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