Aug 292020
 

From Montréal Antifasciste

Journalists recently reported on arrests in relation to online threats against Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director and the public face of Quebec health policy in the context of the pandemic.

These arrests bring to light the involvement of a section of the far right in mobilizations against mandatory masks, social distancing, and other measures put in place to minimize the risk of contagion in public places.[1] In a July 31 blog post, the antiracist blogger Xavier Camus reported a post by QAnon true believer Fabrice Descurninges, which included the home address of Horacio Arruda. Camus also reported – with the aid of numerous screenshots – on a similar post by Sylvain Marcoux, whom he described as a “violent conspiracy theorist.”

Marck Lelou is one of numerous pseudonyms used by Sylvain Marcoux on Facebook.

One week later, the main media outlets in Quebec (including Radio-Canada, La Presse, and the Journal de Montréal) reported that Sylvain Marcoux had been arrested “for having allegedly harassed Dr. Horacio Arruda and his family on social media.” Surprisingly, none of these media outlets mentioned Marcoux’s political ties to the most hardcore sections of the far right, specifically to the scene around the Fédération des québécois de souche, despite the fact that these ties are easy to find with a simple google search. This nationalist polemicist and Nazi fetishist who ran as an independent  candidate for provincial office had benefited from similar kid gloves treatment from those few journalists who had cared to report on his 2018 electoral bid…

While he is by no means a leading light of the Quebec far right, we feel this presents an opportune moment to review Marcoux’s political itinerary over the past decade.

WARNING: this article includes explicitly racist and antisemitic screenshots.

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Marcoux first appears online as part of the “hardline” and right-wing nationalist milieux. Over a span of a few months in 2011, he wrote 13 articles on Vigile.Quebec, a website that offers an open tribune to pro-independence and nationalist writers of various tendencies, and which has become dominated by the far right over the past years. The subjects of his writings at that point were the standard fare for frustrated identitarian nationalists: denouncing the PQ for not being serious about independence and condemning multiculturalism as a threat to Quebec identity.

Perhaps encouraged by his initial efforts as a writer, Marcoux came out with a (very) short booklet in 2012: Pour un ralliement national canadien-français. Published (somewhat surprisingly) by Guerin, which described it as a “manifesto”, this text is a call for an ethnic nationalist project for an independent French Canada. The author notes the recent use of the term Québécois to designate the descendants of French colonists in Canada, and rejects it, but other than that the booklet is not very noteworthy. Despite his footnote about Jews being a particularly xenophobic group, and passages about Indigenous people denying their claims to sovereignty (while also claiming a European presence in North America going back over 1,000 years), the kind of racism implicit in his call for nationalism to be based on French Canadian ethnicity is sadly not at all beyond the pale in Quebec. And indeed, in 2012 Marcoux was still claiming that the nationalism he was proposing, while cultural and ethnic, was not racial – regardless of their skin colour or personal origins, anyone who identified with and assimilated into French Canada could be a French Canadian:[2]

“Pour le Ralliement national, le « nationalisme » n’est donc pas fondé sur la « race » (morphologie, couleur de la peau…), mais bien sur la culture, c’est-à-dire l’ensemble des modes de vie et des convictions que partage la population vivant au sein d’un même territoire.” (Trans. : “For the Ralliement national, ‘nationalism’ is not based on ‘race’ (morphology, skin colour, etc.) but on culture, that is to say all of the ways of life and beliefs shared by the population living on a common territory.”)

He would write a couple of articles on Vigile.Quebec in 2013, but nothing more.

It is fairly clear that Marcoux had begun relating to the organized far right in Quebec by this point. After all, the assertion that one is not “racist” but simply preoccupied by “culture” is the exact same position put forth by the main far right currents throughout the West. Culture is implicitly understood as homogenous and static to the point of being frozen, rather than heterogeneous and constantly changing. It follows from this definition of culture that any criticisms or alternate views coming from Indigenous people or immigrants are viewed as intrinsically suspect, representing a threat to the dominant culture by their very origins. Leading to the clichéd garbage we hear from certain nationalists about immigration and multiculturalism representing “Trojan horses” which undermine French Canadian culture. The fact of the matter is that there are more similarities than differences between “biological” and “cultural” racism: in the final analysis, they are both essentialist views of identity which serve to justify discrimination, exclusion, and repression.[3]

In 2012, the Comité citoyen pour l’interêt du Québec – an otherwise unknown identitarian groupuscule – organized a talk where Marcoux could discuss his book. The Fédération des québécois de souche, which operates as a kind of clearinghouse for the fascist and white supremacist (or white “nationalist”) movements in Quebec, gave it a rave review, all the while criticizing his cultural as opposed to racial take on nationalism. A criticism that it would seem Marcoux took to heart.

