Comparative Politics

B04 - The Far Right in Canada and Beyond: From Ideas to Actions – Session 1

Date: Jun 12 | Time: 01:45pm to 03:15pm | Location:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Katherine Kondor (The Norwegian Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Efe Peker (University of Ottawa)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Yannick Veilleux-Lepage (Royal Military College of Canada)

While often depicted as immune to salient outbreaks of far-right politics, recent social and political developments demonstrate that Canada is no exception. From the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories involving corrupt governments or hostile and powerful religious minorities, the emergence and rapid expansion of mobilization against a variety of progressive policies and issue positions related to women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, to the perpetration of hate-motivated actions and crimes, the far right has been relatively visible and active in recent Canadian politics. However, this phenomenon remains largely understudied in the Canadian context – particularly when compared to the European and American context. This panel aims to explore the ideas of far-right movements in both Canada and beyond, including their rhetoric and conspiratorial beliefs. In conjunction with a panel on the actions of the far-right, these panels aim to deepen our understanding of both phenomena, while paying attention to the interplay between the two.

Beyond the Usual Suspects: A Qualitative Exploration of Conspiracist Belief Among Quebecers: Audrey Gagnon (University of Oslo)
Abstract: Scholarly efforts to understand adherence to conspiracy theories have grown significantly in recent years, focusing primarily on the socio-psychological factors associated with conspiratorial beliefs or on the conspiracy theories promoted by (far-right) activists. However, we still know relatively little about the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories: Where do individuals from the general public encounter conspiracy theories? How do they make sense of conspiracy theories? What influences adherence to these theories? Answering such questions is crucial to better understand how fringe ideas become part of the mainstream, challenging epistemic hierarchies and worldviews. Drawing on semi-structured interviews conducted with “ordinary people” living in Quebec (N=25), this study investigates how individuals make sense of conspiracy theories, and the processes influencing their adherence or rejection. Results highlight a significant lack of trust in governments among some Quebecers, ranging from the perception that governments are corrupt and self-interested to the adherence to the conspiracy theory that governments are controlled by a group of powerful and malevolent economic elites (mainly Jews) working in the shadows to control the global population. Interviewees endorsing such conspiracy theory do not trust the mainstream media or political institutions. They consume far-right influencers online and prefer to express their opinions by taking part in protest actions rather than voting.

Populism in Canada: Elite Rhetoric and the 2022 Freedom Convoy: Danielle Bonohos (University of Toronto)
Abstract: This paper uses a dictionary approach to computer-assisted text-analysis in an attempt to answer whether there was a spillover of far-right rhetoric from the grassroots Freedom Convoy protest into elite-level discourse in the House of Commons debate record. I use two dictionaries, first, a populist dictionary taken from researchers in the European context, and second, a dictionary created by analyzing the speeches of Freedom Convoy leaders. I find that while there are some indications that this rhetoric did impact the speeches of Conservative Party leadership candidates, these results are not statistically significant and could be clarified with further research on the topic.

The Normalization of Post-Fascism: New Right’s Terminology in Contemporary Political Discourse: Julián Castro-Rea (University of Alberta), Alexandra Ballos (University of Alberta)
Abstract: The New Right (NR, originally created in 1968 in France as Nouvelle Droite) is an ideological corpus that repackages right-wing, conservative ideologies by cleansing them from the components that became unsavory after WWII (antisemitism, racial supremacism, extreme nationalism, glorification of violence, etc.) The new ideological framework incorporated or borrowed fresh terms to encapsulate its key ideas; such as metapolitics, agonism, globalism, gender ideology, pluriverse, etc. While for a long time these terms remained obscure, confined to the small circle of followers of the NR, half a century later they are commonly used in political conversation in academia, the media, online and by mainstream politicians. This paper will track the frequency of usage of key NR concepts online and the context where they are employed. We will attempt to demonstrate that these terms are acting as a gateway for the normalization of the NR worldview, and they are frequently blended with conspiracy theories that push this ideology further to the right. In order to do that, we will pursue a qualitative, summative content analysis which will aim to identify the key themes in the discourse of specific academics, media personalities and politicians and compare them with the key themes found in NR theory; as represented in the writings of Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, Aleksandr Dugin and Guillaume Faye. We will analyze the frequency of identified words and alternative terms with similar contexts. This would allow for us to identify and connect key NR concepts to the same rhetoric used by contemporary right-wing actors. We will also measure the NR normalization through a quantitative method, trying to determine the extent to which the NR is presently winning the cultural battle for ideas over liberalism and the left.

Provincial Rights 2.0: Resurgent Populism and the Threat to Canadian Federalism: Robert Schertzer (University of Toronto)
Abstract: This paper examines the recent rise in “provincial rights” discourse in Canada. This rise is exemplified by Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s recent legislation that asserts provincial rights and autonomy within the federation. Analysts to date have largely focused on the constitutional dimensions of these acts. Here, I turn to consider their political foundations. I argue that to understand the content and implications of these actions we need to situate them within a long history of provincial rights movements and (prairie) populism in Canada – but also a contemporary moment of (far-right) populism shaping politics in liberal democracies. To do so, in this paper, I trace the political development of provincial rights and populist politics in Canada, while also examining how the leaders and supporters of these acts draw on both historically embed ideas about provincial rights and more contemporary populist frames. Taking this perspective helps illuminate the implications of these movements, notably: questioning Canada’s purported status as an exception to rising populism in the liberal democracies of the West; showing the power of these ideas to shape politics; and, drawing attention to how the combination of provincial rights and populist frames threatens national unity in a diverse federation like Canada.