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Canadian News Jun 19, 2020 5:25 PM EST

Study claims Canada has a right-wing extremism problem

A U.K. based think tank that specializes in hate and extremism conducted a study that revealed there are many right-wing extremists online sites in Canada.

Study claims Canada has a right-wing extremism problem
Quinn Patrick Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

A U.K. based think tank that specializes in hate and extremism recently conducted a study that revealed there are many right-wing extremists social media pages and accounts found in Canada, according to VICE News.

The think tank suspects that site activity may have increased because of the pandemic lockdown, COVID-19 and the litany of protests across North America in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

Barbara Perry, a professor at Ontario Tech University (OTU), hired the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) to do the report.

It's entitled “An Online Environmental Scan of Right-wing Extremism in Canada” and it provides a detailed look into Canada’s online far-right culture based on data from 2017 to 2019.

“We were really struck by the high level of engagement by Canadians,” said Jacob Davey, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) senior research manager and co-author of the report. “It’s clear that Canada has a well established system of right-wing extremists very much comparable to that of the US and UK, and it’s part of a global pattern.”

The ISD used data from 130 Facebook pages and groups, 6,352 Twitter accounts, 32 YouTube channels, 42 Gab accounts, 88 accounts from the neo-Nazi forum Iron March, and 31 accounts on another white supremacist forum called Fascist Forge. Iron March and Fascist Forge no longer exist.

Davey believes that the protests initiated by Floyd's killing may be part of the spike as these social media pages attempt to debunk the notion that there is systemic racism in Canada, which is a belief widely held by the protestors.

The worry now is that the economic down turn brought on by the pandemic may fan the flames of people's bias and perhaps lead to their radicalization.

“Under the lockdown, more people, especially youth, are spending more time online,” said Barbara Perry, who is also director of the Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism. “We know that mass killings in recent years were done by lone actors mobilized by online engagement, and it’s a concern that more exposure to these narratives during COVID-19, when so many have lost work, might engender similar violence.”

Perry noted that these websites offer 'ready-made explanations' to quell the social and economic anxieties of its users. Perry classifies right-wing extremism as “a loose movement, characterized by a racially, ethnically, and sexually defined nationalism. This nationalism is often framed in terms of white power, and is grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by such groups as non-whites, Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, and feminists.”

The study found that Canadians were “representing the third largest nationality using 4chan’s politically incorrect board,” and had previously been the third largest community on Iron March forum beneath the U.S. and U.K.

The report also cites acts of terrorism committed by far-right extremists to be up by 320 percent over the last five years.

Perry also plans to lead OTU researchers in creating a report that maps out right-wing extremism offline and how it looks across Canada.

“Those findings will provide more insight into the strategic capacity of these groups and ways in which people are drawn in,” said Perry. “We’re still early in the process, but so far our observations offline are very much in line with what we are seeing online.”

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