During those years the FQS was collaborating closely with two other now-defunct fascist groups, la Bannière Noire and the Légion nationale. The three groups worked together to hold a number of small demonstrations, including an annual “March against Denationalization” held in Montreal in 2011 and in Trois-Rivières in 2012. Marcoux attended these marches, and was even interviewed by the media at the Trois Rivières rally. Insisting he was not a member of the Légion nationale, he rehashed the cultural-racist anti-immigration line described above, complaining that the majority was losing its standing, but insisting he was not a racist as “culture is between your ears.” Marcoux also gave an interview to the FQS on March 23, 2013, during a “militant action” at Montreal’s City Hall.

Marcoux spent much of the past ten years (2013-17) as a municipal councillor for the town of Saint-Majorique-de-Grantham, close to Drummondville, while also working as a welder. In this regard it is worth mentioning that Tradition Québec, a far-right Catholic traditionalist group with close ties to the FQS, has organized and promoted a series of religious services by Father Damien Duterte and Mgr Donald Sanborn, both “sedevacantists” theologically to the right of the larger and better-known Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX).[4] In 2019 three such events were held in the municipal hall at 1966 St-Joseph O., presumably with permission from the municipal council which Marcoux had served on for several years. It turns out that Marcoux himself lives (or lived) just across from the municipal building in question. Don’t worry, we’re not calling on anyone to “bang on his windows.” In fact, it turns out his place is for sale, if anyone is interested…

A photo of Sylvain Marcoux’s office at his home in Saint-Majorique-de-Grantham, from the page of a real estate agent. Note the “Black Sun”, a nazi symbol, on the wall.

From “Cultural Nationalist” to Hardcore Nazi

By the time he first came to our attention a few years ago, Sylvain Marcoux was already an out and out neo-nazi: social media posts denying the Holocaust, claiming Hitler was “the most beautiful soul ever on earth”, and talking about Jewish conspiracies to commit genocide against “white populations”. Indeed, he is one of the more virulent and vile racists on social media.

In March 2017, two months after Alexandre Bissonnette murdered six people and injured nineteen others in the Quebec City Mosque Massacre, Marcoux was on the website of Horizon Actuel Québec’s Nomos web-tv show, opining that there had been no deaths, that it had been staged and was all just “big liberal anti-Québécois grandstanding.”

Sylvain Marcoux claiming that the massacre at the Quebec City Mosque on January 29, 2017, was fake news.

Sylvain Marcoux hanging out with Robert Proulx and La Meute in an underground parking lot in Quebec City, August 20, 2017.

Marcoux has also been a regular at the various “big tent” mobilizations over the past years which were generally organized under the auspices of national-populist groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance. For example, he was spotted in a certain underground parking lot in Quebec City on August 20, 2017. He was also present at the anti-immigrant demonstration at St-Bernard-de-Lacolle on May 19, 2018, where he was interviewed by La Meute’s bumbling video crew, giving us this somewhat grotesque window into his way of seeing the world:

Meute.tv : (…) The oligarchy… (…)

Marcoux : It’s the Jews … The real term is “Jews”. You were speaking before about taboos, there is no taboo. It is Jewish messianism … The Jew wants to dissolve the white nations. I am not afraid to say it. It’s not supremacist to stand up and say you’re white and proud to be white. The other races stand up for themselves, there is the Ligue des Noirs here in Quebec, imagine if there was a League for whites… The corrupt media, media working precisely for those Jews … When I say “Jews”, it’s Jewry. It’s Bronfman who is behind Trudeau … he works for his team.

Meute.tv : You think it is about money power, beyond immigration (…)

Marcoux : It is more than money, it is really about dissolving the white nations, drowning them with immigration. Immigration… or even miscegenation.

Meute.tv : Don’t you think that within Canada there is less immigration in the other provinces than in Quebec? (…)

Marcoux : Look, in Quebec… Go take a walk in Toronto, there is immigration there, whether legal or illegal, the goal is the same, the result is the same. (…)

Meute.tv : The antifas claim that —

Marcoux : There is no such thing as antifa, antifa doesn’t exist. The antifas are just the shocktroops of that damned Jewry, the globalist mafia. Jewish messianism, freemasons … When I say “freemasons” people turn their heads … All the internationalist organizations that want precisely to dissolve the white nations, the West, Canada – the United States was white originally – Europe, France, Germany, Denmark, England …

Meute.tv : It is worldwide…

Marcoux : No, it’s whites, the white countries. There is no immigration in Saudi Arabia. The Jews are kicking their asses to get rid of them. They got rid of 40,000 recently, and they send them here … with a UN programme (…)

