Comments Off on Montreal 2023 Rent Strike, Why and How
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To pledge to join the strike, fill out this quick form. 5,000 pledges are needed. More information, including sample letters, graphics, pdfs, and events, will be posted here. To support the strike, hang a banner from your balcony. An upcoming event, a BBQ at Parc Lafontaine (corner of Panet/Sherbrooke), 12pm, this Saturday (Aug 19) will go over the following points in detail. For questions about the strike, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On August, 2nd the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union released a call for a rent strike across the city. The strike is against the government’s new Bill 31, against rent hikes, and for housing for all. The call included a pledge form with a required 5,000 pledges from tenants across the city to join the strike before the strike could officially begin.
To some, a call for a rent strike of 5,000 tenants across Montreal may seem ambitious and risky. The purpose of this text is to respond to legal and political concerns. We hope that this text helps supporters and likely allies better understand the strike and find ways to help.
Hundreds of tenants are currently on rent strike across Ontario. In the past six years, rent strikes have exploded from Los Angeles, to Parkdale, to New York, and all across North America during COVID-19. The strikes have proven that withholding rent is our most effective weapon as tenants against the real estate industry. A general rent strike in Montreal would be no exception in its ability to help ignite a social movement and threaten the interests of government and landlords.
Consequently, we think there is broad agreement that if we can pull a strike of this scale off and win, that would be good. We think most disagreement comes from whether this is possible or safe for tenants.
This is a long text. It is meant to be as comprehensive as possible at this moment. It can be scrolled through depending on the questions that interest you. The text is probably missing answers to questions that we have overlooked, or lacks clarity in sections. Please send over thoughts and recommendations for our work moving forward. For a much shorter summary, we recommend our instagram primer on the strike.
Whether a strike is possible or safe boils down to questions about the integrity and seriousness of our plans for the strike, the historic precedents of this kind of rent strike, and the risk of eviction for tenants.
A Summary of the Plan to go on Rent Strike
This plan describes how 5,000+ people could go on rent strike in Montreal for and no one get evicted. A rent strike of this magnitude would be a serious escalation in tenant power, create the basis for future rent strikes in the city, and offer the best chance at beating Bill 31 (a social democratic analysis of the bill can be found here) and rapidly rising rents.
Key parts: This rent strike has four core components 1) an online pledge to go on rent strike 2) banners on balconies against Bill 31 and for a rent strike 3) regular strike meetings of people who have filled out the pledge and the election of strike captains for each neighbourhood in Montreal 4) regular popular education events, leaflets, and posters on how to rent strike safely and historic precedents, and 5) a strike fund to support tenants on strike.
The online pledge is a form (like a Google form but a cryptform), that people sign to pledge to go on rent strike if 5,000 other people sign the pledge. If less than 5,000 people sign, there will be no rent strike. The pledge collects contact information, including phone number and email, as well as neighbourhood. Once someone pledges the union contacts them to get them involved in activities in preparation for a strike.
The banner on balconies (or signs on windows) would be a process of people putting banners on their balconies “Against Bill 31 / For a general rent strike” This is a good mobilizational tactic overall against Bill 31, and would encourage people to learn about the rent strike. Flyering outside metro stations, tabling, social media, and banner making events, are being used to encourage people to hang banners from their balcony or put signs in their windows.
Strike meetings would be meetings of people have filled out the pledge. We plan to announce our first strike meeting of people who have filled out the pledge soon. They will occur regularly come September, with a major strike assembly once 1,000 pledges are received, and another major assembly once 4,000 is reached. Strike meetings would be used to coordinate 1) flyering 2) tabling & banner dropping 3) social media sharing 4) workshops on rent striking 5) postering 6) neighbourhood, street, and building organizing to discuss Bill 31 and the increasing cost of rent 7) when the strike is closer, reconfirmation with people who’ve signed the pledge form that they are still interested in going on rent strike through a phone call campaign. Strike captains and committees for each Montreal neighbourhood will be organized at these assemblies. Once the strike starts the strike meetings would be responsible for coordinating mutual aid among strikers, raising strike funds to pay interest and court costs, and targeting landlords and tribunals trying to evict tenants.
Popular education forms will be help regularly to inform people about the strike in greater detail, answer popular questions, and share information about future events.
A Strike fund which we plan to release soon will be designed to support tenants who are on strike facing eviction proceedings. It will also be used to assist tenants facing harassment or antagonism from their landlord because they are strike supporters before and during the strike.
But what if I’m the only tenant under my landlord on rent strike? Even with 5,000 people on rent strike, there will be some tenants under landlords without neighbours on strike. The purpose of the strike meetings would be to coordinate building organizing and street organizing in the case of duplexes and triplexes so that people can draw in their neighbours. It is much easier to convince neighbours to withhold rent if they know it is a city-wide movement and if hundreds of people have banners on their balconies against Bill 31. Even if you are alone, rent strikes, including during COVID, have often had individual tenants joining thousands of others on strike without their neighbours necessarily being involved. The legal protections remain the same (as long as you pay rent before a judge can give a decision, it is much harder to evict you, especially for the first month). With 5,000 and more people on rent strike, it would also clog the tribunal system significantly. It might take a few months before a hearing. Landlords would also be afraid to file for eviction. If they did, the strike committee would hear about it and organize actions against any landlord who tries to evict during the rent strike. Actions could also be organized at the TAL to condemn the eviction process. If the worst does come, which we doubt it would, the strike committee would have funds to help pay for moving costs, legal fees, and possibly subsidize some rent.
What if people don’t actually go on rent strikebut have pledged to? This is subject to continued discussion but one important thing would be a calling campaign. If 5,000 pledges is reached, we will call a general assembly to prepare for the strike. Strikers will then coordinate a call campaign to confirm with people before if they’re still interested in a rent strike now that it is a real possibility. So long as 5,000 people are still ready and willing, the rent strike will move forward at an appropriate 1st of the following month (so long as there is ample time to prepare). It would be expected that many more people may join the rent strike if it goes on into a second month.
The History of Rent Strikes and Going Up Against Power “Alone”
The victory of Toronto’s 2017 rent strike of 300 tenants against MetCap Living has set an important example for how rent strikes can achieve much more than our court system will give. Rent strikes continue to unfold in Toronto, with another 300 tenants on rent strikes reported in May of this year. With other recent examples in cities like Los Angeles, it is inarguable that rent strikes are our best chance at collectively winning major concessions.
The concern here is that the rent strike we are proposing would cover a variety of different landlords. Using our model, even if we are encouraging and assisting building organizing, it is very possible that some tenants will be the only tenant on strike against their specific landlord. However, this is not uncommon in the history of successful rent strikes.
In fact, studying the history of notable rent strikes suggests that a mass of tenants striking against a single common landlord as in Parkdale is an exception. Rent strikes have often been generalized social movements against a variety of landlords. Crimethinc’s short history of rent strikes is available here.
COVID-19 is a perfect example of thousands of tenants in different cities going on spontaneous rent strike. Our union has several examples of Montreal tenants solo-ing rent strikes and succeeding during the pandemic (and, in fact, several tenants who have solo-ed rent strikes after the heat of the pandemic, without a broader context of organizing, and won). In the US, for instance, a landlord association estimated 31 percent of tenants went on rent strike for the month of March 2020. Parkdale Organize, which organized Toronto’s 2017 strike, also organized similar multi-landlord strikes. Keep Your Rent Toronto estimated 100,000 people used their forms to notify their landlord of their intention to withhold rent. These strikes succeeded in protecting tenants from having to pay during the heat of the pandemic, even in cities without eviction moratoriums. Strikers used systems of mutual aid, and mobbed court hearings of tenants from different buildings. These strikes had unity between strikers, despite not having the same landlord. This is to be expected when thousands of people are in the same rent-strike boat together.
Other examples come from strikes like Harlem’s 1963 rent strikes, the 1970s Italian auto-reduction movement, Barcelona’s rent strike in 1931, and Ireland’s land wars. In Harlem, for instance, tenants across over 50 buildings of dilapidated housing went on rent strike. One major victory came in the form of many tenants’ rent being temporarily set at $1/month. During Barcelona’s rent strike, tenants would blockade streets to prevent evictions, and break tenants back into their housing, making use of neighbourhood and worker committees.
In New York, eviction defence is currently a popular tool that has been used to stop the eviction of tenants. The most well-known examples are of tenants who have resisted through physical blockades outside of the tenants’ apartment. The blockades are defended by eviction defence networks, not usually other tenants of the same landlord. Although, much more illegal and less legally grey than rent strikes, this strategy of eviction defence has had huge success in New York and elsewhere.
In the worker and tenant sphere, wildcat strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, refusals of unsafe work, and walkouts, and even strikes such as the Oakland 2011 general strike, have included people spontaneously and even lone-worker striking against specific or different employers or schools with the protection of a broader union or mass movement. In Montreal, you can visit the IWW if your employer is stealing your wages. The IWW can then mobilize their membership to call your employer. The union is leveraging the collective support of workers from a variety of workplaces to individual people who are otherwise alone in front of their boss. They have had a lot of success.
The benefit of our current moment is that, unlike during COVID-19, we have a few more months and weeks to plan the rent strike. We can organize neighbourhood committees to coordinate mutual aid and eviction defence. We can offer more escalation. We can also meet in person, and are more agile in our capacity to do street actions. Mass and neighbourhood meetings of everyone participating in the rent strike would actually be possible this time.
It is not as though we are without legal protections while on rent strike. One protection that Quebec tenants have under Article 1883 of the Civil Code is exactly similar to the protection relied on by tenants who went on strike in Toronto in 2017. If a tenant had eviction proceedings opened against them, as long as they pay their rent back before a judge can render a decision they can avoid eviction. One tactic is to pay back all the outstanding rent on your court date. Other people get a non-profit or lawyer to hold the money in trust and to pay it on this date.
There are limitations to this legal strategy. We understand that frequent delay, if it causes serious damage to the owner, may constitute a legal reason which justifies the eviction of a tenant. For this reason it may be ideal to only do a rent strike for one month. This will be a decision of the strike assembly. We are making sure tenants and our members are familiar with this article.
Legal scholars, most notably Seema Shafei, have also argued for the right to rent strike as being incorporated within our constitutional right to strike or similar associational protections. Striking at work, for instance, is recognized as constitutionally protected.
Above the legal protections, is the practical questions that will face a landlord if they try to evict a tenant on rent strike. If 5,000 people are on rent strike, able to coordinate and organize between one another, attempting to evict a tenant could be… well, difficult. If neighbourhood strike captains and the core strike committee is sufficiently organized, the public would become familiar with any landlord trying to evict a rent striking tenant. We would leverage the power of this mass to make it clear to each and every landlord that they should wait the strike out, instead of applying for eviction. A variety of street and collective actions have been used by SLAM to pressure landlords, and have had major success with much smaller groups.
Another practical protection is the flooding of the tribunals. Basically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the tribunals to quickly process 5,000 eviction requests. The hearings would take a lot longer to roll around than expected.
Just as during COVID-19, the landlord will also know that they can expect the rent back eventually. They know that their tenant otherwise makes their rent payments. Unlike the usual situation of eviction, the failure to pay rent is not financial but political. While there are many landlords who would love to evict their tenants for any reason, several landlords may keep a tenant knowing that they will pay their rent more regularly once the rent strike storm has rolled over.
Finally, while we have focused on the case of a tenant who is on rent strike without their neighbours, one of our principal efforts will be spreading rent strikes in buildings with willing tenants. Once one tenant in a building has pledged to go on rent strike, it is a lot easier to convince others. This is possible through the Montreal tenants’ union usual strategy of building and street organizing (organizing common meetings, door-knockings, one-on-ones), and because there will be more optimism around rent striking if you know 5,000 other people, and at least one neighbour are on rent strike. Banners on balconies, street demos, and news coverage, would also inspire increased confidence. If several tenants in a building are on rent strike, the logic of “But I can’t possibly evict all of them at once!” (to quote a landlord during the COVID-19 strikes) applies to a landlord.
There is the possibility of low participation in the rent strike. This is really only a concern for the organizers of the strike, rather than the sympathizers. If 5,000 tenants do not pledge to go on strike, then there simply would be no strike. We would conduct a phone and text message campaign if 5,000 is reached to also confirm that there is continued interest and the 5,000 pledges is not some phantom figure. However, even if 5,000 strikers is not reached, the popular education, flyering, information sharing, the threat of a potential strike to the government, will not disappear. In fact, if 5,000 strikers is not reached, we will still have done a job of spreading knowledge and comfort with tactics of resistance. While failing to get a strike vote can be demoralizing, they can also be excellent opportunities for spreading popular education and training new organizers. While we do not like elected officials, launching a campaign that is likely to not succeed entirely has been used with success by political parties to gradually build a base. But again, success or failure at hitting 5,000 pledges, this is a concern for the organizers, not other tenants.
Once 5,000 people have both pledged and confirmed their interest in a rent strike, if the strike lasts longer than a month (a decision up to neighbourhood committees and the strikers’ assembly), we can certainly expect more tenants’ to join. Every strike we are familiar with significantly increased their numbers in their second month of striking.
But Still, is a Rent Strike Risky?
