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Canadians among most active in online right-wing extremism, research finds – CBC.ca

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A report released Friday on Canadian involvement in right-wing extremism online should serve as a “wake-up call” about the widespread nature of the movement and highlights a growing shift toward the use of less regulated platforms, says an expert on the phenomenon.

The research, led by the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think-tank, identified more than 6,600 online channels — pages, accounts or groups — where Canadians were involved in spreading white supremacist, mysogynistic or other radical views. 

On some forums, Canadians were found to be “highly active,” even more, on average, than users in the U.S. and Britain.

On one particular message board called “politically incorrect” on the fringe site 4Chan, researchers found Canadian users created 1,636,558 posts, representing 5.71 per cent of posts from all countries.

The study suggests when the numbers were averaged out using each country’s “estimated internet-using population,” Canada was shown to be producing more content than anywhere else.

Barbara Perry, director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, called the Canadian tally “really disconcerting.” 

“For us to be up there with the heavy hitters … it’s a wake-up call,” she said.

One woman was killed and two other people were injured in an attack at a massage parlour in Toronto on Feb. 24. Police say they have evidence linking the attack to incel ideology. (Michael Cole/CBC)

The authors of the 47-page study, which was partly funded by Public Safety Canada, say it’s one of the most comprehensive analyses of its kind. And while the paper offers only a snapshot captured before 2020, observers of far-right extremism suspect this year will only prove worse.

“Globally, in recent years, we have seen a surge in activity by right-wing extremists, in terms of violent mobilization, protests, but also the use of disinformation and co-ordinated hate online,” said Jacob Davey, ISD senior research manager and a study co-author. “Unfortunately, Canada hasn’t escaped that trend.”

The researchers describe right-wing extremism as being “characterized by a racially, ethnically and sexually defined nationalism … often framed in terms of white power,” centred on perceived threats by minority groups.

Not all the online chatter is illegal — much of it is covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — but the authors still consider it “problematic.”

Real-world violence

The broad right-wing extremist movement has been tied to such deadly rampages as the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and the Toronto van attack in 2018. The driver later told a detective he was part of the so-called “incels,” a fringe subculture catering to men who consider themselves involuntarily celibate.

In May, Toronto police classified a woman’s killing at a local massage parlour as an act of incel terrorism — thought to be the first time the formal categorization is applied anywhere in Canada.

The study highlights the online roots of such groups, classifying incels as being part of the wider “manosphere” movement marked by “overt and extreme misogyny.” 

Social media is “hugely important in the way these groups and individuals communicate, spread propaganda and target minority communities,” Davey said.

The manosphere movement accounted for a small portion of the extremist content identified by researchers, with ethnonationalists — described in the study as “often marked by implicit rather than explicit racism” — appearing more frequently across mainstreams platforms.

Community members staged a makeshift memorial near the site of the Toronto van attack in 2018. (Michael Cole/CBC)

Most posts found on Twitter

Researchers identified extremist channels across major social media sites, including Facebook and YouTube, but also examined forums with less regulation, such 4Chan and Gab. Both sites give users freer rein over their posts, drawing accusations of acting as safe havens for crude content.

The bulk of the channels — 6,352 out of about 6,600 — however, was found on Twitter.

A company policy bans “violent extremist” groups and says Twitter will permanently suspend accounts found to be in violation. A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment on the study. 

CBC News has verified some of the accounts highlighted in the study remain online.

The paper identifies the “Three Percenters” as an Islamophobic armed militia group and “the epitome of this more militant arm of the movement.” The Alberta chapter’s Twitter and Facebook pages remained publicly available on Thursday, with fewer than 150 followers on Twitter and more than 4,500 on Facebook.

A Facebook search on Thursday for another group, the Canadian Defence League — identified as part of the anti-Muslim movement — returned a page with more than 1,800 “likes.” The group describes itself as “fighting back against high Muslim immigration levels.”

Members of La Meute are seen at a demonstration in Hemmingford, Que., in 2017. Researchers identified La Meute as ‘one of Quebec’s most notorious’ right-wing extremist groups. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Mainstream social media firms have taken steps to delete pages belonging to extremist groups, removing their ability to spread their views in a practice known as “deplatforming.” Researchers observed a decrease in right-wing extremist activity on Facebook and YouTube across 2019.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement the company continues “to make progress in combating hate on our services. Individuals and organizations who spread hate, attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are have no place on our services.”

