Political Tensions Rise in Canada as Far-Right Candidate Gains Traction
Canadians are often recognized for their friendliness, politeness, and their embrace of multiculturalism and liberal attitudes. But over the past several years, the far-right has been on the rise around the world, and Canada is not immune to this surge in populism, which is being branded as a rejection of political correctness and an embrace of free speech. A far-right member of Parliament, who created his own party, the People’s Party of Canada, and who is currently running a re-election campaign, represents a potential shift in the Canadian electorate away from the liberalism embodied by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Maxime Bernier, whose policy proposals include building a fence along Canada’s southern border and has cautioned against the “hysteria” of climate change, nonetheless aims to distance himself from President Trump, the current symbol of far-right politics around the world. However, like the President, he is infamous for using Twitter as a political weapon, and has been accused of posing a danger to his country’s system of government.
At Bernier’s campaign events, protests are not uncommon
At Bernier’s campaign events, protests are not uncommon, as his detractors label him a racist and insinuate he is a Nazi sympathizer. In his defense, Bernier claims that these protests have arisen as a result of “breaking taboos about immigration and multiculturalism,” and insists that Canadians appreciate his frank and clear way of speaking. His political opponents have attempted to cancel his speeches on college campuses, without success, under the accusation that he promotes hate speech, and his supporters have been known to send death threats and hate messages towards minorities who are perceived to threaten his political campaign. Bernier, however, adamantly insists he is not a racist, and instead portrays himself as a “free market populist” and the victim of rampant political correctness in the country, which prevents Canadians from articulating how they really feel about a whole range of issues.
Though far-right politics has as-of-yet failed to gather steam in Canada, experts suggest that Bernier’s appeal to nationalism and emotions is likely to influence the national political conversation, as the country’s Conservative Party has moved to the right on issues of immigration. As Liberals and Conservatives are fairly evenly matched in the polls in advance of the country’s October 21st election, Bernier poses a threat to the Conservative party by splitting the vote. That being said, some, including the deputy director at the Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, fear that politicians like Bernier give an air of legitimacy to the voices of the extreme right in Canada. While Bernier doesn’t himself advocate for racism and violence, his policy proposals, including a test to ensure that immigrants adhere to Canadian values, may align with a more dangerous ideology, some argue.
On Twitter, the politician routinely criticises multiculturalism, arguing for the inherent superiority of some cultures over others
Recently, Bernier was accused of cyberbullying a child after he called climate activist Greta Thunberg “mentally unstable,” and he was once forced to resign as foreign minister after he left classified documents at the home of a girlfriend who had connections with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. However, Bernier’s supporters view these transgressions as minor, and may even applaud the Member of Parliament for his direct and unapologetic nature. On Twitter, the politician routinely criticises multiculturalism, arguing for the inherent superiority of some cultures over others, and warning about the rise of radical Islam. Additionally, Bernier accuses the Left of adopting the principles of authoritarianism in its desire to restrict speech of this sort.
Although the election is not officially scheduled to be held until October 21st, early voting in Canada has already begun, and Bernier’s Twitter feed includes retweets from voters publicly pledging their support. As Justin Trudeau deals with the aftermath of a political scandal in which it was discovered that he wore blackface costumes on numerous occasions, it remains to be seen whether he will win re-election and remain Canada’s Prime Minister.