to antagonize the left and anti-fascists. Without dwelling on the previously mentioned affiliation with the FCF and the affiliation of individuals already identified with the far right, it is quite obvious that behind the image of a preppy nationalism that has more or less shed the stench of the explicitly fascist groups, the same ulterior motives underlie the activity of this new project. Even if it is ambiguous, their sticker with the famous slogan “Le Québec aux Québécois” should leave no doubt about this, given the context. In any case, if they were seeking the attention of anti-fascists, they have it.
Another notorious fascist who strenuously denies being one (because fascism, as is well known, completely disappeared from the face of the earth in 1945) is Alexandre Cormier-Denis, who, with his acolytes, hosts the web TV channel Nomos.tv. Since its inception, Nomos has promoted an explicitly racist and xenophobic ultranationalism, generally reactionary, but not necessarily hostile to “revolutionary nationalism” (Cormier-Denis rolled out the red carpet for Atalante’s Raphaël Lévesque in June 2020). In addition to its support base in Québec, this ethno-nationalist project has found a particularly favourable echo in French identity networks in recent years, as confirmed by the high level of activity on Nomos’s public Telegram channel and the ridiculous accent Cormier-Denis has adopted in his news capsules for some time now. Cormier-Denis also warmly supported the candidacy of Éric Zemmour (whom he facetiously refers to as the “magic Sephardic”) during the last French presidential elections, which drew the wrath of rabid antisemites like Sylvain Marcoux (see below). Cormier-Denis and Nomos adhere to the metapolitical strategy theorized by the French far right from the 1980s onwards (in the bosom of the Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne—GRECE), which consists of betting on the gradual transformation of the cultural and ideological landscape until the general context is deemed favourable for the seizure of political power by the far right. This strategy has been pursued in France for more than a generation and (among other factors) explains why Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is getting closer to power every election cycle.
The Nomos channel was deplatformed from YouTube in October 2021, in response to a complaint from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and its hosts chose to transfer their activities to the Odyssey platform, retreating to a pay model. Despite this, it is reasonable to say that Nomos.tv is currently a leading far-right ideological vehicle in Québec.
And the Neo-Nazis
The activity of neo-Nazi scum in Québec has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, but has never entirely disappeared.
Montréal Antifasciste has been closely following the hate speech trial of Gabriel Sohier Chaput, aka Zeiger, which resulted in a guilty verdict in January 2023. Despite this verdict (which the key interested party intends to appeal), the trial was botched and revealed the incompetence of the police investigation and the lack of preparation on the part of the prosecution, starting with the inadequacy of the charges brought against this extremely prolific and influential neo-Nazi militant and ideologue, who was active from 2014 to 2018. Sohier Chaput was an author and frequent contributor to The Daily Stormer website, in addition to being a co-administrator of the Iron March discussion platform and producing a shitload of neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda for a number of years. He was identified by anti-fascists in 2018 and was the subject of a series of articles in the Montreal Gazette in May of that year. Sohier Chaput now lives in the small Gaspé community of Marsoui, presumably with a family member.
Someone who had a strong opinion on Zeiger’s trial was Sylvain Marcoux. Marcoux and his Parti nationaliste chrétien (PNC) have not had a very good year. After being arrested in August 2020 for criminal harassment and intimidation of public health director Horacio Arruda, and having to publicly apologize in September 2021 to avoid serious consequences, Marcoux was unable to get his Nazi-inspired party recognized by the province’s Chief Electoral Officer during the provincial election in autumn 2022. No matter, Marcoux and his PNC cronies, including a certain Andréanne Chabot, run rampant on Telegram and Twitter, where they create new accounts every time they’re banned.
Recently, Sylvain Marcoux appeared on the sidelines of an anti-drag demonstration in Sainte-Catherine, on the South Shore of Montréal, where he received a hands-on greeting from the anti-fascists gathered there to block the homophobes.