There are certainly risks with going on rent strike. It is imaginable that the tactics above don’t work, that government repression is too strong against the strike, that the legal protections in place fall through, and several if not several dozen people are evicted. It is possible that relationships of tenants with their landlords take a turn for the worst, or that landlords act outside the bounds of legality or manipulate their legal privileges in response. These are possibilities. We have highlighted above many reasons why we think these possibilities can be mitigated. However, what is probable, going forward… actually, what is almost certain… is that without an organized tenant movement taking risks, using bold tactics, Montreal will be the next Toronto and Vancouver. Our rents will outpace our incomes, the elderly and poor will be harassed and evicted from their units. Homelessness will continue to increase. In ten years, our current rents will seem like a pipe dream. This is all to say, we are balancing competing risks: the risk of bold action versus the risk of inaction. Both could mean eviction, gentrification, poverty, and displacement. For the reasons we highlighted above, we believe taking our chance can lead to huge reward. We can seriously mitigate the risks. It is possible, in fact precedented, that 5,000 people go on rent strike and no one is evicted. The risks we are taking are for a better world and to avoid the risks of a worse one.
People involved in the strike are not professionals. That should be clear. The union has long-time organizers from different milieus. However, they don’t accept the responsibility of housing professionals. Their goal is to offer a tactic to the tenants’ movement: the rent strike. If it is accepted by tenants in the city, we will try our hardest using some of the tactics and goalposts above. But, whatever is done will be up to the tenants involved. The union will help organize the assemblies, popular education, and actions. As in every uprising, though, the union won’t be responsible for every success or mistake made along the way. During the 2012 student uprising in Quebec, over 3,000 people were arrested, people faced disciplinary measures from their university, serious injuries were suffered, and over 400 people faced criminal charges. We can’t say that the 2012 strike organizers were responsible for this repression. We can’t even say that it was “worth it.” All we can say is that sometimes people stand up, accept the risks or ignore them. These are decisions made by mature people. They are risks necessary to social progress that every social movement takes.
Thank you for reading through the proposal for a 2023 Montreal general rent strike. Here are ways the tenant union suggests in which you can support the work towards a strike:
You can join our tenants’ union in calling for your strike and add your name to the organizations encouraging a Montreal rent strike. To do so, email us at: email@example.com
Easiest: You can share our Facebook events, especially the upcoming event on “Why & How” to go on rent strike against Bill 31 (Saturday, Aug 19th, 12pm to 2pm). At the moment, our Facebook game could use a boost.
You can join us at our upcoming event on “Why & How” to go on rent strike against Bill 31. It will be at Parc Lafontaine, Saturday, August 19th, from 12pm to 2pm at the corner of Sherbrooke/Panet. There will be a BBQ!
You can hang a banner from your balcony: We have extra banners, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your hands on one.
About 20 people storm a construction site of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in western Canada. They are armed with axes and flares, threaten employees, hijack heavy construction vehicles, destroy the site’s building and ultimately the vehicles themselves. The damage amounted to millions. That was almost a year ago. It is still unclear who sabotaged the construction of the pipeline in the province of British Columbia. Fracked gas was soon to flow through the pipeline, which runs right through indigenous land, to the West Coast, from where it would be shipped on to Asia.
Whether you occupy universities, schools, trees or streets. Whether you spend your nights worrying or sabotaging. Whether you strike or write about it.
The certainty that the current system will result in the collapse of the massively damaged ecosystem has already inspired countless people to resist. Tens of thousands are taking to the streets against the “business as usual” of the capitalist machinery, people are resisting the destructive large-scale projects en masse, the infrastructure of the system is being blocked and courageous fighters are setting fire to the machines that are being used to rob them of the very basis of life. What we need in the struggle against the destruction of nature and the resulting social misery is the shared pursuit of real revolutionary rupture and freedom of all. Pursuing an initiative that rejects all compromises and cosmetic corrections of the state and brings about a transformation of our social relations. Because the destruction of the planet by the neoliberal economic system is inextricably linked to patriarchal patterns of thought, racism and colonialism. The initiative for this must necessarily come from below. From the struggles of the excluded. From the struggles of those who enact a self-organized solidarity against the state’s promises of salvation. From the struggles of those who see that there can be no compromises in the fight against the systemic destruction of the biosphere.
We are certain that self-organized struggles are the only realistic answer to dealing with climate change and ecological crisis. Not because our ideological stance urges it, but simply because there is no evidence, no experience, no showcase example of how states and corporations have taken effective action against it.
A few hundred years of state capitalist rule and humanity is on the brink of the abyss. Radical movements against environmentally destructive development, on the other hand, have often proven that they have the power, creativity and perseverance to at least partially halt the gigantic machinery of destruction. And even if they don’t succeed, these initiatives are experiences we can build on. These experiences of struggle, in the Hambi, in the Danni, in Bure, against Castor transports in Wendland, on the ZAD – have proven the effectiveness of leaderless, offensive and solidarity movements. These struggles have also proven that we can build horizontal connections with other people who have different experiences and methods of struggle, and that we can reject the attempts of the state to divide us along the question of violence.
If we let our gaze wander to more distant territories, we see, from northern Canada to Patagonia, from Colombia to Indonesia, how indigenous groups, communities, villages, and organizations have been struggling for hundreds of years against the colonial domination of states and against the destruction of nature. These struggles are often invisiblized in their effectiveness and militancy. We want to break through this and be inspired.
Local struggles against climate change also emphasize with their actions the necessary urgency of action, even if they often stop short with their demands and appeals to the ruling politics to implement this action.
The problem is that the climate catastrophe is the logical consequence of this very policy. And this policy continues to adhere to the logic of financial profit for the few, the ruthless exploitation of people and nature for this goal, and competition as the driving force for continuous technical progress.
We think that we can really achieve effective successes if we manage to bring our struggles closer together; if we deepen links of solidarity and points of reference, if we fight for spaces for ecological projects, spaces for counterattacks, sabotage, spaces to learn about the history of struggles. Many are aware that it is a question of ending the entire capitalist mode of production. It is not about tightening our belts, but developing a perspective for an eco-social revolution.
La Araucanía Region, Chile – In the early morning hours of Friday, July 8, 2022, on the road from Traiguén to Lumaco. The driver of a logging truck of the company Forestal Mininco is stopped by five armed people and forced to get out. The group then sets the truck on fire and disappears. The CAM (Coordinadora Arauco Malleco), a Mapuche organization defending their habitat on Chilean territory, subsequently claimed responsibility for the action. In a similar attack on Forestal Minico in 2021, 29-year-old Pablo Marchant Gutiérrez was shot dead by carabinieri. A year after the murder, dozens of attacks are taking place against logging infrastructure, its operators and security forces.
The Same Game in Green – Technocracy and Geoengeneering
The narrative that we will solve climate change and ecological destruction technologically is naive at best, but much more likely it is a deliberate strategy to profit even further from the problems generated by earth exploitation.
The world economy’s hunger for energy, which has been growing steadily since industrialization, is often not seen as a problem; instead, research is conducted into new, supposedly green energy sources.
For example, recent breakthroughs in nuclear fusion research have been hailed by politicians as news of salvation. No attention was paid to the warning of the researchers involved that its use would be decades too late to solve the world’s energy problem.
New, green energy sources currently do not even cover the additional energy needs of the global economy – let alone a complete transition. Instead, the already existing ‘regenerative’ energy sources – sun, wind, water – are integrated into production and expand the supply. The reason for this is the so-called rebound effect. This effect has been occuring in capitalism for over 150 years: the steam engine burned coal more efficiently than before, but it was with it that industrialization really took off. And so – despite more economical technology – significantly more energy was consumed overall.
A green capitalism, i.e. climate-neutral and sustainable, is simply impossible. Since among its fundamental principes are constant growth and mass consumption instead of sustainability, and the profit of a few instead of the well-being and continued existence of all mankind.
The search for effective measures to mitigate climate change is also limited to technological solutions instead of addressing the root cause of the problem.
Currently, these are mainly technologies that can be grouped under the term geoengineering. This time with intentional human intervention in the climate system, global warming is to be reduced. In “solar radiation management,” for example, tiny particles are to be released in the stratosphere and reflect some of the sunlight back into space.
Scientific warnings of unforeseen interactions with such a massive intervention in the climate system are brushed aside with the claim that this is the only way to preserve our current economy and prosperity.
Another proposal with destructive potential comes from the Green Ministry of Economics. Injecting CO2 filtered from the air into deep rock layers was recently considered a high-risk technology. CO2 ‘final storage’ was banned because of its immeasurable effects on the environment. Recently, its formerly staunch opponent, Economics Minister Habeck, has become convinced that the climate problem cannot be solved without this technology.
The same approach, along with ecocide, global warming and other horrors, has already given us a heap of highly radioactive nuclear waste with no solution for the permanent storage problem.
For us, this approach represents a technique of domination for imposing new technologies without regard to the consequences for people, nature or society. With firm faith in technical progress, reference is made to future technologies that are to be created by the same actors who caused the previous problems in the first place. In this way, the ruling technocrats flaunt their solution-oriented ability to act.
The economic system, which is responsible for the destruction of our capacity for life, is not questioned. Just as little as the positions of power these actors hold.
We can no longer afford the rich
Who are those who have always been able to profit from the crises and wars of recent years and secure their supremacy? Who is responsible for the majority of emissions of climate-damaging gases? It is not those who are already excluded, the refugees and the poor. It’s the energy companies, banks and defense contractors. It’s the rich, whose way of life can only exist at the expense of others. And on a global scale, it is the lifestyle of mass consumption and the waste produced by societies in the Global North.
And so the struggle against climate destruction is inevitably a struggle along ‘class lines’. The richest 1% of the population in Germany emits significantly more CO2 than the poorest 50% of society. The appeal of those in power in connection with higher fuel and energy prices, “we all have to tighten our belts”, is a farce. The majority of the emissions is caused by the subsidized car, gas and coal industry, industrial agriculture and the jet-set lifestyle of bosses and managers. No change in consumer behavior toward electric SUVs and vegan sausages will help.
Consumption is not simply an individual choice, but an indispensable part of capitalist value creation – it is the step at which value becomes money again. So there is a powerful interest in maintaining or even reinforcing current consumption patterns. “Green” consumption also works in this way. That’s why, despite the double whammy, climate protection and traffic reduction, this will not be shaken.
Simply taxing CO2 emissions at a higher rate does not solve the problem either. That would link CO2 emissions to wealth – but it is precisely those who cause a lot who have the money to be able to pay these taxes.
Compensation through purchased CO2 certificates, on the other hand, only exacerbates the problem. The trade with CO2 certificates opens a huge market for land grabbing by making larger and larger parts of land available for (western) financial markets.
Since no reform policy will even aim at, let alone enforce, a fairly distributed CO2 budget, it remains the task of the ‘climate-conscious’ part of the population to enforce the ecological common good by ourselves against destructive property ownership. Those who now remark that this ultimately amounts to expropriation hit the nail on the head and have grasped the systematic magnitude of the climate problem.
Colonialism – eternal cornerstone of capitalism
Countries of the Global North are responsible for more than two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions, but countries of the Global South are two to three times more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. These figures alone indicate that the climate crisis is not caused equally by all people.
The wealth of the North, which created this inequality in the first place, is based on the colonial exploitation of raw materials and human labor through slavery. Starting with the silver mines in Potosi, through the exploitation of oil deposits in South America, the Middle East and North Africa by Western energy companies, to the soy and palm oil plantations in the rainforests.
In this way, the history of colonialism continues, which goes hand in hand with the displacement of people, the transfer of profits to the West and a constant political and economic dependence of the countries of the global South, up to the raw materials that are needed here for the implementation of the “green” energy transition. Copper and lithium from the same colonial mines in Latin America for the batteries of e-mobility, uranium from West Africa for “green” nuclear power plants, cobalt and other rare earth minerals from the Congo for cell phones and other advanced electronics, and finally “green” hydrogen from the wind- and sun-rich deserts of Namibia.
The urgently needed systemic rupture with a colonial resource waste will radically change our lives. An everyday life consistent with the demands of a realistic climate perspective (which is of course never free of contradictions) requires an uncomfortable but necessary reorientation for us as well.
Currently, immense migratory movements to the still livable North are taking place, which will intensify in the future. On the one hand, this is due to the poverty caused by the global economic network, on the other hand, it is due to the wars fought to assert political influence and secure resources. And last but not least, the consequences of climate change are already noticeable in the (neo-)colonial destruction of nature in the global South.
The perpetrators of this in the global North are practicing military isolation. Fences are built and the borders to the south are systematically monitored with the help of drones, satellites and airplanes. Thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and in the deserts of North Africa and Mexico are being accepted. Pushbacks are taking place and a further advance of the EU’s external border is being planned. Those who have made it across these obstacles are institutionally harassed and discredited in the media. In the self-image of the countries of the Global North, however, the only criminals are autocrats like Putin and Erdogan, who abuse migration management as a political weapon.
May 2016 – During a protest action against the lignite industry in Lusatia lasting several days, the opencast mine and the rail network are shut down in several places. Thousands invade the plant site and sit on rails, conveyor belts and power plant access roads. Contrary to the will of the organizers of Ende Gelände to limit the actions to sit-in blockades and lock-down actions, several hundred people invade the site of the power plant “Schwarze Pumpe”. At the access tracks to the power plant, the track bed is removed, through this “graveling” the tracks become impassable. In the power plant, doors are broken open, distribution boxes are sabotaged and emergency stop switches are pressed. As a result of the interplay of the various actions this weekend, several power plant towers have to be completely shut down. This is a much larger outage than the two-day shutdown planned from the outset by the operator Vattenfall.