A YouTube representative declined to comment.

Perry, the Ontario Tech University researcher, said “to some extent, deplatforming seems to be working … it’s taken the worst of the worst off of those readily accessible, readily available platforms.” 

However, she said, it’s pushed some users to access fringe sites, such as 4Chan, Gab and the now-defunct Fascist Forge and Iron March. Both were classified by anti-discrimination campaigners as white supremacists sites.

Researchers found users in Canada to be especially active on certain 4Chan message boards. On a per capita basis, Canadians were more likely to post on the fringe forums than users from any other country, the study says, “demonstrating the extent of Canadian engagement with right-wing extremist causes online.”

Davey said it’s likely a sign Canadians are being swept up in a global surge of right-wing extremism, inspired by users from the U.S. or Europe. He said Canadian users appeared especially responsive to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim themes.

“It suggests they are responding to the world around them in a way that allows the proliferation of hatred.”

WATCH | How a Toronto firm is compiling a multilingual lexicon to fight online hate:

The quest to root out hate speech online has led tech companies to develop formulas to locate it and stop it from spreading. CBC’s Thomas Daigle looks at how the technology works and the challenges companies face. 2:44

Another surge expected

Researchers noted surges in Canadian right-wing extremist activity in March and October 2019, corresponding with the New Zealand mosque attack and the federal election.

The Christchurch massacre in particular acted as a “lightning rod,” Davey said, seen by Canadian radicals as “an opportunity to justify attacks against Muslims, to engage in really explicit, really egregious hate speech against minority communities.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the ongoing wave of anti-racist activism, is already proving to be another flashpoint.

Elisa Hategan, a Toronto-area-based former neo-Nazi who became an anti-extremism speaker and writer, said the dual crises have made some people lash out and hold others responsible, with a proliferation of vitriol and conspiracy theories online.

“The pandemic already rocked their comfort zones and pushed their boundaries, and now the social transformation taking place in the streets to protest racism and injustice is changing the privileges they took for granted,” she said in an email.

“So whatever the number of online hate channels last year, 2020 will be unprecedented.”

Friday’s study is meant as an interim report and part of a broader look into extremist action online and offline that is expected to be published next year.

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Over 70% of Canada’s coronavirus cases have recovered as country adds 244 new diagnoses – Globalnews.ca

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The number of novel coronavirus cases in Canada stands at 107,570 as of Sunday, and more than 70 per cent of those diagnosed have recovered, data shows.

As of Sunday afternoon, the country diagnosed 244 new cases while 71,467 of those diagnosed with the virus have recovered. Over 3.6 million people in Canada have been tested so far and 8,780 have died.

Those numbers are incomplete, however, as Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and all three territories did not provide updates.

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Quebec, the province hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, recorded 114 new cases on Saturday for a provincial total of 56,521 cases. To date, 5,627 in Quebec have died from the virus while 25,862 have recovered.

In Ontario, the province hit second-hardest by the virus, officials reported 129 new COVID-19 cases for a provincial total of 36, 723 cases. More than 1.6 million residents have been tested so far while 88.6 per cent of all confirmed cases in Ontario have been resolved.

Several provinces have seen no new COVID-19 cases in days.

Manitoba recorded no new cases for the 12th day in a row on Sunday, surpassing its previous streak of five days in June. Of the confirmed and presumptive cases, 314 have recovered. Seven residents have died while just over 69,000 have been tested.

Read more:
Beachgoers crowd Sylvan Lake despite pandemic rules: ‘COVID-19 is still here’

Officials in Nova Scotia said Sunday the province hasn’t reported a new case in five days and remains at 1,066. Sixty-three people there have died while 1,000 infected have recovered. Over 58,000 residents have been tested so far.

New Brunswick recorded no new cases since Thursday. On Sunday, officials said all but three of its 166 cases have recovered. Two people in the province have died from the virus while 46,502 have been tested so far.

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Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador said Sunday the province hasn’t seen a new case in three days, while 258 out of the province’s 262 cases have recovered. Over 20,000 residents have been tested. Three people residing in N.L. have died.

Prince Edward Island reported its first newly confirmed case in three days on Sunday, bringing its total up to 34. Of those 34 cases, 27 have recovered.

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief health officer, said the woman who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been in contact with a man who tested positive for the virus after returning from Nova Scotia. As of Sunday, officials said 13,730 had tested.

