As video of a Manitoba man berating a Calgary woman with racist and hateful language while she and her family visited Manitoba earlier this summer continues to garner national attention, a Toronto-based author who has spent more than 30 years following the far-right in Canada says the incident reflects a trend he's seen growing across North America since the U.S. election.
Warren Kinsella, who has written several books on Canada's alt-right, says U.S. President Donald Trump's election last November has emboldened neo-Nazis and white supremacists on both sides of the border, and has led to a rise in the sort of incident caught on tape in Manitoba last month.
Kaniz Fatima and her family travelled to Manitoba in early July and were driving about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg when they got lost and stopped n a parking lot near Seven Sisters Dam to ask a stranger for directions.
In an exchange that was caught on video, the man she approached, who described himself as a "Nazi," told Fatima to take her "head towel off" because it "supports Muslims" and told her to "go back to your country."
Fatima posted a video of the encounter on social media this week.
Kinsella spoke about the issue with CBC host Marcy Markusa on Information Radio on Friday.
Marcy Markusa: How significant is it that the man explicitly says, in the video at least, that he's a Nazi?
Warren Kinsella: It's quite significant. It is disturbing, as you point out, that an individual like this — a racist — would feel like it's OK or that there would be no ramifications for him to identify himself as a Nazi. That is something that is quite rare.
Why do you think Nazis and white supremacists feel emboldened right now?
There's a number of reasons. Just this morning news is breaking that the United Nations has raised the alarm about what is happening in the United States and about how Trump — they don't identify him in the report but it's clear they're talking about Trump — and they talk about how the proliferation of hate incidents like the one that took place in Manitoba are taking place because people in a position of power, like Trump, are either facilitating those things taking place or are indifferent to those things taking place. So it's a cautionary message for everybody who's in public life and in political life that they've got to step up and say that they oppose what took place in Manitoba.
According to Statistics Canada the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped 60 per cent in 2015 compared with the previous year, that was before President Trump was elected. What, other than Trump, could be contributing to the rise in hate crimes?
As we all know the world has been in a considerable amount of turmoil over the last two or three years. There's the wars in the Middle East, which proliferate, and terrorist incidents, and that's caused a massive migration of people. As a consequence what we've all seen is just a massive influx of immigrants and refugees in different parts of the world, including Western Europe and North America. In Manitoba, as we saw in the winter, people are risking their lives and literally their limbs to cross farmers' fields to get into Canada. Unfortunately it has concurrently produced a racist sentiment and there's people out there who blame refugees, and it's given rise to things like Brexit and Donald Trump.
In your research, what are they blaming refugees for? Do we understand where the hate might be growing from?
For being different, for existing, and for living. It's just plain racism, there's no rationale. But the thing is, it is legitimate to have a debate about immigration policy, you can do that without being a racist, but to express yourself in the way that that jerk, that lowlife, did to that poor young woman from Calgary is criminal. In Canada you're not allowed to promote hatred against an identifiable group in the way that he did. It's a problem right across the country, and the reason why there's been a surge in Canada, just like the United States, is people in a position of power are either looking the other way or they're encouraging it and that is a literal danger to our democracy.
What is the right way to have a discussion about this as a community? What is the right way to push back?
People in positions of power need to use it. We have hate laws on the books, they should use them. All of us have a role to play and what happened in Manitoba is really important — God knows what would have happened if those two bystanders had not intervened. But when they did it scared off this racist creep and it prevented a bad situation from getting potentially far worse. All of us — if we take a position, if we write a letter to the editor, if we raise our voice — can have an impact. I've been following the far-right for over 30 years in Canada and the thing that scares them away more than anything else is community action. When a community rises up against them they disappear. They're cockroaches. If you shine a light at them, they will scatter.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.