Compromise and radicalization
Not only in questions of migration, the political leaders are radicalizing – more and more uncompromisingly they avoid taking the really necessary paths. They stick to fossil energies and the dinosaur of nuclear energy. The more radically it is claimed that these technologies are clean and infinite, the more radically and unmistakably society, and with it a resistance movement, must react to the energy policy for the corporations. It is not even particularly radical to take seriously the scientifically attested future of an ecological collapse of large parts of the earth in the current course of politics. On the contrary! It becomes radically dangerous not to be prepared for the ecological consequences of the oh so sustainable new technologies.
Climate Minister Habeck is selling this to us as a compromise. The Greens are making up stories about how replacing imports from Russia will lead to a revolution in renewables. In fact, however, elsewhere on the world energy market, they are buying from other autocrats and using fracked gas from the USA as a substitute. The ‘compromise’ is used as a justification to be competitive as an export nation with relatively cheaply purchased energy. The compromise conceals the fact that the promised decarbonization is already about securing the raw materials necessary for the new game. Thus, the compromise is not a compromise, but a double strategy, an attempt to continue radically, albeit in a new guise. In the public debate, however, it is said that the activists of the climate justice movement have not understood the nature of democracy with their uncompromising demands.
In view of these political-strategic reversals in the stigmatization of radicalization and compromise, the following applies to us: Whether militant or (civilly) disobedient, we can hardly block and sabotage climate change as radically as capitalism has made it necessary.
There are not only ecological tipping points at which the climate system irreversibly reorganizes itself – there are also social tipping points. Points at which either the misery caused by the rulers becomes so obvious that large parts of the population see the need to fight back. Or at which impoverishment and the expansion of repression have progressed so far that a revolution seems almost impossible. It is along these tipping points that we must develop our resistance. The initiative for this must necessarily come from below. The state is committed to a dystopian ‘business as usual’ for the economic system, except for cosmetic corrections. Holding on to this ecologically devastating, capitalist way of doing business is tantamount to an ignorant acceleration towards collapse.
If now the interior ministers of the countries claim that climate protest radicalizes and questions our political-economic system as a whole, then the answer that makes sense in terms of climate policy must be: Yes, necessarily – anything else would be an unforgivably senseless compromise for the planet.
Whether as pinky & the brain with their tunnel system in the ‘underground’ or as the monk in the Lützerather mud, whether as SUV-halters or climate-gluers, whether as nocturnal saboteurs or as discourse-interveners trying to debunk the crudest fake-narratives of coal and nuclear lobbies – all efforts should be able to be carried out independently and respectfully side by side. And, at best, work closely together toward a common goal: the containment of a progressive destruction of nature and for the overcoming of the destructive system of oppression, racism and patriarchy.
Those of us who still remember the phased, well-coordinated coexistence of the various forms of action during the protests against the nuclear waste transports to the Wendland may know what is intended here: a larger sit-in blockade on the tracks and rail sabotage that is offensively defended from police forces in close proximity to each other posed a greater challenge to the railroads and police in their simultaneity than the two actions did individually.
A dynamic and broad climate justice movement would do well not to allow any identitarian and thus divisive notions of ‘militancy’ or ‘nonviolence’ to be imposed on it. Certainly not an easy task, as we know from different heterogeneous movements. But it is worth it.
We find the question of whether it is worthwhile to appeal to political leaders much more decisive. Here we have (without any need for delimitation) a clear position with the above analysis: No, it is not worth it – and it raises false hopes that can make a movement dependent and paralyze it.
The same is true at the global level. A serious internationalism must connect our struggles here, also with the struggles against the destruction of nature worldwide, e.g. LNG production in Canada. We can only fight against a global system of destruction if we relate to each other internationally and meet at eye level. An anti-colonial perspective for our efforts for climate justice is necessary for this reason alone.
Here, too, we should not stop at appeals to the global community. How much it achieves when politicians from all over the world decide together on the goal to mitigate climate change we can clearly see in the consistent implementation of the decisions of the Paris Climate Conference.
A ‘technical solution’ to climate change can only be found with toxic mines, deployed militaries and expropriated indigenous land, at least in the periphery. And against the people fleeing this misery, the metropolis enacts brutal violence.
Thoothukudi in southern India – The Indo-British corporation Vedanta Resources operates the second largest copper smelter in India here. Cancer rates, as well as the incidence of respiratory infections in the city, have risen dramatically since it opened. For the past 100 days, the local population has been protesting in the hundreds of thousands against an expansion of the smelter. On this 100th day, May 22, 2018, the police stop the huge demonstration procession, when the demonstrators refuse to be stopped, they shoot specifically into the crowd. 13 people die from the bullets, over 100 are injured. After this black day, on which the police and politicians had finally exposed themselves as stooges of the copper industry, the operating company nevertheless had to give in to pressure from the population and the copper smelter was completely shut down.
Even if the sky falls on our heads…
It should be clear to us that we cannot completely prevent the creeping collapse of a massively damaged ecosystem, not the loss of biodiversity, not the depletion of resources. We will not be able to prevent the climate catastrophe because we are already in the middle of it.
It’s a question of habitat loss for billions of human and non-human life. ‘Human’ life is already a privilege and will be possible primarily for those who can afford it.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is already out of reach, yet global greenhouse emissions would have to be reduced to zero within a few years. The rulers repeatedly show that they are not willing to do so and we are not (yet) able to realize such a change.
Admitting this – without any doomsday pathos – does not paralyze us. On the contrary: it should open up for us and our contexts the question of what our lives and our revolutionary struggles might look like in the future.
So that another world becomes possible: Let us cooperate with each other in solidarity to be able to live a dignified life. Let us realize our ideas in the here and now and already within our struggles and actions. We will not be lulled by the appeasement attempts of those in power.
We think that we can only become a serious threat if we seek communication with each other. We propose to relate to each other under the slogan “switch off – the system of destruction” and thus put our struggles in a shared context.
Our actions must make clear that there can be no capitalist green alternative, no peace with existing conditions. We choose the means ourselves and no one stands above another in a hierarchy. We would love it if many would take up this idea.
This is not meant to be an attempt of absorption, but a call to go further on the offensive and strengthen existing struggles. Let’s ignite a long-term wave of action towards revolt. Take care of yourselves and be brave.
For a struggle of solidarity under catastrophic conditions – worldwide!
the future is still unwritten!
Anarchists, Autonomists and Social Revolutionaries from German-speaking countries
This year Punch Up Collective hosted our seventh contribution to recognizing May Day in Ottawa: a kid-centred picnic and short march. We wanted to share something about why this was so fun and to reflect a little on including kids and families in these kinds of celebrations, and the difference between including them and focusing events on kids and families.
We’ve done a mix of things to recognize May Day – sometimes events, sometimes workshops or other things that we hope contribute to carrying on the legacy of struggle for dignity and joy for everyone. Our first May Day event, in 2015, was a called “All In: Worker Organizing Beyond the Mainstream Labour Movement.” It was a panel featuring people talking about sex work, migrant labour, harm reduction workers, and drug users. As part of our planning for the event, we paid a local comrade who ran a daycare to bring toys and activities and set up a kids space. No one brought their kids. That same year we ran a workshop called “Planning to be Good to Each Other” about building social harm reduction practices in radical groups; again we set up childcare, again no kids were there.
In 2016, we organized a showing of the Lego movie at a community centre, with a video projector, legos, and popcorn. A bunch of families came (and we, none of whom at the time had kids, had a chance to marvel at how many of the under-ten crowd had the whole Lego movie memorized, and at the sheer volume of popcorn kids can consume!). The next year we stepped back from publicly-oriented May Day organizing after the Revolutionary Communist Party took over the planned events. Instead, we hosted a potluck at a private house with no formal childcare situation, and a bunch of kids came. This was fun partially because there were also a bunch of non-parent people who really liked hanging out with the kids and their caregivers. And so the year after that, 2019, we decided to have a more elaborate potluck, with activities and someone explicitly ready to hang out with kids, at a local community centre. Very few people came at all, and only a few kids. It was a bummer.
A normal collective might look at this litany and decide that there just isn’t the need in the local radical left to have formal kid care available at our events generally and May Day in particular. 2020’s May Day was the first one under the shadow of the pandemic, and we instead doubled down on trying to do something with kids in mind: we paid a local artist friend to make colouring pages under the label “Quarantine Capitalism,” and we shared them both here in Ottawa and online. People sent us wonderful pictures of people of all ages colouring these pages in and posting them up in public places.
In 2021, exhausted by zoom events and not prepared to gather in person, we sent out a May Day greeting card by mail. Last year, still not willing to get people together in person but reflecting on what we were hearing from people wanting more space to understand how to work together, we offered an online version of our workshop about how and why to build effective collectives.
So, that brings us up to this year. The pandemic is still ongoing, the weather in Ottawa at the beginning of May is very unpredictable, and still we decided to have an in-person, kid-focused thing outdoors. We were inspired by the 1947 Candy Bar Protest, when kids went on strike to bring the price of candy bars back down to 5 cents; this started in B.C. but circulated across the Canadian context, including actions in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, and the Maritimes. We consulted with some of our parent friends about our idea to have a kids parade with noisemakers (parents responded, “Have you considered that kids are noisemakers?”), story reading, and a banner making. They all said, “Sounds good! Not sure if we’ll be able to make it!”
It was raining hard on our planned date, and we had to postpone to the following Saturday morning. If you aren’t a parent, you may not know that Saturday mornings are for whatever reason the main time where – if you’ve been lucky enough to register for gymnastics or swimming between 9 PM when the city portal opens and 9:02 PM when everything is full – kids have Activities. So we rolled up to our planned location with our banner, noisemaker-making supplies, snacks, red and black flag, and queer flag, but without a lot of hope that any kids would come. At seven minutes after the planned start time, one of us asked, “How long should we give it before we pack it in?” and we spent some time reflecting on whether it had all been a mistake. We tried to call the person who’d agreed to contribute music to tell him maybe not to come. Luckily, he was biking over with his guitar, and so he missed our call, and thus was there when, bit by bit, a whole bunch of adults and kids showed up. Some people knew one another, many others didn’t know anyone. The kids got right down to work making drums out of buckets, shakers out of paper plates taped together with beans and grains inside, and decorating other noisemakers. Others drifted over to draw flowers, hearts, and other more mysterious things on our “Everything for Everyone” banner. People had snacks, and listened to a reading of Candy Bar War, and then some May Day themed songs. And at a certain point we got together to sing and march around.
It was a really beautiful day. Most of the kids there were between one and six. Many of the adults were aging anarchists, and many of us hadn’t seen one another for many years, since even before the pandemic started. This was the first thing since 2020 that we’d hosted in person and it felt weird and good to be together. We had thought that we’d be contributing just one piece to a bigger set of May Day celebrations in our city, but in the end this small event was the only observance in Ottawa. This has made us reflect on how we direct our energy for future years.
Although we’d invited people who aren’t parents or caregivers, mostly the people who came were pretty directly connected to the kids there in one way or another. Even though we reached out to parents we know, we didn’t connect with organizers in town like the folks working with Child Care Now, who are campaigning for universal publicly-funded childcare, nor did we reach out to our anarchist librarian friends who host kid-centred events in public spaces in Ottawa to see if they had ideas for activities leading up to the parade that might have brought in people we didn’t already know. In general, we were not thinking sufficiently strategically about the context in which we wanted to participate.
Of course, it’s also nice to just have a social space to celebrate May Day with other radicals. But even if that’s the goal, hosting public events where there’s space for people who don’t already know one another to meet needs to be deliberate and thoughtful. We’ve tried to practice this by moving from a model where we have existing events and just add child care to them to hosting more events that are explicitly political and that are conceptualized as being for kids and families from the start. Looking at other organizing that maintains a steady commitment to always offering something meaningful for kids to do, we think that this is not only worth doing but also just much more fun than the bifurcated spaces we see so much on the left, where things are either only for kids or only for adults. But figuring out the balance on this is still a work in progress for us.
Talking with Louve Rose from P!nk Bloc Montreal about Quebec’s transphobic far right, drag defence, and building a revolutionary anti-capitalist queer organization for both community self-defence and to intervene against gay assimilationism.
Comments Off on Action Against Luxury MTL Real Estate Agency
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
July 1st is moving day in Montreal. It’s always chaotic, but with the threat of Bill 31 rent reforms the situation may become far worse.
We are told there is a housing crisis, a term used to avoid naming those responsible. Why is housing scarce, unsafe, expensive, and precarious in Montreal?
Greedy landlords who renovict, charge damage deposits and “finder’s fees” to maximise profits.
To avoid rental laws and increase profit landlords convert housing into short-term rentals (e.g. Airbnb). This caused several deaths in the spring.
New housing is built for investors, not residents. While low-income housing is “impossible”, dozens of towers with luxury housing are built, units sold to investors just to sit empty and appreciate in value.
Over 500 people are newly homeless since moving day. The eviction of people living in tents under the Ville-Marie expressway is imminent. They build skyscrapers and pander to rich urbanite investors while people sleep rough. Bill 31 is part of this plan. The landlord lobby, developers, property managers and real estate agencies profit from a Montreal where you must pay up or get out. The powers that be want a city made for the rich – high rent, expensive food, yuppie gentrification – the rich get richer.
We say fuck a housing crisis, housing is everywhere. Luxury MTL, also known as Montria Real Estate, is part of the problem. Luxury development creates a world for the rich. We will attack it. Their windows are just the beginning.
Solidarity with rent strikers in Toronto. Squat the world!