Nunavut reported Friday the province was still free of COVID-19 after a test for its first presumptive case came back negative. The Yukon saw 11 confirmed cases while the Northwest Territories’ total remained at five. All known cases in the territories have recovered.

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As of Friday, Alberta had seen 8,596 cases and 160 deaths while in Saskatchewan, officials reported a provincial total of 815 cases, adding 15 people had died from the virus.

British Columbia recorded 187 new deaths for a total of 3,028 confirmed cases on Friday. Nine cases are epidemiologically linked, which happens when a patient may have been in contact with one or more people who tested positive with the virus but has yet to be confirmed.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada's largest Indigenous police force has never shot anyone dead – CTV News

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TORONTO —
In its 26 years of existence, officers with Canada’s largest Indigenous police force have never shot and killed anyone and no officer has died in the line of duty, despite a grinding lack of resources and an absence of normal accountability mechanisms.

It’s a record of which the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service is proud, especially in light of the recent uproar in North America over police killings and brutality involving Indigenous, Black, and mentally distressed people. It’s a record achieved in communities frequently in social distress, places where hunting rifles and shotguns are ubiquitous.

The key difference from urban, non-Indigenous policing, insiders and observers say, is the relationship building between officers and the people they serve.

“In the past, you might have been the only officer in there,” Roland Morrison, chief of NAPS says from Thunder Bay, Ont. “You would have no radio, you’ve got no backup, so you really effectively have to use your communication and talk to people. You have to develop relationships with the communities in order to have positive policing.”

Inaugurated in 1994, NAPS is responsible for policing more than 38,000 people in 34 communities, many beyond remote, across a vast, largely untamed swath of northern Ontario. Currently the service has 203 officers, about 60 per cent of them Indigenous, Morrison says. Its mandate is culturally responsive policing.

Erick Laming, a criminology PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, says people from First Nation communities — many with an ingrained suspicion of police given the brutal realities of generations of enforced residential school attendance — have a higher level of trust when officers are Indigenous.

In contrast, he said, new RCMP recruits with no such background might find themselves in Nunavut or Yukon confronted with significant language and cultural barriers.

“If you’re from the community, you have those lived experiences. You can relate to people. You just know how to deal with the issues,” says Laming, who is from the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation north of Kingston, Ont.

“If you don’t have that history, you can have all the cultural-sensitivity training in the world, you’ll never fully be able to fully integrate into that situation.”

Another example, he said, is the service in Kahnawake, Que., which calls itself the Kahnawake Peacekeepers rather than a police force.

While all officers in Ontario undergo the same basic training, the province’s nine Indigenous police services are fundamentally different from their non-Indigenous counterparts.

For one thing, they are not deemed an essential service, although federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said last month that policing First Nations communities should be. Nor are those in Ontario subject to the provincial Police Services Act, which mandates standards, including for an extensive oversight framework.

Now, the process for filing complaints against members of an Indigenous police force is ad hoc, although NAPS does have a professional standards branch and will on occasion call in Ontario Provincial Police. Officers have been disciplined, charged or even fired for excessive use of force.

Another difference is that Indigenous forces are completely reliant on the vagaries of government program funding — with Ottawa footing 52 per cent of the bill and provinces 48 per cent. The current operations budget for NAPS, for example, is around $37.7 million — more than its peers — with expenses approaching $40 million.

The upshot, particularly in years gone by, has been a dire shortage of officers and even of basic facilities and equipment that urbanites can scarcely imagine. In more than a dozen cases, Indigenous self-administered police services in Canada have simply folded.

Now retired, Terry Armstrong, who spent 22 years with Ontario Provincial Police as well as five years as chief of NAPS, says people would be shocked to find out just how poorly funded First Nations policing has been.

Armstrong recounts how a few years ago, in the Hudson Bay community of Fort Severn, Ont., a NAPS officer found himself dealing with a homicide. Besides having to secure three crime scenes and the body, the lone officer had to arrest the suspect and deal with a separate gun call. Bad weather prevented any forensic or other help flying in until the following day.

One thing he always stressed to newcomers as chief, Armstrong says, is the importance of treating people respectfully.

“Some day, they’re going to be your backup. When stuff goes south, you’re going to need people to support you,” he says. “If you’re going to be a dick … when you need help, they aren’t going to be there for you.”