A couple of other bozos also decided to make an appearance at the event, namely, White Lives Matter (WLM) activists, who had been the subject of an article in Montréal Antifasciste in March 2022. Two of them, Raphaël Dinucci St-Hilaire (from Laval) and David Barrette (from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), also quickly learned that trans and queer people know how to defend themselves and now will have to deal with being identified as part of this white supremacist organization, with all the inevitable consequences that come with that.
The same goes for Shawn Beauvais MacDonald, another well-known neo-Nazi and WLM chatroom regular, who we strongly suspect is linked to the creation of a new local activist project, similar to WLM, the Frontenac Active Club. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
Active Clubs are a nationwide [and international] network of localized white supremacist crews who are largely inspired by Robert Rundo’s white supremacist Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.). Active Club members see themselves as fighters training for an ongoing war against a system that they claim is deliberately plotting against the white race.
On April 21, 2023, Frontenac AC stickers appeared on Atateken Street in Montréal’s Village, and on the same day there was a post on the Telegram channel @FrontenacAC claiming responsibility for the stickers, with the caption “J’débarque en drift à la pride, mon capot inclusive.” The message explicitly refers to car attacks like the one that claimed the life of Heather Heyer on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the sidelines of the Unite the Right supremacist rally (which Shawn Beauvais MacDonald attended). The next day, after a book launch co-organized by Montréal Antifasciste at the Comité social Centre-Sud, which is a stone’s throw from where the Frontenac AC stickers were put up the day before, Beauvais MacDonald had the bizarre idea of showing up alone at the Yer’Mad bar, a well-known Montréal far-left hangout, with the obvious goal of intimidating the clientele. Having been informed of his presence, anti-fascists quickly arrived on the scene and expelled him manu militari. This sequence of events leads us to believe that Shawn Beauvais MacDonald is a key player in this new initiative. Frontenac Active Club stickers have also recently appeared in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Bromont.
In the Québec City area, the near disappearance of Atalante has left a void, but the neo-Nazis are never far away. In the spring of 2019, the neo-fascist outfit’s flagship group, Légitime Violence, attempted to hold a show with French neo-Nazi black metal band Baise ma hache in a Québec City community center, but community vigilance forced them to take refuge at the bar Le Duck. This establishment seems to cultivate a certain sympathy for neo-Nazis, since it hosted members of the Légitime Violence entourage, WLM activists, and Nomos sympathizers in June 2022 for an event called “Saint-Jean de la race.”
It is also worth drawing attention to a curious phenomenon that created ripples in the Québec City hardcore scene in 2023. Last February, a new band called R.A.W. began to create a buzz. With a little digging, we learned that this acronym stands for Rock Against Wokism (a not-so-subtle reference to the neo-Nazi movement Rock Against Communism). The famed “wokism” is personified in their visual material by a graphic of Justin Trudeau eating a knuckle sandwich. There are, of course, countless reasons to be angry with Justin Trudeau and his government, including the fact that he serves capitalist interests, but we don’t think that his defence of minorities is one of them. (It should be noted that the band’s visuals are loosely based on those of the metal band Pantera, whose singer also occasionally likes to throw up the stiff-armed salute.)
If that isn’t enough, the band’s drummer is Philippe Dionne, a former member of Légitime Violence, which doesn’t seem to bother the other members of the group all that much. For his part, singer Martin Cloutier, a follower of Tucker Carlson, Breitbart News, and other American far-right scum, made a confusing attempt to explain the band’s approach but only managed to publicly expose his transphobia.
The band had planned a show for March 4, but the province’s anti-racist hardcore scene quickly mobilized, and one after another the bands that was supposed to share the bill cancelled. The show ended up being held at Studio Sonum, known for employing fascists, with only one other band, Corruption 86, whose singer Laurent Brient is known to have also been a member of the white power band Bootprint, as well as for participating in an attempt to form a chapter of the neo-Nazi group Volksfront in the early 2010s. Birds of a feather flock together.