A young man of 17, Nahel, was shot dead by a cop the day before yesterday, June 27, in Nanterre, a summary execution for something that has come to be called “a hit-and-run” or “refusal to comply”, for something that appears to be trying to escape so as not to remain at the mercy of two cops ready to kill. We don’t have the words – we’re still looking for them – to express our anger and total solidarity, unconditionally and even before we know more details about what happened the press has been spewing out rumors straight from the police precinct. Here are just a few thoughts, since we feel it’s necessary to express ourselves.
17 years old, damn it.
The government tried to play down the drama to avoid direct confrontation, to protect its cops, itself and the world of shit and misery it keeps in place. In an attempt to protect themselves from the wrath of everyone, they used a disgusting technique: that of mitigation and pacification, by not skimping on the use of lies. Using the media and press statements from the various parties on the left and right, they claimed that the teenager had a criminal record (which turned out to be untrue), that the police officer was in danger (which turned out to be untrue as well), and invoked the role of mediation by the justice system and national mourning to resolve the problem. All these techniques are well tried and tested, but were ineffective yesterday and today: everyone knows that this execution is not a private dispute between a policeman and the family, nor is it an extraordinary blunder. What the press and the state are defending by smearing those they execute is the ability to maintain order at all costs, the ability to hold us at gunpoint and shoot, the right to “self-defense” of their own existence at the cost of our lives. It’s us against them. And no one cares whether they have a criminal record or not, just as no one cares whether the people the cops are targeting are on the S list (1), or whether they are unfavorably known to the CAF (2), Pôle Emploi (3) or the police. Everyone knows they have to fight, and no one seems to want to mourn in silence. While the fire department, the government, the left and all the peacemakers call for calm, Nahel’s mother courageously called for “a revolt for her son”.
Attempts to quell the anger have so far failed: the very same day, riots broke out in Nanterre, and the revolt has spread throughout the 92, part of the 93 (4), and to other cities, including Bordeaux, Lille, Nantes and Roubaix. In some places, the police were overwhelmed and wounded, and in others they fled or gave up. The second night of rioting was even more ferocious, and spread to other cities: Toulouse, Lyon, Strasbourg, Clermont-Ferrand, some parts of Paris, in the Xxème, Belleville, La Chapelle, the south of the XIIIème…, and above all to many towns in the Île-de-France region. This morning, the cleaning services are struggling to hide the traces of the revolt. Cars, buses, streetcar lines, town halls, barricades, schools and police stations are all ablaze. Stores, trucks and supermarkets have been looted. This breadth of vision to effectively target what maintains order and the relevance of the attacks, which the movement against pensions has struggled to achieve despite its scale, seems to have been envisaged after only two nights of rioting. The Fresnes prison was bravely stormed on the second night of rioting, to free the prisoners, to free us all. A breach is opening up, a breach to shake up what yesterday seemed invincible. But yesterday was November 2005. Yesterday, it was the yellow vests. Yesterday, it was May 68. Yesterday, too, we shook the State, its maintenance of order, and so we understand that this order is far from unassailable, since it is shaking.
We need to step into this breach, and we can see some of the means available to all of us, here and now. Ideally, we’d like to be able to go beyond these “few means within everyone’s reach”, and to do so we need, like the Nanterre rioters, to find new ways to be effective against our enemies, the police of the state, of capitalism, of democracy, and even more so against apathy, resignation, daily suicide and collective disinterest. All this is not normal, and must be fought, for Nahel, for M. killed in the CRA (5) in Vincennes, for the thousands of people who die on Europe’s borders, for Serge and the wounded from policing in Sainte-Soline and everywhere, and for all the others of yesterday and tomorrow, for all of us, to put an end to pity, paternalism and condescension, and with all our rage to put an end to this world and with our desire for freedom, intact.
In this battle that many of us will be fighting, let’s always remember that the enemy facing us, the one waging open war on us, is not the only one. Let’s not forget the one who is on our side, the one who recuperates and destroys from within, who suffocates and vampirizes: the left, its moralizing big brothers and its armchair sociologists, the negotiators of social peace who will very quickly try to contain and eradicate our hatred for the court of justice which, above all, is our enemy. It is this court of justice itself that prolongs the arrests. Solidarity with the 180 people arrested last night.
From Nanterre to the whole of France and the rest of the world
(1) fiché S – a list of people considered a threat to state security
(2) Caisse des Allocation Familiales – French state welfare agency
(3) Government agency that deals with unemployment
(4) 2 of the poorest working class suburbs of Paris that are known as banlieues
(5) Administrative Detention Centers that are run by the border police
This text was produced by the Montréal Antifasciste collective and printed in zine format for free distribution at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, May 27-28, 2023.
In the wake of emerging crises (economic, climate, migration, health, etc.) and in the absence of a structured alternative on the left of the political spectrum, a right-wing wind is currently blowing across the world that nothing seems to be slowing down. In keeping with this trend, the far right is on the rise in a number regions across the world, both in its reactionary and institutional forms (loyal to the systems in place) and in its so-called revolutionary forms (hostile to the systems in place), especially in the United States and in some Western European countries, including Italy and France, but also in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, and in India, to provide but a few examples. With a few months’ or a few years’ delay, Canada and Québec are also impacted by this trend, as much in terms of institutional politics (e.g., the populist turn of the Conservative Party of Canada and the media breakthrough of the Conservative Party of Québec) as in terms of soft power (e.g., in Québec, the dominant influence of the Quebécor empire’s media on the “agenda”) and popular or pseudo-popular movements (e.g., opposition to health measures).
The so-called “Freedom Convoy,” which paralyzed the Canadian capital for several weeks in the winter of 2022, confirmed the convergence of several phenomena that are superficially distinct but all play a role in the re-emergence of the far right: a leadership partially derived from supremacist movements and groupuscules that are influenced by the alt-right and “accelerationist” principles (but that are above all rooted in the anti-Trudeau resentment that characterizes western Canadian populism/separatism), anti–health measures conspiracy theory (including a New Age and alternative health component) rooted in confusionism and misinformation propagated by far-right actors, and a populist undercurrent taking advantage of the growing (and largely legitimate) hostility toward political and economic elites.
On the one hand, a combination of anti-racist and anti-fascist mobilizations, as well as internal tensions and dissension, the institutionalization of some of their demands, and finally the global COVID-19 pandemic greatly destabilized (and in some cases neutralized and eliminated) these organizations. On the other hand, the pandemic provided some actors—both familiar faces and newcomers—the opportunity to push the populist right and the far right in new directions, and the current period is marked by the emergence of a number of new projects strongly to the right of the traditional conservative right. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, the mainstream and institutional political and cultural landscape continues to shift to the right, with potentially serious consequences in the short and medium term. In that context, we offer this—no doubt incomplete—overview of the current situation in Québec.
We are acutely aware of the difficulty of providing a concise and precise definition of a phenomenon as complex as fascism, but for the purposes of this pamphlet and the orientation of the Montréal Antifasciste collective, we propose the following definitions:
Fascism is an anti-liberal, ultranationalist ideology centered on re-founding an imaginary version of the primordial nation,* which has been lost to “modern decadence,” liberal values, and equality-seeking groups, and which is to be restored through the forced consolidation of hierarchies and the normalization of discrimination against different categories of humans (on the basis of gender, “race,” social status, sexual identity, culture, religion, ethnic origin, etc.). The far right designates the currents of thought and political action, both within and outside of the system, that are more radical than the traditional conservative right in consolidating these hierarchies and normalizing relations of oppression and discrimination, thus favouring the emergence of fascist formations.
Anti-fascism refers to the people, organizations, social movements, and currents of thought and action that oppose not only realized fascism but also all the political, social, and cultural factors that facilitate the re-emergence of a fascist spirit and the realization of old or new fascist forms. including xenophobic and reactionary national-populist agendas, neo-fascist, “revolutionary nationalist,” and neo-Nazi groups, as well as confusionist conspiracy theory currents that recycle far-right themes. Liberal anti-fascism largely operates within the limits established by the capitalist system and the bourgeois order. Radical anti-fascism favours a far-reaching egalitarian reorganization of society, i.e., freedom from systemic hierarchies and discriminations, including capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, and heteropatriarchy. The diminutive “antifa,” which was coined in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, generally refers to radical anti-fascism.
* This definition is based on the work of the British historian and political scientist Roger Griffin.
From La Meute to the CAQ: The Institutional Integration of Islamophobic and Anti-Immigration Demands
Montréal Antifasciste was formed shortly after the Islamophobic rallies organized by La Meute in Montréal and Québec City on March 4, 2017. These coordinated demonstrations, which came just weeks after a mass shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Québec City left six dead and many seriously injured, were intended to protest Motion 103 (M-103), a non-binding resolution aimed primarily at getting the federal government to recognize the importance of “condemning Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” which passed on March 23, 2017. In the following years, La Meute and other similar projects—Storm Alliance, the Front patriotique du Québec, Soldiers of Odin Québec, and later the so-called Gilets jaunes and the Vague Bleue among them—organized multiple Islamophobic and anti-immigration demonstrations and actions in Montréal, Québec City, Trois-Rivières, and Ottawa, as well as at the border crossing of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle and at Roxham Road. These latter mobilizations demanded the closure of the “irregular” passage used by a relatively large number of refugee claimants under the provisions of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US. From the outset, these demonstrations were flanked by half-assed militias (inspired in part by the III% and US alt-right street-fighting groups like the Proud Boys), including the Groupe Sécurité Patriotique and the Gardiens du Québec, as well as various well-known local far-right figures seeking to pick a fight with anti-fascists.
Although these formations and mobilizations may have seemed marginal at the time, they were, in fact, part of a much broader right-wing drift of the institutional political field in Québec, which had been taking place since the so-called “reasonable accommodation” crisis in 2006–2007. The CAQ’s arrival in power in 2018 served to accelerate this process, as was quickly confirmed by Bill 21, which, under the pretext of ensuring the “secularity of the state,” clearly targeted Muslim women and other religious minorities. The CAQ’s obsession with immigration thresholds during the election campaign (now recuperated by the PQ) also betrayed a populist desire to satisfy the demands of an electoral base among whom the Islamophobic and xenophobic sentiments expressed by La Meute resonated strongly. Despite official denials, in an interview with Radio-Canada in 2019, François Legault half-heartedly admitted that Bill 21 was a “compromise” of sorts with the Islamophobic movements:
Pour éviter les extrêmes, il faut en donner un peu à la majorité. […] Je pense que c’est la meilleure façon d’éviter les dérapages. » […] On délimite le terrain, parce qu’il y a des gens un peu racistes qui souhaiteraient qu’il n’y ait pas de signes religieux nulle part, même pas sur la place publique. [To avoid extremes, you have to give the majority a little bit. . . . I think that’s the best way to avoid slippage. . . . We are marking out the terrain, because there are people who are a bit racist and would like there to be no religious signs anywhere, not even in the public square.]
No one missed the point, especially not the leaders of La Meute, e.g., Sylvain Brouillette, who during the 2018 election said that the CAQ advanced La Meute’s ideas, and vice versa:
“Si La Meute est sur le bord du racisme, cela veut dire que vous l’êtes aussi, M. Legault. […] c’est ceux qui pensent comme vous que vous traitez de racistes.” [If La Meute is a bit racist, that means that you are too, Mr. Legault. . . . You are calling people who think like you racist.]
Quand ils disent qu’ils n’ont rien à voir avec La Meute, c’est assez risible. Les revendications de La Meute, c’est exactement le programme de la CAQ et c’est là-dessus qu’il a été élu. [When they say they have nothing to do with La Meute, it’s quite laughable. The demands of La Meute are exactly the program of the CAQ, and that’s what he was elected on.]
The fact is that the institutionalization of the xenophobic and Islamophobic demands of groups like La Meute may have contributed as much—if not more—to their obsolescence and decline as the anti-fascist opposition and the many internal crises that have plagued them (power struggles, financial malfeasance, sexual assault accusations, etc.). Nothing illustrated this phenomenon as grotesquely as the Vague Bleue movement (2019), which ultimately demanded nothing more than what the CAQ government was already putting in place, while puerilely protesting against the media organization (including the TVA network) that is largely responsible for the right-wing drift that in no small way fed the growth of the national-populist movement.
Of course, the reframing of the political landscape on the right is continuing today without the contribution of these groups. Every day, the Québecor media empire, primarily through the work of a small army of reactionary columnists, engages in mass ideological structuring whose discourse is often found in the mouths of elected CAQ officials. The proof is in the fanatical resistance to recognizing the existence of systemic racism and François Legault’s recuperation of the “woke” strawman in National Assembly debates. Mathieu Bock-Côté, whose 2020 book L’empire du politiquement correct was praised by Legault, whose column “Éloge de notre vieux fond catholique” was recently diffused by Legault, and who peddles his rants about the imminent fall of Western civilization in the pages of Le Journal de Montréal and on TVA/LCN on a daily basis, is undoubtedly one of the most important purveyors of far-right ideas in the mainstream, both here and in France (where he served as a mouthpiece for Éric Zemmour during the last presidential election, and where he is still active as a columnist and regular contributor on various far-right platforms, including CNews, Causeur, Valeurs actuelles, etc.). Yet, at home, he is still portrayed as a moderate conservative, and any attempt to associate him with the far right is met with anti-“woke” hysteria.
While unquestionably a win for the CAQ, the recent closure of Roxham Road was also another triumph for the xenophobic movements that have been clamouring for it for years.
Finally, the relative vacillation of the CAQ on various issues, including immigration thresholds and, more recently, its flip-flop on the third link, opens up a space on its right, which Éric Duhaime and his Conservative Party of Québec are happy to occupy with a toxic mix of libertarianism and populism that has enormous appeal for the disappointed fringe of the CAQ’s base and carries current far-right obsessions into the mainstream (including the “anti-drag” hysteria, to which we will return below).
