A period marked by the far right, and “it will last a few decades”
Hundreds of supporters of ex-Brazilian far-right president Jair Bolsonaro have invaded the exterior of the Congress, in Brasilia.
Storming of the Brazilian Congress by supporters of the far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, a parade of hundreds of neo-Nazis with their faces uncovered in Italy, the trial of five members of the Farfadaas group in Quebec for having blocked a bridge…
The extreme right is showing its muscles here as elsewhere at the start of the year.
Almost a year after the siege of Ottawa by anti-health restrictions truckers, Professor at the University of Sherbrooke David Morin, co-director of the Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism, answers our questions.
It is a group resulting from the split of the Meute, the large group of the identity right which is interested in immigration, in the question of Islam. After several putschs within the group, one of the leaders, Steve l'Artiss Charland, decided to set up the Farfadaas, which retains the notion of identity right, but which also has above all an anti-government component. The band has gained a lot of favor during the pandemic. His greatest achievement is that he contributed on the margins of the siege in Ottawa, with his base camp. It is a small group that straddles the identity right, anti-government and conspiracy. And there, the group is overtaken by a number of actions, including its stunt at the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel. This is symptomatic of the small groups on the right that have emerged in Quebec. They are part of this ecosystem.
David Morin is the co-director of the Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism
There are other groups too, including Storm Alliance and the Soldiers of Odin, who are keeping a low profile. The Proud Boys too, they are more careful since they are considered a terrorist group in Canada. And then finally, there are also individuals who are quicker to resort to violence, like [those of the attacks] in Quebec, in London, Quebec. It is the rise of violent right-wing extremism. It's more marginal, but it's still worrying. They are two sides of the same coin that feed into each other.
We said no until the convoy to Ottawa, which was intended to be a Canadian-style January 6 . It doesn't have the same violent impact, but the movement has been instrumentalized by the altright; one party even demanded the resignation of the Trudeau government. Of course, political movements and riots all over the world are nothing new, but the common point between all of this is the lack of trust in democratic institutions themselves. We are against politics. This ability [of certain groups or individuals] to mobilize people on alternative narratives. We see it in Russia […] In the United States, we see it with electoral fraud, integrated by 60-70% of Republicans. Then how can we build on that? And that is what Bolsonaro wants to create in Brazil.
Donald Trump supporters during the January 6th Capitol storming
I have the impression that in Canada, the political class is a little more responsible and aware of the importance of not saying anything and everything. So we're going to have to watch where [Conservative Leader Pierre] Poilievre is going because during the Conservative Party leadership campaign, we saw him go hunting a bit on right-wing lands reactionary and conspiratorial. So if he is elected, will he return to a very reasonable speech or will he be tempted to try to mark the difference with Trudeau and therefore polarize the debate? For me, it will be important because we can still see that there is a certain Americanization of the Canadian and Quebec political scene.
In fact, in recent years, we have become aware that the far right could indeed be dangerous. From 2017-18, we saw reports and police training on the far right, except that it takes years for it to percolate to the base of the police. Were they given the means? I am nuanced. Among the security officers who came to testify at [the Rouleau commission in] Ottawa, we saw a certain complacency in relation to this threat, because we hear these speeches in their ranks. We have very, very few radical Islamists in the police, but on the other hand, we find these [radical right] discourses.
There is work that has been done to try to take this threat into account, but I think that we are far from considering it as dangerous as the extremist [Islamist] threat. Even among elected officials, some are sympathetic to these speeches. I feel like [events in Ottawa] show us that there has not only been an underestimation of the threat, but there continues to be complacency. Police officers said: They like us [regarding the protesters]. You don't hear that [of the police] with students or aboriginals.
Yes, and inflation worries me. Very right-wing, victim-oriented discourse is one thing, but in addition, when there are people who have things to lose, who are directly affected by changing socio-economic conditions, it becomes periods of risk. We see the rising polarization with the two years of the pandemic. On the one hand, the pandemic seems to be in the process of being resolved, it opens a breath; on the other hand, if we are overtaken by an economic or ecological crisis, it accelerates polarizing discourse. And the right has understood this very well and instrumentalizes them. Those who believe in conspiracy theories, it's not going to die down any time soon.
History is cyclical, and here we have massive disinformation on social networks, which feeds The problems. Ottawa would have been impossible without the networks. In Brazil, Bolsonarists [used them] to mobilize and attack democratic institutions. And elsewhere in Europe too. We are in a period marked by the extreme right and it will last a few decades.
This interview has been edited and condensed to ensure its clarity .