Other neo-Nazis in the region who we’ve previously mentioned continue to operate to varying degrees: Gabriel Marcon Drapeau continues to sell his Nazi junk under the Vinland Stiker banner, notably at the Jean-Talon flea market in Charlesbourg (whose administration seems to have tolerated a neo-Nazi selling Nazi merchandise there on a regular basis for months). Speaking of junk, earlier we mentioned Steve Labrecque and Jonahtan Payeur’s Pagan Heritage project.
The Anti–Health Measures Spiral, Conspiracy Fantasies, and the “Reinfosphere”
More than once, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Montréal Antifasciste addressed the apparent convergence of certain far right-wing currents with the conspiracy movement and “conspirituality,” an anti–health measures phenomenon arising from hippie/New Age circles. Despite the increasingly blatant and widespread links between these three trends, which in Canada led to the grotesque “Freedom Convoy,” some voices on the left have been (and still are!) defending this convergence as the expression of a legitimate popular revolt against the elites, which should be joined and supported (the most cynical would say exploited) rather than denounced and fought against in view of its reactionary, egoistic, and anti-science dimensions.
We continue to believe that this is a gross analytical error, given the most recent orientation adopted by the conspiracy theory milieu, and that the anti–health measures spiral of the last few years is both a manifestation of the far right and an opportunity for it to spread its themes and obsessions. In doing so, it pushes the Overton window, the spectrum of acceptable ideas among the general population, considerably to the right. In an effort to reach a wider audience, anti–health measures echo chambers were established on social media during the pandemic (largely based on the xenophobic/Islamophobic echo chambers of the previous period), and the conspiracy theory milieu has in recent years equipped itself with dissemination platforms inspired, sometimes explicitly, by the concept of “reinformation” developed by the French far right over the last twenty years.
This is particularly true of the Lux Media project (formerly the Stu Dio), hosted by André “Stu Pit” Pitre, which openly acknowledges adhering to this concept. Pitre and his collaborators not only spread all the conspiracy fantasies in vogue (countless variations on the theme of deadly vaccines, climatoscepticism, the grooming panic and pedosatanism, Trump’s “Big Lie” and other motifs from the QAnon phantasmagoria, etc.), as well as innumerable other conspiracy fantasies, along with an untold number of crude lies (one could question Pitre’s sincerity and moral integrity, as he seems primarily concerned with maintaining his revenue streams), and many historically far-right topics, including the Great Replacement and other alleged machinations of the “globalists” (an antisemitic euphemism/dog whistle) to wipe out Western civilization. Just a few years ago, these themes were only discussed in the far-right ideological spheres, e.g., the Fédération des Québécois de souche, but the combined influence of the national-populist circles of the 2016–2019 period and the more recent anti–health measures conspiracy theory milieu have had the effect of greatly broadening the pool of people exposed to them. Confusionism—the deliberate blurring of the meaning of political words and concepts and their misuse for malicious purposes—is another means employed by these actors to manipulate minds and encourage adherence to this toxic assemblage of misleading rhetoric, conspiracy fantasies, and far-right clichés.
In a perpetual quest for clicks (whether to maintain their revenue stream or their newly acquired small-star status), a small army of conspiracy leaders and influencers exploit the anxiety generated by the crises of the current world, the fear of change, and the great credulity of a part of the population—which is fostered by the very nature of social media and the legitimate distrust of the mass media—to misdirect and fanaticize a base already susceptible to conspiracy fantasies. This insidious mechanism means that the conspiracy “agenda” is increasingly influenced, if not determined, by the far right, with the two becoming more closely linked.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” of 2022, which was organized from the outset by activists identified with the far right, marked an acceleration in this respect. Opposition to compulsory vaccinations was quickly transformed into opposition to vaccinations altogether, and soon enough conspiracy theories and other elements of discourse that were at odds with reality became increasingly important in the rhetoric of the convoy’s ordinary supporters. Keep in mind that the Farfadaas, led by Steve “l’Artiss” Charland, former La Meute lieutenant, were deeply involved in the convoy and in the movement opposed to the health measures, as was Mario Roy, a leading figure in Storm Alliance and other Islamophobic groupuscules of the 2016–2019 period.