Whatever the institutional context, in 2023, La Meute only survives online and is a shadow of its former self (which was not much to begin with), and Storm Alliance has completely disappeared from the map. The same goes for the Front patriotique du Québec, which organized nationalist marches every July 1 for several years, the Groupe sécurité patriotique, the Gardiens du Québec, the Gilets jaunes du Québec, and all the groupuscules of greater or lesser consequence that formed during that period. However, some of the leading activists of these organizations, including Steeve “l’Artiss” Charland (La Meute) and Mario Roy (Storm Alliance), recycled themselves into the anti–health measures movement that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we shall see below. Donald Proulx’s Parti patriote and other similar fringe groups continue to exist but have no significant influence.
What Happened to the Hardcore Fascists?
One of the Montréal Antifasciste’s major preoccupations in the 2017–2020 period was to track and document the trajectory and activities of the group Atalante, which, in some ways, is both a contemporary iteration of the Québec white power movement, whose origins can be traced back to the bonehead groupuscules of the 1990s, and a sort of vanguard of the European-inspired identity/neo-fascist (specifically, revolutionary nationalist) movement in Québec. Atalante has arguably been the most developed and determined group that Montréal Antifasciste has opposed to date.
When Atalante was founded in 2016, the organization could already count on a number of activists from the Québec City Stomper Crew and, more generally, from the Québec neo-Nazi milieu. Unlike most of the other groups discussed in this text, which we have watched emerge and disappear in recent years, Atalante’s members were already ideologically and politically trained, notably through the activities of the Fédération des Québécois de souche and its own precursors, such as the Bannière noire. Moreover, the organization that clearly inspired Atalante, from its foundation to its most minor actions (to the point of using the same style of lettering on its banners), did nothing to reassure us: CasaPound is an Italian neo-fascist organization, founded in 2003, which claims several thousand members, is well established in several Italian cities, and makes life hard for immigrants and anti-fascists.
Atalante is, to all intents and purposes, based in Québec City, despite some unsuccessful attempts to create a functioning cell in Montréal and the presence of a few activists scattered across the province (notably in the Saguenay). As for our collective, as its name indicates, it is based in Montréal, and this distance has prevented a full and far-reaching mobilization against this Québec City–based neo-fascist group. We must salute the anti-fascist activists in Québec City, who were initially few in number but nonetheless tirelessly fought on the ground against Atalante, its members, and its ideas.
The existing context—a favourable political climate (Islamophobia and the resurgence of identity-based nationalism) was initially a winning recipe for Atalante, which reached sixty members and sympathizers at its peak in 2018–2019, in addition to having a receptive audience within the national-populist movement. When it opened its boxing club in 2017, we feared that the next step would be opening a meeting place for organizing its political activity, which would have marked a clear turning point. Following the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” we decided to put the necessary energy into preventing Atalanta from flourishing and taking root. From 2017 to 2022, the Montréal Antifasciste collective produced a series of articles aimed at combating Atalante’s toxic ideas and publicly exposing its members.
The existing context—a favourable political climate (Islamophobia and the resurgence of identity-based nationalism) was initially a winning recipe for Atalante, which reached sixty members and sympathizers at its peak in 2018–2019, in addition to having a receptive audience within the national-populist movement. When it opened its boxing club in 2017, we feared that the next step would be opening meeting place for organizing its political activity, which would have marked a clear turning point. Following the adage “prevention is better than a cure,” we decided to put the necessary energy into preventing a group like Atalanta from flourishing and taking root. From 2017 to 2022, the Montréal Antifasciste Collective produced a series of articles aimed at combating Atalante’s toxic ideas and publicly exposing its members.
Under the combined impact of constant negative attention from anti-fascists and the banning of the organization from the main social media platforms, which had served the dual function of showcasing the group’s politics and recruitment, Atalante’s activities had dramatically dwindled by late 2019. Raphaël Lévesque and Louis Fernandez’s legal setbacks certainly didn’t help: the assault at the bar Lvlop in December 2018 cast a pall over the organization, and Lévesque’s trial in the Vice case did not provide the political showcase hoped for. It also appears that a number of interpersonal conflicts may have diminished cohesion within the group and led to the creation of sub-cliques. Finally, the members of Atalanta, as “anti-system” as they say they are, seem to have gotten caught up in the system as they have passed their thirties and forties: more comfortable jobs, families, and houses in the suburbs do not lend themselves to revolutionary nationalist militancy.
Since 2020, the group’s outings have become less frequent, and there are fewer activists in the photos. The pressure on the region’s anti-fascists has almost entirely dissipated. The podcast L’armée des ondes, launched in October 2020 to revive the group’s activities and mainly broadcast on its Telegram channel, was initially released every month but has been slowly fading since 2022. In the winter of 2021–2022, the group did attempt to gain a foothold in the anti–health measures movement, without much success. On June 24, 2022, we were informed that the band Légitime Violence participated in the “La Saint-Jean de la race” event organized by Nomos.tv and Alexandre Cormier-Denis.
Since then, key Atalante members seem to have recycled themselves in counter-cultural or professional projects. Cerbère Studios, registered with the Registraire des Entreprises under the name of Félix-Olivier Beauchamp, probably gives graphic design contracts to the couple Étienne Mailhot-Bruneau and Laurence Fiset-Grenier. Louis Fernandez was for a time registered as head of the company Saisis la foudre/Éditions Tardivel, with Gabriel Drouin, but the company was struck off in 2021. Jonathan Payeur, for his part, has teamed up with neo-Nazi musician Steve Labrecque to run a distributor of identity/neo-Nazi clothing under the banner Pagan Heritage (at the time of writing, however, the distributor’s website appears to be empty and inactive). The group’s suspected main ideologue Antoine Mailhot-Bruneau keeps a low profile and continues to work as an ambulance driver in Lévis. Raphaël Lévesque, now a father, seems to be alone when he tries to intimidate anti-fascist activists. That said, we cannot say that this means the official end of Atalante. Nothing prevents a future resurgence of the group in one form or another. A handful of militants, including Jo Payeur, recently emerged from under their rock to pay homage to their intellectual master Dominique Venner, who committed suicide. Nevertheless, it can be said that the group’s activity is largely at a standstill at the moment.
The Rest of Them
For its part, the neo-Nazi-inspired Islamophobic group Soldiers of Odin Québec, which drew attention to itself with a series of public outings and provocative actions in 2017 and 2018, did not last long after coming up against real-life anti-fascists. Despite a change in leadership, the group never recovered and now seems to have disappeared completely.
The Fédération des Québécois de souche (FQS), with its website and its newspaper Le Harfang, has long been one of the most important Québec far-right platforms for information and ideological formation. Founded in 2007 by neo-Nazis, the FQS has been taking a large-tent approach for more than a decade, creating a milieu where reactionary and “revolutionary” far-right families rub shoulders—probably not without tension. At the time of writing, the domain name quebecoisdesouche.info seems to have been hijacked or not renewed, and the last posts on the FQS Twitter account date back to 2020. LeHarfang’s Telegram channel, which has 288 followers at this point, is still very active, however, and appears to be the group’s main platform. LeHarfang, whose most recent issue (Spring 2023) focuses on the “Great Replacement” theory, continues to be published as well. Based on the most recent available information, the paper is headed by the pseudonymous FQS author Rémi Tremblay, as well as by Roch Tousignant and François Dumas, dinosaurs from the Cercle Jeune nation, who were already trying to unify the different tendencies of the far right in the 1990s. (On this subject, see the pamphlet Notre maître le passé?!? Extrême droite au Québec 1930–1998.)
In the same family, the Front canadien-français, which was inspired by its fundamentalist Catholic precursors, the Cercle Tardivel and the Mouvement Tradition Québec (close to the FQS), as well as the Alexandre Cormier-Denis’s projects, proved to be a shooting star in 2020, its key activists never quite recovering from an article exposing them to the light of day. However, a few of its activists bounced back in 2022, creating a new nationalist project, the Nouvelle Alliance (NA). Strictly speaking, it would be going too far to call this groupuscule fascist at this point, but it is also rather difficult to pinpoint its political programme, except to say that it is part of the conservative pro-independence tradition and tends toward confusionism. What can be said with certainty, however, is that its activism is directly based on Atalante’s methods (posters, collages, banner drops, commemorative rallies, all relying heavily on an ostentatious social media presence). As we have seen, these tactics are derived from European neo-fascist movements. Recently, NA activists have been seen at CF Montreal games (making explicit threats and successfully alienating all fan groups in the process), signalling an intention to enter “cultural” spaces historically contested by fascists. We are also told that NA activists are intimidating environmentalist students, which also indicates a clear desire to antagonize the left and anti-fascists. Without dwelling on the previously mentioned affiliation with the FCF and the affiliation of individuals already identified with the far right, it is quite obvious that behind the image of a preppy nationalism that has more or less shed the stench of the explicitly fascist groups, the same ulterior motives underlie the activity of this new project. Even if it is ambiguous, their sticker with the famous slogan “Le Québec aux Québécois” should leave no doubt about this, given the context. In any case, if they were seeking the attention of anti-fascists, they have it.
Another notorious fascist who strenuously denies being one (because fascism, as is well known, completely disappeared from the face of the earth in 1945) is Alexandre Cormier-Denis, who, with his acolytes, hosts the web TV channel Nomos.tv. Since its inception, Nomos has promoted an explicitly racist and xenophobic ultranationalism, generally reactionary, but not necessarily hostile to “revolutionary nationalism” (Cormier-Denis rolled out the red carpet for Atalante’s Raphaël Lévesque in June 2020). In addition to its support base in Québec, this ethno-nationalist project has found a particularly favourable echo in French identity networks in recent years, as confirmed by the high level of activity on Nomos’s public Telegram channel and the ridiculous accent Cormier-Denis has adopted in his news capsules for some time now. Cormier-Denis also warmly supported the candidacy of Éric Zemmour (whom he facetiously refers to as the “magic Sephardic”) during the last French presidential elections, which drew the wrath of rabid antisemites like Sylvain Marcoux (see below). Cormier-Denis and Nomos adhere to the metapolitical strategy theorized by the French far right from the 1980s onwards (in the bosom of the Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne—GRECE), which consists of betting on the gradual transformation of the cultural and ideological landscape until the general context is deemed favourable for the seizure of political power by the far right. This strategy has been pursued in France for more than a generation and (among other factors) explains why Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is getting closer to power every election cycle.
The Nomos channel was deplatformed from YouTube in October 2021, in response to a complaint from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and its hosts chose to transfer their activities to the Odyssey platform, retreating to a pay model. Despite this, it is reasonable to say that Nomos.tv is currently a leading far-right ideological vehicle in Québec.
And the Neo-Nazis
The activity of neo-Nazi scum in Québec has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, but has never entirely disappeared.
Someone who had a strong opinion on Zeiger’s trial was Sylvain Marcoux. Marcoux and his Parti nationaliste chrétien (PNC) have not had a very good year. After being arrested in August 2020 for criminal harassment and intimidation of public health director Horacio Arruda, and having to publicly apologize in September 2021 to avoid serious consequences, Marcoux was unable to get his Nazi-inspired party recognized by the province’s Chief Electoral Officer during the provincial election in autumn 2022. No matter, Marcoux and his PNC cronies, including a certain Andréanne Chabot, run rampant on Telegram and Twitter, where they create new accounts every time they’re banned.
Recently, Sylvain Marcoux appeared on the sidelines of an anti-drag demonstration in Sainte-Catherine, on the South Shore of Montréal, where he received a hands-on greeting from the anti-fascists gathered there to block the homophobes.
A couple of other bozos also decided to make an appearance at the event, namely, White Lives Matter (WLM) activists, who had been the subject of an article in Montréal Antifasciste in March 2022. Two of them, Raphaël Dinucci St-Hilaire (from Laval) and David Barrette (from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), also quickly learned that trans and queer people know how to defend themselves and now will have to deal with being identified as part of this white supremacist organization, with all the inevitable consequences that come with that.
The same goes for Shawn Beauvais MacDonald, another well-known neo-Nazi and WLM chatroom regular, who we strongly suspect is linked to the creation of a new local activist project, similar to WLM, the Frontenac Active Club. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
Active Clubs are a nationwide [and international] network of localized white supremacist crews who are largely inspired by Robert Rundo’s white supremacist Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.). Active Club members see themselves as fighters training for an ongoing war against a system that they claim is deliberately plotting against the white race.
On April 21, 2023, Frontenac AC stickers appeared on Atateken Street in Montréal’s Village, and on the same day there was a post on the Telegram channel @FrontenacAC claiming responsibility for the stickers, with the caption “J’débarque en drift à la pride, mon capot inclusive.” The message explicitly refers to car attacks like the one that claimed the life of Heather Heyer on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the sidelines of the Unite the Right supremacist rally (which Shawn Beauvais MacDonald attended). The next day, after a book launch co-organized by Montréal Antifasciste at the Comité social Centre-Sud, which is a stone’s throw from where the Frontenac AC stickers were put up the day before, Beauvais MacDonald had the bizarre idea of showing up alone at the Yer’Mad bar, a well-known Montréal far-left hangout, with the obvious goal of intimidating the clientele. Having been informed of his presence, anti-fascists quickly arrived on the scene and expelled him manu militari. This sequence of events leads us to believe that Shawn Beauvais MacDonald is a key player in this new initiative. Frontenac Active Club stickers have also recently appeared in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Bromont.
