British Columbia

Normalization of white supremacist language alarming, researcher says

A Kamloops social worker who has done research and interventions on the extreme right says the normalization of white supremacist language in mainstream politics is alarming.

B.C. social worker Daniel Gallant, who left a life as a violent skinhead 15 years ago, says we are vulnerable

Members of a white supremacy group give the fascist salute during a gathering in Wisconsin in this 2011 photo. (Darren Hauck/Reuters)

At a gathering at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. Saturday, the think-tank The National Policy Institute ended a meeting with leader Richard Spencer shouting 'Hail Trump!' and making the sieg-heil Nazi salute.

Video from the event shocked and appalled millions of social media users. Donald Trump later condemned the action in an meeting with The New York Times.

However, the U.S. president-elect has appointed a number of individuals with alleged white supremacist ties — like Stephen Bannon — to prominent positions in his cabinet.

That worries Kamloops social worker Daniel Gallant who researches and studies radicalization in right-wing extremist groups — but it does not surprise him.

When the extreme speak is similar to the normal speak, that becomes a recruitment tool.- Researcher Daniel Gallant

"This has been going on always. There's evidence of that in research, scholarship and academic history and political history," he said.

Gallant said what is alarming now is that the increasing normalization of white supremacist language will allow groups to recruit more members.

"When the 'extreme speak' is similar to the 'normal speak', that becomes a recruitment tool, " he explained.

"As soon as everyone starts using right-wing logic and right-wing rhetoric openly in the media, then it attracts unsuspecting people that would not normally join the right-wing movement but do have right-wing views."

"[These people] are not really equipped with critical thinking skills, or how to identify logical fallacies or those sorts of things."

Canada is vulnerable

Combating white supremacy is a deeply personal mission for Gallant — he spent ten years as a violent skinhead himself but left that life 15 years ago.

Social worker Daniel Gallant counsels young people trying to escape the clutches of extremist groups.

"They identified my grievances and they identified an enemy to blame for the grievances that I had," he said.

In the past Gallant has advised the federal government to expand its fight against extremism — which has typically meant Islamic extremism — to include more extreme right-wing groups.

He said Canada is just as susceptible to rhetoric and harbours groups from violent skinheads to general white nationalists.

"The arcane ways that we used to speak have become normal again ... Creating a new normal is problematic."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Extremism researcer says Donald Trump's association with white supremacy alarming