One frigid afternoon in February 2013, the only on-duty NAPS officer in Kasabonika Lake First Nation in Ontario’s far north detained Lena Anderson, an intoxicated young mother upset over the apprehension of her daughter. The new detachment portable was unheated. The old holding cell was unusable because prisoners could escape through holes in the floor.

The arresting officer left Anderson, 23, in the caged back seat of his Ford 150 police truck for warmth while he went to get help from his off-duty colleague. Alone for 16 minutes, Anderson strangled herself.

The tragedy, combined with a threatened strike over working conditions by NAPS officers, caused an uproar. The situation, says Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, prompted his Nishnawbe Aski Nation to take a stand. Governments, he said, had to do better or face the far more daunting prospect of doing the policing themselves.

As a result, Fiddler says, a new funding agreement was reached in 2018 that allowed the hiring of 79 new officers over five years and critical infrastructure upgrades to detachments and poor or non-existent communication systems. Most importantly, he said, the deal set in motion pending Ontario legislation that would finally allow First Nations police services to opt in to the Police Services Act, putting in place solid standards and accountability mechanisms.

“That’s something our communities and citizens deserve.” Fiddler says. “If they have an issue with NAPS, there should be a forum for them to pursue their grievance.”

However, giving investigative authority to the province’s Special Investigations Unit or Office of the Independent Police Review Director must come with cultural safety built in, he says.

Stephen Leach, current review director, says his office is not yet involved in the opt-in process.

“My expectation is that once the Community Safety and Policing Act is proclaimed and the opt-in process is further along, then I would be involved in explaining how the public complaints process works, and listening to how it might have to be adapted to meet the needs of First Nations communities,” Leach says.

Stephen Warner, a spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, confirmed the government was working on regulations to the new act. Part of the work, he said, was to set clear and consistent standards for policing delivery “informed by, and responsive to, the views of the communities that police are both a part of and serve.”

Toronto-based lawyer Julian Falconer calls the new legislation a game changer. Despite having devoted much of his career to holding police accountable, he says he has no qualms in representing NAPS.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their chronic lack of resources, Falconer says Indigenous police behave much differently from their urban counterparts. He cites the dearth of police killings and racist behaviours that have sown deep mistrust of policing among Indigenous, Black and marginalized groups.

“Mainstream policing has a lot to learn from Indigenous policing,” Falconer said. “The relationship between community and policing is so dramatically different.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 12.

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Times are tough for Canada's self-proclaimed french fry capital – CBC.ca

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For the past few years, Ottawa’s Carole Richard has made an annual pilgrimage with her friends to the small town of Alfred, Ont., to sample the local spuds.

The village of about 1,200 people on County Road 17 — about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa — is, after all, the self-proclaimed french fry capital of Canada.

“I like small fries like these, well-cooked, a little dry,” said Richard, pausing between bites at the Landriault Snack Bar. “They’re super good.”

These days, however, fried potato enthusiasts like Richard only have one local option for satiating their cravings. Of the multiple chip stands and canteens that once dotted the village, only one — the Landriault Snack Bar — still remains.

“When we [were] here 10, 11 years ago, there were four,” owner Bruce Forget recently told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview.

“They all disappeared quietly,” he said.

Bruce Forget, owner of the Landriault Snack Bar in Alfred, Ont., is the lone remaining french fry shack operator in the small eastern Ontario village. (Radio-Canada)

Some in Alfred trace the decline of the fry shacks to the arrival of a Tim Hortons franchise at the village’s entrance.

Others cite the 2012 completion of Highway 50 on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, which allowed motorists travelling between the National Capital Region and Montreal to bypass County Road 17 altogether.

There’s also the simple fact that the french fry business is hard work — one of the main reasons that Suzanne Villeneuve, owner of Miss Alfred, decided not to open her doors this winter.

Had she done so, her canteen would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Empty tables sit outside the now-closed Miss Alfred french fry canteen in Alfred, Ont. The village, which once proclaimed itself as Canada’s french fry capital, has only one canteen left in operation. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

“People can’t imagine [how busy it is],” Villeneuve told Radio-Canada in French, noting that all the food at Miss Alfred was homemade.

“It was 12 hours a day [six days a week]. On the seventh, you changed the oil and then finally took care of your own business.”

As for Forget, he agrees that running a fry shack is hard work — and is well aware that, when it comes to the village’s crispy claim to fame, he’s the only one left keeping it alive.

“I’m the last of the Mohicans,” he laughed.

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