In the Québec City area, the near disappearance of Atalante has left a void, but the neo-Nazis are never far away. In the spring of 2019, the neo-fascist outfit’s flagship group, Légitime Violence, attempted to hold a show with French neo-Nazi black metal band Baise ma hache in a Québec City community center, but community vigilance forced them to take refuge at the bar Le Duck. This establishment seems to cultivate a certain sympathy for neo-Nazis, since it hosted members of the Légitime Violence entourage, WLM activists, and Nomos sympathizers in June 2022 for an event called “Saint-Jean de la race.”
It is also worth drawing attention to a curious phenomenon that created ripples in the Québec City hardcore scene in 2023. Last February, a new band called R.A.W. began to create a buzz. With a little digging, we learned that this acronym stands for Rock Against Wokism (a not-so-subtle reference to the neo-Nazi movement Rock Against Communism). The famed “wokism” is personified in their visual material by a graphic of Justin Trudeau eating a knuckle sandwich. There are, of course, countless reasons to be angry with Justin Trudeau and his government, including the fact that he serves capitalist interests, but we don’t think that his defence of minorities is one of them. (It should be noted that the band’s visuals are loosely based on those of the metal band Pantera, whose singer also occasionally likes to throw up the stiff-armed salute.)
If that isn’t enough, the band’s drummer is Philippe Dionne, a former member of Légitime Violence, which doesn’t seem to bother the other members of the group all that much. For his part, singer Martin Cloutier, a follower of Tucker Carlson, Breitbart News, and other American far-right scum, made a confusing attempt to explain the band’s approach but only managed to publicly expose his transphobia.
The band had planned a show for March 4, but the province’s anti-racist hardcore scene quickly mobilized, and one after another the bands that was supposed to share the bill cancelled. The show ended up being held at Studio Sonum, known for employing fascists, with only one other band, Corruption 86, whose singer Laurent Brient is known to have also been a member of the white power band Bootprint, as well as for participating in an attempt to form a chapter of the neo-Nazi group Volksfront in the early 2010s. Birds of a feather flock together.
Other neo-Nazis in the region who we’ve previously mentioned continue to operate to varying degrees: Gabriel Marcon Drapeau continues to sell his Nazi junk under the Vinland Stiker banner, notably at the Jean-Talon flea market in Charlesbourg (whose administration seems to have tolerated a neo-Nazi selling Nazi merchandise there on a regular basis for months). Speaking of junk, earlier we mentioned Steve Labrecque and Jonahtan Payeur’s Pagan Heritage project.
The Anti–Health Measures Spiral, Conspiracy Fantasies, and the “Reinfosphere”
More than once, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, Montréal Antifasciste addressed the apparent convergence of certain far right-wing currents with the conspiracy movement and “conspirituality,” an anti–health measures phenomenon arising from hippie/New Age circles. Despite the increasingly blatant and widespread links between these three trends, which in Canada led to the grotesque “Freedom Convoy,” some voices on the left have been (and still are!) defending this convergence as the expression of a legitimate popular revolt against the elites, which should be joined and supported (the most cynical would say exploited) rather than denounced and fought against in view of its reactionary, egoistic, and anti-science dimensions.
We continue to believe that this is a gross analytical error, given the most recent orientation adopted by the conspiracy theory milieu, and that the anti–health measures spiral of the last few years is both a manifestation of the far right and an opportunity for it to spread its themes and obsessions. In doing so, it pushes the Overton window, the spectrum of acceptable ideas among the general population, considerably to the right. In an effort to reach a wider audience, anti–health measures echo chambers were established on social media during the pandemic (largely based on the xenophobic/Islamophobic echo chambers of the previous period), and the conspiracy theory milieu has in recent years equipped itself with dissemination platforms inspired, sometimes explicitly, by the concept of “reinformation” developed by the French far right over the last twenty years.
This is particularly true of the Lux Media project (formerly the Stu Dio), hosted by André “Stu Pit” Pitre, which openly acknowledges adhering to this concept. Pitre and his collaborators not only spread all the conspiracy fantasies in vogue (countless variations on the theme of deadly vaccines, climatoscepticism, the grooming panic and pedosatanism, Trump’s “Big Lie” and other motifs from the QAnon phantasmagoria, etc.), as well as innumerable other conspiracy fantasies, along with an untold number of crude lies (one could question Pitre’s sincerity and moral integrity, as he seems primarily concerned with maintaining his revenue streams), and many historically far-right topics, including the Great Replacement and other alleged machinations of the “globalists” (an antisemitic euphemism/dog whistle) to wipe out Western civilization. Just a few years ago, these themes were only discussed in the far-right ideological spheres, e.g., the Fédération des Québécois de souche, but the combined influence of the national-populist circles of the 2016–2019 period and the more recent anti–health measures conspiracy theory milieu have had the effect of greatly broadening the pool of people exposed to them. Confusionism—the deliberate blurring of the meaning of political words and concepts and their misuse for malicious purposes—is another means employed by these actors to manipulate minds and encourage adherence to this toxic assemblage of misleading rhetoric, conspiracy fantasies, and far-right clichés.
In a perpetual quest for clicks (whether to maintain their revenue stream or their newly acquired small-star status), a small army of conspiracy leaders and influencers exploit the anxiety generated by the crises of the current world, the fear of change, and the great credulity of a part of the population—which is fostered by the very nature of social media and the legitimate distrust of the mass media—to misdirect and fanaticize a base already susceptible to conspiracy fantasies. This insidious mechanism means that the conspiracy “agenda” is increasingly influenced, if not determined, by the far right, with the two becoming more closely linked.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” of 2022, which was organized from the outset by activists identified with the far right, marked an acceleration in this respect. Opposition to compulsory vaccinations was quickly transformed into opposition to vaccinations altogether, and soon enough conspiracy theories and other elements of discourse that were at odds with reality became increasingly important in the rhetoric of the convoy’s ordinary supporters. Keep in mind that the Farfadaas, led by Steve “l’Artiss” Charland, former La Meute lieutenant, were deeply involved in the convoy and in the movement opposed to the health measures, as was Mario Roy, a leading figure in Storm Alliance and other Islamophobic groupuscules of the 2016–2019 period.
Last February, a year after the convoy was dismantled, Christine Anderson, a member of the European Parliament from the far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), was invited to tour Canada on the basis of her support for the convoy. The tour was sponsored in Québec by the Fondation pour la protection des droits et libertés du people, whose main spokesperson, Stéphane Blais, has become known for his outlandish legal actions against the Québec government. (Note: the organizers of Anderson’s conference in Montréal had to move the event out of the city due to anti-fascist pressure). Recently, another conspiracy influencer and money-maker, Samuel Grenier, announced that he was organizing a series of events in the summer of 2023, using the same approach, this time with a member of the French far-right Rassemblement National (RN).
However, the most significant recent development in the Québec conspiracy theory milieu from an anti-fascist perspective is the rapid increase in fanatical anti-LGBTQ+ discourses, which are both a central element of contemporary conspiracy fantasies and a recurring theme of the alt-right and the religious far right. In Québec, the “anti-drag” hysteria, which has already done significant damage in the United States on an institutional political level, is mainly driven by the anti-vaccine activist François Amalega Bitondo. He is close to evangelical currents that monetized the pandemic, including Carlos Norbal, the pastor-entrepreneur (sic) at the head of the Église Nouvelle création, and the hosts of the ThéoVox.tv channel, Jean-François Denis among them. He is also a recurring guest on Lux Media and has a strong influence on the conspiracy theory milieu through his regular interventions on social media. He is now fully dedicated to the anti-LGBTQ+ crusade, having notably organized (or attempted to organize) a series of protests against the artist and educator Barbada’s Drag Queen Story Hour. So far, these rallies (April 2 in Sainte-Catherine and May 16 in Mercier-Est) have been crushed by the trans and queer anti-fascist community, but at the time of writing, Amalega shows no sign of slowing down his homophobic/transphobic campaign and has issued a call to demonstrate in Jonquière on May 26. A call that his followers in the region seem disposed to respond to.
The strong anti-fascist opposition to the conspiracy theorists hateful offensive surprised many—including Amalega himself—when they came up against a form of resistance they had largely been spared until now. On this topic, let’s quote the Montréal Antifasciste report on the April 2 counter-demonstration:
It’s worth noting that the conspiracy theory milieu was largely spared having to deal with anti-fascists during the last three years of the pandemic. In spite of the close and often explicit proximity of the far right to conspiracy theory fantasies, the challenges raised by the health measures had to do with personal decisions, and responding to people and vaguely defined organizations whose key shortcoming is to adhere to anti-scientific nonsense is complicated and far from straightforward. Nonetheless, a line is crossed when these conspiracy theory fantasies directly target our communities and compromise our security, whether in the short-, medium-, or long-term, and that is the line the anti-drag movement has crossed with its ridiculous panic, and it is absolutely essential to deliver the message that queer and trans communities will defend themselves in the face of this intimidation. There should be no doubt: if the queerphobes/transphobes persist in their demonization exercise, they will always come face to face with us. Queers bash back, darling…
The Galaxy of “Reinformers”
In addition to the platforms already mentioned, such as Nomos.tv and Lux Media, a number of other media projects are actively participating in this convergence of the conspiracy theory and far-right spheres.
Perhaps the most influential during the pandemic was Radio-Québec, hosted by Alexis Cossette-Trudel. Radio-Canada demonstrated in 2020 that Cossette-Trudel was one of the main purveyors of QAnon delusions in the world. He was deplatformed (from Facebook in October 2020 and from Twitter in January 2021), but the new administration of Twitter, which is a great ally of the far right and disinformation, has recently seen fit to give him access to his account again. Radio Média remains without doubt one of the most important conspiracy platforms in Québec.
Another project that has emerged in the context of the pandemic on a quasi-conspiracy platform with a strong right-wing bias is Libre-Média. Its editor in chief is Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, a sort of squalid Mathieu Bock-Côté pretender, who has made misogyny a way of life. Claiming to defend “freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” Libre-Media, in fact, takes up all the themes of the anti–health measures conspiracy movement and relays many of the conspiracy fantasies in vogue, accompanied by an aggressively “anti-woke” editorial line.
Rebel News Québec, a local chapter of Ezra Levant’s alt-light media project, described by Radio-Canada as a “fake news site,” was launched in 2022. It is essentially a one-woman show of the very cringe-worthy Alexandra (Alexa) Lavoie, assisted by a certain Guillaume Roy. Its style is messy and incompetent (while claiming professional journalism status), but that doesn’t matter, because the purpose of the enterprise is to provoke and fuel the anger of the conspiracy theory base. One only has to look at the particularly pathetic coverage of the defense action against the anti-drag mobilization on May 16 for an example.
We have already touched upon the evangelical platform TheoVox.tv, a web TV studio and “ministry” that promotes and feeds the obsessions of anti–health measures conspiracy theorists by wrapping them in a moralizing hyper-conservative discourse. TheoVox regularly welcomes François Amalega on its platform, where he freely spreads his hatred of LGBTQ+ people. Amalega is also a favourite of Pastor Carlos Norbal, who occasionally even invites him to preach at his Sunday services!
There is also a whole galaxy of more or less influential conspiracy vloggers, who together form a closed ecosystem where conspiracy fantasies with a fascist overtone circulate freely. These include Stéphane Blais, Dan Pilon, Amélie Paul, Samuel Grenier, Carl Giroux, Jonathan “Joe Indigo” Blanchette, Mel Goyer, Maxime “le policier du people” Ouimet, and a plethora of other similar nutbars.
Let’s close this overview by mentioning Jean-François Gariépy’s Odyssey channel (an alternative to YouTube that is extremely welcoming to the far right, where Nomos.tv has taken refuge). Gariépy is a Québec ethno-nationalist who enjoys considerable notoriety and influence on an international scale in what remains of the alt-right milieu.
Take Stock of the Problem and Respond Accordingly
Obviously, there is no simple solution to the rise of the far right or to the endemic problem of the conspiracy fantasies that are infecting a considerable section of the population through social media. However, it is important to know the sources of the disease and its main factors if we hope to contain it to some extent. It is also important to understand the mechanics by which these fantasies foster the fanatization of the conspiracy theory base and the rise of the far right, whose themes are increasingly exploited by the same malicious “reinformers.”
The question then arises as to how to turn things around. As we have already written, these developments are above all conditioned by systemic factors: a crisis of confidence in the institutions of power, multiple interlocking crises (including that of capitalism itself), the heteronormative white middle class’s loss of bearings and the erosion of its privileges, the integration of the programmatic elements of the populist right into the cultural and political mainstream, etc. Basic logic would, therefore, dictate that any proposal for a sustainable solution should take these factors into account and should also be systemic in nature.