Last February, a year after the convoy was dismantled, Christine Anderson, a member of the European Parliament from the far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), was invited to tour Canada on the basis of her support for the convoy. The tour was sponsored in Québec by the Fondation pour la protection des droits et libertés du people, whose main spokesperson, Stéphane Blais, has become known for his outlandish legal actions against the Québec government. (Note: the organizers of Anderson’s conference in Montréal had to move the event out of the city due to anti-fascist pressure). Recently, another conspiracy influencer and money-maker, Samuel Grenier, announced that he was organizing a series of events in the summer of 2023, using the same approach, this time with a member of the French far-right Rassemblement National (RN).
However, the most significant recent development in the Québec conspiracy theory milieu from an anti-fascist perspective is the rapid increase in fanatical anti-LGBTQ+ discourses, which are both a central element of contemporary conspiracy fantasies and a recurring theme of the alt-right and the religious far right. In Québec, the “anti-drag” hysteria, which has already done significant damage in the United States on an institutional political level, is mainly driven by the anti-vaccine activist François Amalega Bitondo. He is close to evangelical currents that monetized the pandemic, including Carlos Norbal, the pastor-entrepreneur (sic) at the head of the Église Nouvelle création, and the hosts of the ThéoVox.tv channel, Jean-François Denis among them. He is also a recurring guest on Lux Media and has a strong influence on the conspiracy theory milieu through his regular interventions on social media. He is now fully dedicated to the anti-LGBTQ+ crusade, having notably organized (or attempted to organize) a series of protests against the artist and educator Barbada’s Drag Queen Story Hour. So far, these rallies (April 2 in Sainte-Catherine and May 16 in Mercier-Est) have been crushed by the trans and queer anti-fascist community, but at the time of writing, Amalega shows no sign of slowing down his homophobic/transphobic campaign and has issued a call to demonstrate in Jonquière on May 26. A call that his followers in the region seem disposed to respond to.
The strong anti-fascist opposition to the conspiracy theorists hateful offensive surprised many—including Amalega himself—when they came up against a form of resistance they had largely been spared until now. On this topic, let’s quote the Montréal Antifasciste report on the April 2 counter-demonstration:
It’s worth noting that the conspiracy theory milieu was largely spared having to deal with anti-fascists during the last three years of the pandemic. In spite of the close and often explicit proximity of the far right to conspiracy theory fantasies, the challenges raised by the health measures had to do with personal decisions, and responding to people and vaguely defined organizations whose key shortcoming is to adhere to anti-scientific nonsense is complicated and far from straightforward. Nonetheless, a line is crossed when these conspiracy theory fantasies directly target our communities and compromise our security, whether in the short-, medium-, or long-term, and that is the line the anti-drag movement has crossed with its ridiculous panic, and it is absolutely essential to deliver the message that queer and trans communities will defend themselves in the face of this intimidation. There should be no doubt: if the queerphobes/transphobes persist in their demonization exercise, they will always come face to face with us. Queers bash back, darling…
The Galaxy of “Reinformers”
In addition to the platforms already mentioned, such as Nomos.tv and Lux Media, a number of other media projects are actively participating in this convergence of the conspiracy theory and far-right spheres.
Perhaps the most influential during the pandemic was Radio-Québec, hosted by Alexis Cossette-Trudel. Radio-Canada demonstrated in 2020 that Cossette-Trudel was one of the main purveyors of QAnon delusions in the world. He was deplatformed (from Facebook in October 2020 and from Twitter in January 2021), but the new administration of Twitter, which is a great ally of the far right and disinformation, has recently seen fit to give him access to his account again. Radio Média remains without doubt one of the most important conspiracy platforms in Québec.