Things had clearly changed for Marcoux (either his views, or his willingness to be candid about them) since his declarations a few years earlier that his politics were not about race, just about “culture”. We are reposting below a series of screenshots to make things clear; taken from his main Facebook account (now deactivated) and his secondary accounts, they confirm where Marcoux situates himself. Note that many of the antisemitic articles posted by Marcoux come from the democratieparticipative website, a French neo-nazi website modeled on the Daily Stormer. [see the images at montreal-antifascist.info]

Sylvain Marcoux, Candidate in the Provincial Elections

Marcoux’s politics were on full display in 2018, when he ran as an independent candidate in his riding of Drummond-Bois-Francs; he spoke to journalists about banning Islam, and how Muslims belonged in psychiatric asylums, and revisited other far right talking points, including about the so-called “Great Replacement”:

Screenshot of Marcoux explaining his anti-immigrant programme in the 2018 provincial elections

Journalists treated him as an oddity, but none decried the racism at the heart of his campaign, nor did any report on his (fairly easy to find) links to the organized neo-nazi movement in Quebec. Yet for all his efforts and despite this kid-gloves treatment, “the people” were clearly indifferent. He received only one donation of $100 (from his campaign manager, Julien Chapdelaine – himself active in Catholic traditionalist circles and Tradition Québec), and 250 votes (just under 1% of the total in his riding).

Conspiracy Theories and Where They Can Lead

Which brings us to the present day: Sylvain Marcoux has been charged with disseminating the home address of Horacio Arruda, and calling upon “1,500, 3,000, 15,000 angry nationalists” to go and “knock on his windows.”

Opposition to public health measures in the context of COVID-19 is increasingly widespread, bringing together people who hold alternative health and New Age spiritual beliefs, those who distrust the government or simply feel it is overstepping in legislating people’s personal choices (not always without reason, for instance in the case of Bill 61), and a very significant number of far rightists, who see the current crisis as a critical stage in the globalist conspiracy they believe is besieging the world. One can spot several key figures from the nationalist-populist milieux at the head of the anti-mask movement, including Steeve Charland (former second in command at La Meute) and Mario Roy (Storm Alliance). Many aspects of the purported global conspiracy—which have recently come to include claims about pedophile and Satanist networks— can be traced back to pro-Trump polemicists, networks, and platforms in the United States which are fiercely xenophobic, racist, and sexist[5].

In his opposition to Arruda and his public health measures, as in his passage from “hardline” (but cultural!) nationalism to outright neo-nazism, Marcoux is emblematic of some of the broader trends and dynamics within both the far right and Quebec nationalism that we have worked to expose and combat over these past years.

It is tempting to make fun of conspiracy theorists, and one could go on about how they are stupid and ignorant, hypocritical opportunists. Or perhaps about how marginal they are and how the vast majority of people in Quebec do not share their views. But individuals like Sylvain Marcoux have gotten involved in conspiracy theory-driven movements and push the envelope, making more and more provocative statements, while acting to sustain Quebec’s historic crypto/neo-nazi movement and to introduce its odious ideas to these new political milieux and campaigns. We are currently witnessing precisely such a convergence today in the mobilizations against mandatory masks. This dynamic is reconfiguring the national-populist forces, which are increasingly influenced by the fascist tendencies.

As such, Sylvain Marcoux’s trajectory is primarily of interest for the way in which it reveals the cultural and political transformations going on and gives us an idea of what may be to come.

Marcoux may be an idiot, but he is also potentially dangerous.


[1] About this, see the excellent report by Xavier Camus, as the traditional media outlets are fast asleep at the wheel on this story : https://xaviercamus.com/2020/08/18/tableau-des-principaux-gourous-complotistes-du-quebec/

[2] To talk of assimilation, rather than integration for instance, itself raises the spectre of threats or coercion, and implies a fundamentally unequal relationship between the historically dominant society and more recent newcomers.

[3] According to which, one cannot ever really “become” French, French Canadian, or what have you; for instance, even after living in Quebec for decades – indeed, even if they are born here – Muslims are still seen as foreigners. It’s all good and fine to make a distinction between “culture” and race understood as a matter of skin colour, according to the essentialist view these distinctions (and not social class, gender, or other kinds of structural social relations) still fundamentally determine who we are, and cannot ever really be acquired or changed. This is connected to the argument that not all cultures are equal, that some are superior to others. One’s cultural affiliation or identity therefore becomes the basis for your place in a hierarchy, justifying various forms of exclusion and domination.

[4] Tradition Québec, led by activists Kenny Piché and Étienne Dumas, was previously aligned with the FSSPX but split from the group 2017-18. It seems TQ felt the FSSPX had become too “liberal”.

[5] A recent exposé on Radio-Canada showed how Youtube’s algorithm makes suggestions that direct people interested in various conspiracy theories to far right websites like DMS and Nomos.tv.
https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1087664/voici-comment-youtube-pourrait-vous-rendre-conspirationniste