It is also important to consider the attitude of the system to these phenomena and to anticipate its consequences for our own movements. It is worth mentioning, for example, how the state and the different centres of capitalist power use the fear of fascism to consolidate new tools of repression. In the case of the “Freedom Convoy,” the use of the Emergencies Act, the demonization of organizers, and the various ways in which the fear of fascism was invoked by right-wing and liberal commentators to justify extraordinary measures of repression provide an example. Not only does liberal anti-fascism not challenge the system, it can easily become a convenient way to consolidate a repressive political system and reaffirm the legitimacy of the state and its right to crush its opponents, regardless of their ideological position. As we wrote a few months after the convoy:
Some progressive observers who had been fulminating about the conspiracy theory movement for months joined the standing ovation when, following a lengthy grace period, the occupation was faced with a mild form of repression. More than a few of them also welcomed the application of the Emergencies Act to suppress a few hundred frustrated cranks. That sort of enthusiasm for repression betrays a poor understanding of the relationship between the bourgeois state and social movements. The primary utility of the measure for the government, beyond the immediate powers conferred to cripple this expression of anti-vaxx organizing, is creating a precedent for suppressing future manifestations of popular dissent and disobedience, whether they be progressive or reactionary. This precedent should give pause to anyone who sympathizes with movements for social and economic justice, decolonization, or environmentalism, which might, at some future point, feel the need to engage in civil disobedience. It’s not terribly difficult, for example, to imagine what the reaction of the state will be when an Indigenous community next decides to adopt extralegal means to defend its territory or when a new generation inevitably decides to take direct action to demand radical social and governmental transformation to address the pressing climate crisis we are facing. While this exceptional legislative measure was used on this occasion against a group with reactionary impulses that we find repugnant, there is nothing to guarantee that it won’t be invoked in the future to squash demands that we feel a strong commitment to. History teaches us that repression is almost always much more energetically and forcefully used against progressive movements than it is against reactionary movements.
So, in 2023, what are our prospects for effectively countering the normalization of far-right themes and the dangerous reactionary convergence described above, as well as the reproduction of the systems of domination that cause it? We believe that part of the challenge we face is to link the multitude of particular expressions of resistances into a broad and unitary anti-fascist social movement. That is, to multiply solidarity so that, for example, the anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-heteropatriarchal aspects of the anti-fascist struggle (and any other dimension) progress simultaneously and link up with the ecological and anti-capitalist movements. To quote again from our May 2022 text:
As anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, we believe it is necessary to think these issues through and develop a resistance not only against the far right and the fascist threat but also against the bourgeois state and the related institutions of power that reinforce neoliberal hegemony and the colonial order. The bourgeois state is not interested in our well-being, and the interests of different social classes are irreconcilable today, just as they always have been. . . . Faced with the far right and the fascist threat, on the one hand, and neoliberal hegemony, on the other, our greatest hope is to see the forces devoted to freedom rally around a project that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fascist, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonial.
Of course, we also have to get down to the difficult task of deconstructing conspiracy discourse and exposing its right-wing roots, without getting lost in it. This is easier said than done, given Brandolini’s law, which states that “the amount of energy needed to refute nonsense is an order of magnitude greater than that needed to produce it.” Nonetheless, reason must triumph, so we must collectively find the means to solve this problem.
In the same vein, we feel one essential task is the daily deconstruction, in our living and working environments, of the anti-woke hysteria that has poisoned the public space in recent years. By definition, a person who claims to be anti-woke is essentially claiming to be opposed to anti-racism and anti-sexism and to be anti-equality, anti–social justice, and, ultimately, anti-empathy! In other words, to be anti-woke is to admit one’s dismay at a world that is changing and evolving toward greater acceptance of difference and diversity, toward a breakdown of white and heteropatriarchal supremacy, and toward a situation of more widespread justice and equality. This is the very definition of a reactionary mindset, and we feel it is necessary to combat this trend, which is increasingly present in the public space and the general culture. Without necessarily accepting the label of “woke” (which at this point is, in any case, nothing more than a hollowed-out caricature), our movements must recognize and continue to promote the importance of “staying woke,” in the original sense of the concept, i.e., remaining sensitive to systemic injustice and inequality and dismantling them to the best of our ability.
Finally, as always, “we invite our supporters to renew their commitment to anti-fascist practice, i.e., to popular/community self-defence, without ever losing sight of the revolutionary horizon. For true emanAs anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, we believe it is necessary to think these issues through and develop a resistance not only against the far right and the fascist threat but also against the bourgeois state and the related institutions of power that reinforce neoliberal hegemony and the colonial order. The bourgeois state is not interested in our well-being, and the interests of different social classes are irreconcilable today, just as they always have been. . . . Faced with the far right and the fascist threat, on the one hand, and neoliberal hegemony, on the other, our greatest hope is to see the forces devoted to freedom rally around a project that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fascist, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonial.cipation will never be achieved by petition.”
 The “reasonable accommodation” crisis is a sequence of controversies largely fabricated and hyped between 2006 and 2008 by the populist media of the Québecor empire and opportunistic political parties, including Mario Dumont’s Action démocratique du Québec (a direct precursor of the Coalition avenir Québec, formed in 2011) and the Parti québécois, whose “charter of values” project (2013) was championed by Bernard Drainville, who is today… a minister in the CAQ’s cabinet!
Warning: this article contains explicitly homophobic, racist, and antisemitic elements
A demonstration “against LGBTQ+ propaganda in schools and institutions” is to be held in Québec City on July 8. The demonstration is part of a series of events that have been taking place in Québec for some time, with the apparent aim of demonizing LGBTQ+ communities and their allies. The pretext for holding the rally in front of the Musée de la civilisation in Québec City is a current exhibition examining “the multiple realities linked to gender identities.”
François Amalega Bitondo, whom we have mentioned several times in recent months, is involved in this mobilization, but he is not the instigator. Perhaps to bolster his somewhat shaken credibility, this time he has teamed up on Facebook with some mysterious “young people” who claim to be behind the action.
Who are these young people, and where exactly is this call to demonstrate coming from? This article aims to show that the initiators of the July 8 anti-LGBTQ+ demonstration are, in fact, a small group of young keyboard neo-Nazis (including one we’ve been following for a few years) and that the support base for this mobilization is firmly anchored in Québec’s far-right and neo-Nazi networks, including the entourage of Sylvain Marcoux’s Christian Nationalist Party, which clearly exerts considerable influence over these young minds.
In light of the information provided in this article, it is clearer than ever that the communities concerned and their allies must mobilize and resist by any means necessary the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hatred, which is clearly encouraging fanaticism in conservative and conspiracy theory circles these days.
For several weeks following the creation of the Facebook event by a certain Lucas Ali Boucher Thériault on June 8, 2023, the only two publicly listed organizers were Thériault and conspiracy theory activist François Amalega.
More recently, other co-organizers have been added, including Carl Giroux, an anti–health protocols influencer, and two other individuals who seem to be connected (at least via social media) to young Boucher Thériault: Justin Crépeau, from Québec City, and the “Chose Mat” account.
Lucas Boucher Thériault is a resident of the Lanaudière region (Joliette, Saint-Jean-de-Matha) who is no more than fifteen or sixteen years old, but who has already been on our radar for a few years, due to his dubious activities on social media. We’ve been following him on Instagram and Twitter, as well as on Discord, where he created an “identitarian” channel when he was just thirteen.
By the summer of 2021, his activity already betrayed a far-right orientation, and it is clear that young Lucas has only become more fanatical since then. As well as adopting all the well-known antisemitic motifs (on Twitter, he recently recommended a neo-Nazi propaganda documentary that is extremely popular in these networks), his discourse has focused incessantly on LGBTQ+ communities, which he associates entirely with “grooming,” i.e., the grooming of minors for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This longstanding far-right obsession, combined with the established homophobia that comes straight out of religious morality, has been getting the conspiracy theory circles all worked up recently, as evidenced by the hallucinatory (and explicitly transphobic) language surrounding recent attempts to mobilize against drag queen story hours.
In June 2021, Lucas Boucher Thériault created the Instagram account “lucas_le_patriote”; from summer to winter 2021, several other accounts were also created under different pseudonyms, and numerous clues (photos, clothing and accessories, cross-references and redundancies, etc.) made it easy to link these accounts to Lucas Boucher Thériault. The screenshots below indicate that the accounts “Metalbuzz268,” “Vector_the_boss,” “Blair_insta_,” “Tomate_kasher88,” and “Lucasbackup14” are all administered by Lucas Boucher Thériault. Note the use of the numbers 14 and 88, two notorious neo-Nazi codes, and the many other far-right references. Even in the absence of conclusive evidence, we believe that the “Tabarnak38tabarnak” account is part of the same little system. However, it could also belong to a friend. We leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.
From June to August 2021, Lucas Boucher Thériault was also active on the Discord platform, under the pseudonyms “Commander Lucas” (Christian Power) and, later, “Loyalty.” After creating the “Québec identitaire” channel (first called “Xero’s Anti-Governement,” then “Nam Deus”), he and others discussed the creation of a patriotic militia, to which he devoted a chat room. He even published a “manifesto” (in reality, a very bad English essay), the metadata of which reveal his identity. It was at least partly in this toxic broth that he became a fanatic.
It is perfectly reasonable to think that Lucas Boucher Thériault is just a child in need of attention who has made a series of deplorable choices under the influence of malevolent ideologues; that’s absolutely true. However, as soon as this young person’s bad choices led him to advertise himself as a neo-Nazi—for several years, with no sign of any desire to consider the direction he was drifting in—and finally to publicly organize an anti-LGBTQ+ demonstration, a red line was crossed. We believe that it then became necessary to denounce him in an equally public way. The same reasoning applies to the other young people named in this article.
We take no particular pleasure in introducing this young man and his cronies to the consequences of their actions, but some important lessons have to be learned the hard way when basic common sense or parental guidance aren’t enough to correct the faulty direction in life. Neo-Nazi nonsense behind a keyboard is one thing; organizing in real life is quite another. It’s never too early in the game to understand that the consequences are proportional to the level of commitment.
Signal-Boosting the July 8 demonstration
There is, therefore, no doubt about Lucas Boucher Thériault’s role, but we also believe it would be useful to trace the origins of this call to demonstrate the chronology of the signal-boosting, which reveals the role of other Nazis in this shambolic plan.
On June 2, the Telegram channel “Comité Anti-Grooming” was created, describing itself as a “group of dissidents opposed to LGBT propaganda aimed at young people.” The call to demonstrate was published there.
It was also posted on Instagram on June 14 by an account of the same name (recently renamed “anti_grooming_quebec”), which another Instagram user publicly stated was administered by Justin Crépeau. First interesting coincidence.
We have also learned that Sylvain Marcoux was part of the small « Comité Anti-Grooming » Messenger group where the idea for the July 8 demonstration was developed.
On June 7, 2023, the Telegram account “FierCF” (@Skullmaskowner1488) posted the appeal on the public chat channel Nomos-TV.
It should be noted that the “FierCF” account avatar when this was published was a Totenkopf (SS insignia) and the username was @Skullmaskowner1488 (the skull mask and the number 1488 are two broadly recognized neo-Nazi references). The user in question later changed his username to @fuckni**rs1488 (the racist word is redacted here), and more recently to @jeanpatriote14. At the time of writing, his avatar is a Carillon Sacré-Coeur. Note here the transposition of the symbols of French-Canadian nationalism onto those of Nazism.
It is not possible to state with certainty that this Telegram account is linked to the young co-organizers named here, but there are strong indications that it is, and this user’s efforts to promote the July 8 demonstration on the Nomos channel coincide perfectly with the activity during the month of June of the other social media accounts cited here.
On June 8, Lucas Boucher Thériault created the Facebook event for the demonstration; it was posted the same day by the Parti nationaliste chrétien, Sylvain Marcoux’s neo-Nazi-inspired group.
On June 22, “FierCF” confirmed in the Nomos chat room that the event would take place.
There is every reason to believe that the @AntiwokeL73304 account (created in June 2023) is administered by one or other of the co-organizers of the July 8 demonstration. Although the name and look of the account have since been changed, for a few days the public nickname was “Anti F***t Army” (the homophobic slur is redacted here) and its avatar was a Totenkopf. The profile description read “Also a proud NS,” which stands for National Socialist, i.e., Nazi. The current name of the @AntiwokeL73304 account is “Vieux rat grincheux” [Grumpy Old Rat].
On June 13, after sharing Amalega’s callout for the demonstration, “Vieux rat grincheux” revealed in a comment that he was one of the organizers. Two days later, he expressed surprise that the antifascists hadn’t yet mentioned his detestable demonstration. (That did it!) We quickly confirmed by consulting the account’s subscribers that this user is in the sphere of influence of Nomos-TV and Sylvain Marcoux’s Christian Nationalist Party.
Around the same time, Justin Crépeau (“el_grand_zouf” on Instagram), who is listed on Facebook as a co-organizer, was also actively promoting the July demonstration on various pages.
It turns out, by his own admission, that Justin Crépeau is the real mastermind behind the July 8 event, and that Lucas Boucher Thériault is the only other real co-organizer, with the support of François Amalega.
As for the co-organizer “Chose Mat,” we haven’t gathered any conclusive information about him, apart from the fact that he says he studied at the CÉGEP in Lévis and that he follows François Amalega, Le Harfang (Fédération des Québécois de souche) on Facebook, Nouvelle Alliance (a crypto-fascist nationalist Nouvelle Amanchure), Sylvain Marcoux’s Christian Nationalist Party (him again!), Éditions Tardivel (linked to Atalante activists), and an empty page whose avatar is the logo of the defunct neo-Nazi forum Iron March.
It turns out that last November, a certain Justin Crépeau contacted Montréal Antifasciste by Messenger to ask us if we really intended to “do an article on him.” Clearly, someone (not us) must have used this threat to intimidate him. Before we’d even replied to his first message, he was quick to denounce “un autre fasciste d’extrême droite neo nazi” [another far-right neo-Nazi fascist] (note the choice of the word “another”) “qui appelle à la mort des juifs et des noirs c’est **** **** il a 19 ans et vit à st-jean chrysostome lévis (sic) [who calls for the death of Jews and Blacks is **** **** he’s 19 and lives in st-jean chrysostome lévis (sic)].”