Another project that has emerged in the context of the pandemic on a quasi-conspiracy platform with a strong right-wing bias is Libre-Média. Its editor in chief is Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, a sort of squalid Mathieu Bock-Côté pretender, who has made misogyny a way of life. Claiming to defend “freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” Libre-Media, in fact, takes up all the themes of the anti–health measures conspiracy movement and relays many of the conspiracy fantasies in vogue, accompanied by an aggressively “anti-woke” editorial line.
Rebel News Québec, a local chapter of Ezra Levant’s alt-light media project, described by Radio-Canada as a “fake news site,” was launched in 2022. It is essentially a one-woman show of the very cringe-worthy Alexandra (Alexa) Lavoie, assisted by a certain Guillaume Roy. Its style is messy and incompetent (while claiming professional journalism status), but that doesn’t matter, because the purpose of the enterprise is to provoke and fuel the anger of the conspiracy theory base. One only has to look at the particularly pathetic coverage of the defense action against the anti-drag mobilization on May 16 for an example.
We have already touched upon the evangelical platform TheoVox.tv, a web TV studio and “ministry” that promotes and feeds the obsessions of anti–health measures conspiracy theorists by wrapping them in a moralizing hyper-conservative discourse. TheoVox regularly welcomes François Amalega on its platform, where he freely spreads his hatred of LGBTQ+ people. Amalega is also a favourite of Pastor Carlos Norbal, who occasionally even invites him to preach at his Sunday services!
There is also a whole galaxy of more or less influential conspiracy vloggers, who together form a closed ecosystem where conspiracy fantasies with a fascist overtone circulate freely. These include Stéphane Blais, Dan Pilon, Amélie Paul, Samuel Grenier, Carl Giroux, Jonathan “Joe Indigo” Blanchette, Mel Goyer, Maxime “le policier du people” Ouimet, and a plethora of other similar nutbars.
Let’s close this overview by mentioning Jean-François Gariépy’s Odyssey channel (an alternative to YouTube that is extremely welcoming to the far right, where Nomos.tv has taken refuge). Gariépy is a Québec ethno-nationalist who enjoys considerable notoriety and influence on an international scale in what remains of the alt-right milieu.
Take Stock of the Problem and Respond Accordingly
Obviously, there is no simple solution to the rise of the far right or to the endemic problem of the conspiracy fantasies that are infecting a considerable section of the population through social media. However, it is important to know the sources of the disease and its main factors if we hope to contain it to some extent. It is also important to understand the mechanics by which these fantasies foster the fanatization of the conspiracy theory base and the rise of the far right, whose themes are increasingly exploited by the same malicious “reinformers.”
The question then arises as to how to turn things around. As we have already written, these developments are above all conditioned by systemic factors: a crisis of confidence in the institutions of power, multiple interlocking crises (including that of capitalism itself), the heteronormative white middle class’s loss of bearings and the erosion of its privileges, the integration of the programmatic elements of the populist right into the cultural and political mainstream, etc. Basic logic would, therefore, dictate that any proposal for a sustainable solution should take these factors into account and should also be systemic in nature.
