The Current

Are actions of police legitimizing far-right groups in Quebec ?

Critics accuse police of "normalizing" fascist groups after a Quebec City far-right protest left 44 counter-protesters arrested.
Quebec City police arrested 44 counter-protesters at a far-right demonstration in Quebec City on Nov. 25, 2017. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Read Story Transcript

This past weekend, and for the second time in three months, far-right protesters made their presence known in Quebec.

The nationalist group La Meute organized a heated demonstration in Quebec City on November 25, 2017, joining forces with other far-right groups like Storm Alliance.

Between 300 and 400 far-right protesters outnumbered the anti-fascist activists who showed up to counter-protest.

Police Protection

CBC News reporter Jonathan Montpetit tells The Current that on the day of the protest, police formed a security cordon around far-right protesters, following procedure.

"Quebec City has a by-law requiring people to register with police … before they can hold a rally."

"The far right group La Meute did so, and they held extensive conversations with police in the days up to the protest. The counter-protesters simply told police that they were going to be there and they didn't go into any kind of detail."

It appeared like there was a level of collaboration between La  Meute  and police.

"[Police] had information from one group and not the other group. It appeared like there was a level of collaboration between La Meute and police."

At the protest, more radical far-right contingents eventually joined the protected area held by La Meute, while counter-protesters were pushed back.

Clashes broke out and police officers resorted to tear-gas to disperse crowds. By end of day, 44 counter-protesters had been arrested.

Police say roughly half of the counter-protesters were detained because they failed to follow orders to disperse. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Strategic Co-operation with Police

Critics say police protection of far-right protesters works to normalize and legitimize the groups' extreme politics.  

Montpetit believes this to be a conscious strategy on behalf of the far-right.

"They can use their own willingness to collaborate with police to show that they're law abiding, peaceful citizens — and that helps their cause. That helps them combat the notion that they are radical, violent racists," Montpetit tells The Current.

"Police kind of get co-opted into this effort to normalize their discourse."

Montpetit says the anarchist mindset of far-left groups like Antifa is working to the group's disadvantage in equal measure.

"[Antifa] insists on the necessity of physically confronting far-right groups ... and that goes along with a kind of unwillingness to be seen as overly complicit with police."

"Their unwillingness to co-operate with police makes them vulnerable to police reaction … so that they're the ones who end up getting arrested."

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Julian Uzielli.