Update : The day after the article was published, **** **** contacted us on the advice of a friend. He swears he was added as a co-organizer without his consent by Lucas Boucher Thériault. He assures us that he has no political affinity with the other two organizers, and that he never intended to organize or even participate in this demonstration. He claims to have followed the fascist pages for the sole purpose of informing himself and “trolling”. He also claims that Justin Crépeau set up the denunciation against him. According to him, Justin Crépeau is the real mastermind behind the July 8 demonstration, and Lucas Boucher Thériault is the only other real co-organizer, with the support of François Amalega. We’re giving him the benefit of the doubt and have chosen to amend the article accordingly.
Carl Giroux, for his part, is a baseball cap–wearing nutbar who makes frustrated videos in his car—the pandemic generated hordes of them. He runs the LibreChoix Facebook page, which has recently embraced the anti-LGBTQ+ cause. We don’t have much to say about this douchebag of the people, except that he was present at the May 16 Mercier-Est anti-drag queen story hour demonstration, and the hostility he encountered there apparently took him by surprise. Giroux may be unaware of the neo-Nazi pedigree of his comrades, but he will no longer get the benefit of the doubt after he reads this article. It’s a good bet that he’ll say that the antifa invented it all under orders from George Soros and the globalists.
Who is behind these Little neo-nazis?
Beyond the sordid details, what does this demonstration reveal about these adults who associate with young people they know nothing about for the sole purpose of boosting the credibility of their hate-filled crusade against drag queens, trans people, and “gender theory”? And what about these young neo-Nazi racists who are taking advantage of the influence of a fruitcake of Cameroonian origin to infiltrate the populist anti-LGBTQ+ movement? Under the circumstances, we are be hard-pressed to say who is who’s useful idiot.
If we have to talk about grooming, beyond the moral panic that is unfairly targeting LGBTQ+ communities, it would undoubtedly be more relevant to look at the extremely toxic influence exerted by false prophets and fascist ideologues like Sylvain Marcoux and his neo-Nazi party or Alexandre Cormier-Denis and Nomos-TV on a section of the new generation that is perhaps overly susceptible to their idiotic and hateful propaganda. They are the ones who are really responsible for this mess, as are those who, in more polite language, stir up the same anxieties in the media and the political arena.
Perhaps we also need to acknowledge our collective failure, having allowed the memory of the Holocaust to be lost to the extent that the appalling legacy of Nazism can today hold this sort of appeal for section of the new generation.
This development poses a much more imminent threat to Québec society in 2023 than does a museum exhibit on gender diversity, grag queens reading stories to children, or the comings and goings of members of LGBTQ+ communities who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and dignity.
Let’s not let this scourge spread. Let’s fight fiercely against the influence of these toxic individuals.
Comments Off on What’s in the Contracts? Trying to Learn More about the Proposed Women’s Prison in Montreal
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
For more background information, check out this piece about who has been awarded the new contracts and a bit about the project to build a new prison for women on the island of Montreal.
The first step in fighting new development projects is usually trying to find as much information about the project as possible. That research can involve many things; since the first contracts have already been awarded for the proposed new women’s prison in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, we wanted to get our hands on them. Long story short, that was pretty difficult. The province has put some annoying security mechanisms on the contracts that makes them somewhat easy to download anonymously but very tricky to open and share. However, we’ve seen them and they don’t contain much. We wanted to share all the relevant parts here for people looking to fight the new prison.
First, the government has not been honest about the real size of the new prison. The media reported that the new prison will have the capacity to warehouse 237 people. In fact, the contract calls for buildings that can be expanded to eventually hold 405 people. Yes, it is true that the timeline of this phase of the project stops at the point where there are 237 cells, but there are clear plans, though no proposed timeline, to expand it further in the future. These numbers are bigger than the original Maison Tanguay, but smaller than the capacity at Leclerc (which, let’s not forget, is an old federal prison with a sizeable capacity in a collapsing, leaky, drafty building.).
Second, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Quebec has their hands deep in this project. For those who don’t know, E. Fry Societies exist in most provinces. There is also a national organisation with the same name. They all seem to operate autonomously from each other, with the national organisation having the most radical politics. All of them have a mandate to help women who are experiencing or who might experience conflict with the legal system. The documents state that E. Fry Quebec is part of proposing a new model for the long term incarceration of women in Quebec, including ongoing consultation on this new prison. Clearly, the prison system has a not-for-profit wing, and E. Fry Québec is part of it. This is not necessarily a change from the status quo, but a clear example of collaboration.
Third, the documents include five core things that need to be a part of the new prison. 1. The prison will be laid out in pavilions. 2. There will be different security levels adapted for different prison populations. 3. The exterior architecture will be aimed at deinstitutionalizing the buildings. 4. The interior appearance of the prison will preserve the dignity of the prisoners by offering an environment that is secure and calming. 5. The acoustics will promote the intelligibility of conversations.
What do they each mean? The first point likely means the new prison will be designed in pods. This can look different in different prisons, but, according to Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages, “pod prisons originate in a tough-on-crime approach from the 1990s when the system was preparing to lock up more people for longer. They are designed with two main considerations: cutting prisoners off from the community and saving money.”1 They also remind us that “the infrastructure matters more than the use” so we assume the trajectory of this new prison might resemble the “bungalows” that were built in some of the new regional federal women’s prisons after the closure of the Prison for Women in Kingston in the mid 90s – nicer at first, then eventually stripped down to solely their potential for surveillance and securitization.1
The second point, different security levels adapted for different carceral populations, is very clear. This trend in prison construction has been in the works for at least three decades now and is already present at many prisons in the country. It seems like the new Tanguay will have a segregation unit and a maximum security wing. Due to centuries of colonialism and white supremacy, Indigenous women are incarcerated in Canada and Quebec at high rates. There are especially high rates of Indigenous women in segregation and maximum security units.2No surprise the government wants both segregation units and a maximum security wing at this new prison.
The third requirement for this project is also part of a trend in prison construction in the last decade. By making the prison look friendly and welcoming, the government hopes that everyone will be convinced that it’s not a place where poor people and people of colour are locked up and punished. The same goes for the interior environment, which must be both calm and soothing. Basically, you need curtains on the windows and pretty pictures on the walls of the maximum security unit. Last but not least, acoustics that allow conversations to take place. This says more about the acoustics of most prisons than anything else. Prisons are very noisy. They want to try and make this one a little quieter. Someone applaud them. It was also pointed out that maybe it’s a safety issue. If conversations are more audible, they’re more recordable. It’s not clear what this is about, but it’s a not great either way.
We’ll take an aside here to preach to the choir. Prison reform is a dead end. Ann Hansen said it well in Taking the Rap; “New prisons come wrapped in progressive packaging, decorated with pictures of rehabilitation and programming, but once they are opened, out comes a shiny new prison filled with all kinds of technological gadgets designed for enhanced surveillance and security that cost so much, the prison regime claims it can no longer afford all the progressive programming promised on the packaging.”3
What else is in the documents? There is a timeline for the project. Its all planning and demolition work into 2024. Call for tenders for construction starting in May 2025. Construction slated to happen from July 2025 to April 2029. Here’s a screenshot of it.
The fifth and final thing in the documents is a list of names and responsibilities of people involved in the project. If you’re looking for some specific people to hold responsible for this project, here’s a few to start with: Project Head (project manager, SQI) is Amélie Viau. Minister’s Representative is Bruno Gosselin. Contract Manager (Head of expertise, SQI) is Nathalie Duchesneau. CGPI (integrated practice management consultant) who participates in the first steering committee and remains available to support the project team throughout the project’s mandate is Sébastien Parent. BIM Representative is Zakia Kemmar.
We’ll leave the last words to Ann Hansen; “Prison reforms are doomed to eventual failure, but that does not mean that we cannot use the fight for reform within a revolutionary context as a means of raising awareness. Real people are suffering in prisons now. If any one of us were stuck in solitary confinement for years at a time, would we want to wait for the revolution before anyone tried to help us? The answer lies in the murky grey zone between struggling for reform and struggling for revolutionary change. These struggles are a false dichotomy in which the murky grey zone can be bridged. As long as concrete campaigns for reform are framed within a revolutionary context and are guided by revolutionary principles, then they can play a role in the campaign to abolish both capitalism and its social control mechanism, prison.”4
1. From Ann Hansen’s book Taking the Rap: “Between my two short stints in GVI [Grand Valley Institution, a federal women’s prison in southern Ontario] during 2006 and then again in 2012, i witnessed the devolution of GVI from a prison compound where women cooked and lived collectively in bungalows perched neatly in grassy, tree-lined yards, where vegetables were grown in kitchen gardens and the women moved freely from eight in the morning until ten at night throughout the compound… to a multi-security prison complex with few jobs or programming and with double-bunking everywhere, including maximum-security units and segregation. This devolution unfolded in all six regional federal prisons for women during the fifteen years after P4W closed in 2000. this feat is surpassed only by the fact that the entire federal prisoner population for women actually in prison had increased by 40 percent, to 550 women, in the ten years after the closure of P4W. This in a country where the crime rates have been on a steady decline over the past two decades.” p. 336-7
Montreal, 11 June 2023 – The Solidarity Across Borders network has noticed an increase in people being called in to CBSA offices to start deportation proceedings in Montreal. In addition, in the past weeks, we are aware of two incidents in which the CBSA (the border police) came to the homes of undocumented community members. They were both under arrest warrants for not having shown up for their deportation. CBSA somehow found their addresses and went to their homes to arrest them.
We are sending this advisory so people can be aware and prepared.
Why is this happening?
It may just be that CBSA is finally catching up on their backlog of work after the pandemic. It may be CBSA’s way of preparing for the long-awaited regularization programme. There may be some other reason. It is impossible for us to be sure.
What can we do?
Here are some suggestions from our collective experience of ways to protect ourselves and each other.
1) My Refugee Application was Refused and I Received a Letter from CBSA
If your refugee application has been refused and you receive a letter from the CBSA to come in to start deportation proceedings, consider getting in touch with Solidarity Across Borders or an organization you trust. We can share some basic information about what to expect and some general tips. Knowledge is power and we will share as much as we can.
If other members of your community are also facing deportation, consider calling a community meeting. You can plan collective action to fight your deportations and demand regularization together. Indian international students in Ontario are an inspiring example of what can be done to fight deportations. They are currently on their 15th day of a sit-in outside CBSA offices. Get in touch, Solidarity Across Borders will try to support your actions. See below.
2) I Stayed Past a Deportation Date and/or Didn’t Attend a Meeting with the CBSA
If you have already remained in Canada past a deportation date, or have not gone to a meeting that CBSA ordered you to attend, an arrest warrant has probably been issued for you (unless you were under 16 at the time).
Many people in this situation move if CBSA has their address and then keep their new address confidential. However, CBSA sometimes finds them and comes to their home to arrest them. In our experience, this usually happens because other people who know their situation have denounced them to CBSA. It is a good idea to prepare for a CBSA visit to your home, even if you think that they do not know your address:
Important Facts and Experiences
An arrest warrant for you does not give CBSA the legal right to enter or break into your home. CBSA officers can only force their way into your home if they have a court-authorized search warrant or someone is in danger. This means that, in most cases, they are not legally allowed into the apartment if the person answering the door says they cannot enter.
If you live with someone and that other person answers the door, they have the right to remain silent. They do not have to answer CBSA’s questions. In reality, it can be very difficult to remain silent. Thinking through in advance what that person will say, and practising it, is a very good idea. Importantly, when CBSA has come to arrest an undocumented person in the past, they have had the person’s full details, including their photo. The CBSA officers have shown this to the person who answers the door and asked them if the undocumented person is at home.
Previously, when the CBSA has arrived at a home, they have positioned officers at all exits, to catch people if they try to escape out the back door.
In past situations, undocumented people who stayed quietly inside and did not open the door when CBSA arrived, have managed to stay safe.
Make a Safety Plan
Make a plan beforehand. This could help you to stay calm and better able to act in your best interests if CBSA comes to the door. Think through how you and the people you live with will act if there is a knock on the door. Some questions you can ask yourself: Is it really necessary to open the door when you are not expecting visitors? If you do have to open the door, who should open it? What will the person who opens the door say if it turns out to be the CBSA and they ask for you? Where will you be when the other person is opening the door? If you live with people who do not know your situation, or people who may be too scared by CBSA to protect you, how should you prepare?
CBSA doesn’t seem to usually carry out proactive investigations, but many people take basic precautions such as not using a real name on facebook or not posting clear facial photos in public social media accounts. If you receive unsolicited messages such as job offers, it may be better not to respond, or to ask a trusted friend or organization to verify that the message is authentic before responding.
3. My Work, Study, or Travel Visa is Expired or Cancelled and I Didn’t Leave the Country
If you entered on a valid work, study, or travel visa and didn’t leave Canada after it expired or was cancelled, an arrest warrant is not automatically issued for you. You can still be arrested by CBSA (or the police) if they are aware of your status. But, they will not normally actively look for you because you aren’t on their radar.
Why Collective Action is Important
While it’s vital to prepare individually, it is important to remember that you are not alone in confronting an unjust immigration and refugee system, whose laws are used to justify violently forcing people to leave. We have to continue to organize, mobilize and collectively fight back against detentions and deportations, which tear apart lives, families and communities. Political victories are possible.
Solidarity Across Borders and its allies are currently campaigning to push the government to grant permanent status to all undocumented people and refused refugees in Canada and immediately stop deportations and detentions. And the government is listening: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to explore the possibility of a regularization programme; and undocumented migrants met directly with Fraser to tell them what they wanted last October. Fraser promised that deportations would stop when a regularization programme was announced.