Group recruiting in Saskatoon supports white supremacy, experts say
Posters for the group have appeared at various sites in Saskatoon
A group that believes Canada's diversity to be its "greatest weakness" is recruiting in Saskatoon.
Posters for the group known as ID Canada have surfaced at various locations across the city and local anti-racism experts say the group's beliefs are rooted in white supremacy.
Some of the posters — many of which have been damaged — are white, red and black in colour and don the words "Defend Canada" above another line of text that reads: "Join the Fight."
The group's website boasts nine chapters across Canada and says: "We refuse to re-write history and pretend like this nation existed before European colonization. Canada is not a 'Nation of immigrants.' The Dominion of Canada was formed by Europeans."
CBC Saskatoon sent several emails to ID Canada seeking comment and also reached out to the group several times on Twitter. No response was received.
"The symbols that they use, the language that they use and the ideology that they're drawing from are all really obviously speaking to white supremacy," said Sheelah McLean, who refers to herself as a "white settler" and is a well-known academic whose work focuses on settler colonialism and racism.
McLean says it appears the group is trying to push an agenda of erasure — one that focuses on Western settlers building Canada as a nation and ignoring the country's history of slavery, colonial genocide and of the immigrants of colour who helped form Canada.
"They're erasing particular parts of our history and upholding the idea that it was only Western European settlers, or white settlers, that built Canada and we know that's not the case. That's inaccurate," she said.
McLean said the fact the posters are present in Saskatoon is "very disconcerting" as the group is working against others who are trying to dispel misconceptions and inaccuracies about Canada's past.
"Racism, racial violence, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-black racism and Islamophobia are prevalent across Canada and it's something many people have been working to address for a very long time," she said.
McLean said she feels groups like ID Canada are a "backlash" that happens when powerful groups are challenged about the political and social power they hold in the form of access to resources like housing, healthcare and employment.
"Across the prairies, in particular because of our history of segregation and racial inequality, overwhelmingly white settlers have had the most social and political power," she said. "So it's not necessarily surprising that these posters would end up across the prairies."
Adding later: "What they're doing is trying to uphold hundreds of years of racial violence and racial segregation."
Ali Abukar is chief executive officer of the Saskatoon Open Door Society, which helps new Canadians get settled in Saskatoon. He said the fact the group is present in the city is concerning.
Abukar says immigrants contribute a great deal to Canada's economy and quality of life overall, saying those who share ID Canada's ideas should challenge their views.
"This is not the first time these kinds of things have popped up," said Abukar.
However, despite the group's presence, he believes in the strength of Saskatoon as a community that has welcomed — and will continue to welcome — newcomers, pointing to Saskatchewan's motto of "Multis e gentibus vires," which translates to: "From many people's strength."
"That says a lot about different people coming together is where the strengths is," he said, noting organizations like ID Canada don't belong.
"These kinds of ideas have no place in this modern time of the world," he said. "Not only in Canada or Saskatoon, but at all."
Abukar said while these types of groups make Saskatoon a less welcoming place, he's confident most people don't share their views.
"The people who support these types of ideas are very few and that is the good news, for all of us," he said.
The Saskatoon Police Service said they have not received any complaints about the group in the city, noting CBC's inquiry about the posters was the first time they've heard of the group.
Saskatchewan RCMP also said they've received no complaints about the group.
However, ID Canada is on the radar of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which says the group is primarily active in Ontario and Alberta.
The group was originally named "Generation Identity Canada," but re-branded after the group's founder, Tyler Hover, was found to be a regular poster on the neo-Nazi website, Stormfront.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network executive director Evan Balgord said the group is an alt-right, neo-Nazi group with 50 to 100 formal members in Canada. He estimates there could be anywhere from one to a dozen members in Saskatoon.
"Their goal is recruitment and they're not taking just anybody," said Balgord. "There's a vetting process and their strategy is a quality-over-quantity style of recruiting."
Balgord said the aim of the group, like other neo-Nazi organizations, is to create a white ethno-state in Canada and the United States by "any means necessary."
He said ID Canada aims to achieve this by influencing people through "cultural wins" instead of violence.
"They aim to influence conversations," he said. "Make it more acceptable to have conversations which can verge into specifically racist, xenophobic or discrimination, so that they can achieve some measure of political success."
Today we remember the brave Canadians who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.<br><br>While the situation may seem bleak, we must keep their memory alive and restore Canada to the great nation it once was.<br><br>This isn't the Canada they died for. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RemembranceDay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RemembranceDay</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DefendCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DefendCanada</a> <a href="https://t.co/s6fxhmWNqC">pic.twitter.com/s6fxhmWNqC</a>—@ID__Canada
Balgord said that while the group has not found much political success at this time, they're trying to secure power.
"Their ultimate game plan is they do cultural change, which leads to political change, which would allow them to enact the changes that they want, which would be the creation and enforcement of discriminatory policies."
Balgord noted these policies would then be used to deport and commit genocide against individuals who are not welcome in its ethno-state.
McLean said she feels the group "absolutely is a danger" as it contributes to the violence and racism that some experience every day.
"There is already so much violence towards Indigenous people and people of colour that we need to be aware that what this does is further normalizes it," she said.
Balgord agrees, saying there's at least one instance he's aware of where an ID Canada member joined what he said was a terrorist group.
"The group is a danger because they create more of an environment around Canada where people feel threatened," he said. "But also an environment where people of their ilk feel more confident expressing beliefs that hurt those marginalized communities."