Right-wing extremism is on the rise in Atlantic Canada and has been since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, according to new University of New Brunswick research.
It should surprise no one, says UNB sociologist David Hofmann whose team studied far-right activity in Atlantic Canada between 2000 and 2019 as part of a project led by Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University and co-author of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Hofmann said that–beginning in 2016–nationalism and public tolerance of far-right opinions began to grow across the world, as Trump was elected and nationalist movements grew across Europe.
“What we really saw was that Atlantic Canada was not immune to this effect,” he said,
CP’s Sarah Smellie writes that the researchers found 29 right-wing extremist groups active in Atlantic Canada, including the Northern Guard, an organization the Canadian Anti-Hate Network calls an “anti-Muslim hate group.”
“These groups do blend certain types of Atlantic Canadian culture and Atlantic Canadian pride into their narrative, though it’s not a distinguishing feature,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann said some extremist groups have launched campaigns to feed and house the homeless in an effort to seem community-minded.
“Many of these groups try real hard to just show they’re just good old Canadian boys,” he said.
“Meanwhile, in the private circles, they’re virulent, hateful, and so on so forth.”
Hofmann told CP the researchers scoured news stories, court and government documents as well as social media, and found 156 incidents across the nearly two decades they examined
And they found that 60 per cent of them occurred after 2016–18 in 2017, 34 in 2018 and 40 in 2019.
The most prevalent form of extremist actions, Hofmann said, were property crimes, followed by protests and rallies.
Violent crime accounted for 11 per cent of the incidents recorded, he said, adding that nearly 15 per cent of incidents the team catalogued were acts of harassment or hate speech.
Hofmann told CP that Nova Scotia led the four Atlantic provinces with 47.4 per cent of the incidents logged by his team. New Brunswick was second with 41 per cent, while Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador were home to 6.4 per cent and 5.1 per cent of the incidents, respectively.
The UNB research has yet to be peer-reviewed, but it follows a study by U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue published in June that found Canadians were involved in 6,600 right-wing extremist channels online.
With files from The Canadian Press (Sarah Smellie)