Posters, stickers promoting white nationalism appear in south Etobicoke
Police investigating as city staff remove racist messages from light poles, transit shelters, parking meters
Toronto police are investigating after a resident spotted posters and stickers promoting white nationalism in south Etobicoke on the weekend.
The posters, aimed at white people, contained messages such as: "Never apologise for being white," and "There is a war on whites" and "It's okay to be white."
The stickers said: "Think Green Buy Local," but included a website address for a Canadian white nationalist movement.
Coun. Mark Grimes, who represents Ward 3, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, said he asked city staff to remove the posters and stickers attached to light poles, bus shelters and parking meters in Etobicoke.
Grimes also alerted police, who said the posters and stickers were seen in the area of Dundas Street West and Royal York Road.
Brady Brenot, a local resident, said he was angry when he saw the posters and stickers and he removed as many as he could. There were at least 25 on Bloor Street West on Saturday morning, he said.
"Some people might think that somebody else will take care of it, or might think they might be putting themselves in danger by doing it themselves. But we have to take care of our own neighbourhoods. We have put a stop to this type of thing before it takes hold," he said.
Brenot said he first saw the posters and stickers during a walk on Saturday.
"I think the first thing that I saw was one of these stickers on the pedestrian crossing signal, like over there, stuck to the front of it. 'Never apologize for being white.' I think that was that one," Brenot said.
"Then, I saw another one and I got more angry. As I was walking down here, I saw another one after that. It was stuck to a parking meter, and I just decided, that's enough of that. I started to take photos of them and rip them off as I walked along."
Brenot said there was no mistaking what the messages were trying to say. "They're really transparent. The ones that I was seeing, it was really obvious what they were trying to get across," he said.
Some stickers included the words, Hundred-Handers, an alt-right group known for similar sticker campaigns in Europe.
'Posters not representative of our community'
Grimes, for his part, said he received an email from a resident on Saturday. His office reported the posters and stickers immediately to city staff for removal as soon as possible. Grimes said he also spoke to police officers at 22 Division.
"I understand that the resident took it upon themselves to remove a number of the stickers, and I have followed up with city staff to ensure that all remaining stickers are removed," Grimes said.
"This is totally unacceptable. It's 2020 and we like to think that we've progressed far beyond this type of narrow minded thinking, but this act affirms that there is still so much more to be done. It is mind boggling that in this day and age people still have this mentality," he added.
Grimes said Etobicoke-Lakeshore stands with Toronto's Black, Indigenous and people of colour, LGBTQS2+ and immigrant communities against intolerance.
"Racism and discrimination exist, and we must do more. We must call out intolerance when we see it, and make it known that this hatred is not representative of our values as Torontonians," he said.
"These posters are not representative of our community."
Putting up such handbills a hate crime, advocate says
Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, a non-profit organization that has been working to fight racism in Toronto neighbourhoods since the 1970s, said the posters and stickers are hateful and whoever posted them is guilty of a hate crime.
"I mean, I'm riding around neighbourhoods with my four-year-old. I don't want him to asking me,'What does this mean? Why do these people hate me? Because of the colour of my skin?'" Barriffe said.
"If folks in the community feel like, 'Well, what's the sense in me making a complaint because nothing's going to be done anyway,' these white supremacists just get to move through our society with impunity."
Const. Michelle Flannery, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said the investigation is in its early stages. Officers are continuing to canvass the neighbourhood for witnesses and video.
"Some of the posters observed had the words scratched out and several of the posters were removed by police," Flannery said.
Police are appealing for anyone with information to call investigators at (416) 808-1100 or CrimeStoppers if they wish to remain anonymous.
With files from Alison Chiasson, Muriel Draaisma