It is also important to consider the attitude of the system to these phenomena and to anticipate its consequences for our own movements. It is worth mentioning, for example, how the state and the different centres of capitalist power use the fear of fascism to consolidate new tools of repression. In the case of the “Freedom Convoy,” the use of the Emergencies Act, the demonization of organizers, and the various ways in which the fear of fascism was invoked by right-wing and liberal commentators to justify extraordinary measures of repression provide an example. Not only does liberal anti-fascism not challenge the system, it can easily become a convenient way to consolidate a repressive political system and reaffirm the legitimacy of the state and its right to crush its opponents, regardless of their ideological position. As we wrote a few months after the convoy:
Some progressive observers who had been fulminating about the conspiracy theory movement for months joined the standing ovation when, following a lengthy grace period, the occupation was faced with a mild form of repression. More than a few of them also welcomed the application of the Emergencies Act to suppress a few hundred frustrated cranks. That sort of enthusiasm for repression betrays a poor understanding of the relationship between the bourgeois state and social movements. The primary utility of the measure for the government, beyond the immediate powers conferred to cripple this expression of anti-vaxx organizing, is creating a precedent for suppressing future manifestations of popular dissent and disobedience, whether they be progressive or reactionary. This precedent should give pause to anyone who sympathizes with movements for social and economic justice, decolonization, or environmentalism, which might, at some future point, feel the need to engage in civil disobedience. It’s not terribly difficult, for example, to imagine what the reaction of the state will be when an Indigenous community next decides to adopt extralegal means to defend its territory or when a new generation inevitably decides to take direct action to demand radical social and governmental transformation to address the pressing climate crisis we are facing. While this exceptional legislative measure was used on this occasion against a group with reactionary impulses that we find repugnant, there is nothing to guarantee that it won’t be invoked in the future to squash demands that we feel a strong commitment to. History teaches us that repression is almost always much more energetically and forcefully used against progressive movements than it is against reactionary movements.
So, in 2023, what are our prospects for effectively countering the normalization of far-right themes and the dangerous reactionary convergence described above, as well as the reproduction of the systems of domination that cause it? We believe that part of the challenge we face is to link the multitude of particular expressions of resistances into a broad and unitary anti-fascist social movement. That is, to multiply solidarity so that, for example, the anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-heteropatriarchal aspects of the anti-fascist struggle (and any other dimension) progress simultaneously and link up with the ecological and anti-capitalist movements. To quote again from our May 2022 text:
As anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, we believe it is necessary to think these issues through and develop a resistance not only against the far right and the fascist threat but also against the bourgeois state and the related institutions of power that reinforce neoliberal hegemony and the colonial order. The bourgeois state is not interested in our well-being, and the interests of different social classes are irreconcilable today, just as they always have been. . . . Faced with the far right and the fascist threat, on the one hand, and neoliberal hegemony, on the other, our greatest hope is to see the forces devoted to freedom rally around a project that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fascist, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonial.
Of course, we also have to get down to the difficult task of deconstructing conspiracy discourse and exposing its right-wing roots, without getting lost in it. This is easier said than done, given Brandolini’s law, which states that “the amount of energy needed to refute nonsense is an order of magnitude greater than that needed to produce it.” Nonetheless, reason must triumph, so we must collectively find the means to solve this problem.
In the same vein, we feel one essential task is the daily deconstruction, in our living and working environments, of the anti-woke hysteria that has poisoned the public space in recent years. By definition, a person who claims to be anti-woke is essentially claiming to be opposed to anti-racism and anti-sexism and to be anti-equality, anti–social justice, and, ultimately, anti-empathy! In other words, to be anti-woke is to admit one’s dismay at a world that is changing and evolving toward greater acceptance of difference and diversity, toward a breakdown of white and heteropatriarchal supremacy, and toward a situation of more widespread justice and equality. This is the very definition of a reactionary mindset, and we feel it is necessary to combat this trend, which is increasingly present in the public space and the general culture. Without necessarily accepting the label of “woke” (which at this point is, in any case, nothing more than a hollowed-out caricature), our movements must recognize and continue to promote the importance of “staying woke,” in the original sense of the concept, i.e., remaining sensitive to systemic injustice and inequality and dismantling them to the best of our ability.
Finally, as always, “we invite our supporters to renew their commitment to anti-fascist practice, i.e., to popular/community self-defence, without ever losing sight of the revolutionary horizon. For true emancipation will never be achieved by petition.”
The “reasonable accommodation” crisis is a sequence of controversies largely fabricated and hyped between 2006 and 2008 by the populist media of the Québecor empire and opportunistic political parties, including Mario Dumont’s Action démocratique du Québec (a direct precursor of the Coalition avenir Québec, formed in 2011) and the Parti québécois, whose “charter of values” project (2013) was championed by Bernard Drainville, who is today… a minister in the CAQ’s cabinet!