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Meet the Canadian blogger who takes on far-right extremists – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
Far-right group La Meute was once seen as a growing threat in Quebec, with members marching by the hundreds through city streets against what they claimed was the creeping “Islamization” of society.

But La Meute — or The Pack — began to implode just a few years after it was created in 2015. By 2019, its signature wolf-paw symbol had practically disappeared from view as infighting reportedly tore the group apart.

The demise of La Meute wasn’t by chance, says Xavier Camus, who calls himself a “progressive” blogger with ties to the province’s anti-fascist movement. He claims he and a loose network of “moles” infiltrated the group and brought it down by stirring up internal dissent.

“We destroyed La Meute. We generated an internal collapse,” Camus said one recent afternoon in a downtown vegetarian cafe. The far-right group’s leader, he said, has been left “a king without a kingdom.”

Camus is attracting increasing attention in Quebec as he uses his blog and Facebook page to expose people he believes espouse hate speech, with striking results.

On Jan. 7, a 38-year-old man appeared in court in Granby, Que., on charges of inciting hatred and advocating genocide after Camus exposed homophobic and racist online posts he allegedly wrote.

An October 2018 article on Camus’ blog drew attention to comments advocating the murder of Jews beneath a story on the Journal de Montreal website, and shortly afterwards police arrested and charged a 55-year-old man.

Camus has sunk the political ambitions of provincial political candidates by publishing their online Islamophobic comments. And the blogger got a Montreal city councillor kicked out of her caucus in March 2019 after he exposed her Facebook posts, in which she raged about the “Islamization of our country” after she was treated by an ophthalmologist who wore a hijab.

If the 42-year-old father and junior college philosophy professor stopped at posting about clear cases of racism and neo-Nazism, then he would probably receive less heat. But his critics accuse him and his ilk of starting more fires than they put out.

Francois Charbonneau, a political science professor at University of Ottawa, says Camus’ approach fails to distinguish between reprehensible online chatter and mainstream conservative political opinion.

“He hurts the possibility of dialogue between the left and the right,” Charbonneau said in a recent interview. For Camus and the wider anti-fascist movement, he said, there are no grey zones: “There is one side of ‘racists,’ without nuance, and then there is the big camp of ‘virtuous anti-fascists,’ also without nuance.”

Camus doesn’t come from the hardcore punk subculture that has helped fuel the North American anti-fascist movement. Instead, his political awakening occurred during the Quebec student strikes of 2005 and 2012. Rather than street fighting with the far right, Camus wages his battle with his computer, research skills and writing talent.

But there is a difference between exposing an alleged neo-Nazi and targeting citizens who makes stupid comments online about women in hijabs, says Charbonneau. The former action is laudable, while the latter might push someone into actually becoming a fascist, he said.

“We aren’t gods,” Charbonneau said. “We are all fallible. In your life, you can say something racist … but what should our reaction be?”

Camus’ blog and Facebook page also single out mainstream news columnists in Quebec who express nationalist, conservative opinions on such issues as immigration, secularism and Quebecois identity. His other targets include people who make off-colour and racist statements on social media or in the comment sections of news articles — whether or not they have clear links to far-right groups.

Camus dismisses the claim that his Facebook or blog equates conservative columnists in Quebec with neo-Nazis and fascists.

“There are many degrees of hate,” Camus said. “For example, neo-Nazism is an extreme ideology, and then there is ordinary Islamophobia, which is shared by a large number of people.”

It’s hard to prove Camus’ contention that there is a prominent anti-Islam strain in Quebec society. But it’s easy to find anecdotal examples of Quebecers’ discomfort with Muslim immigrants.

Last October, for example, the bishop of the diocese of Trois-Rivieres — located between Montreal and Quebec City — stopped the sale of an underused church to a Muslim group that wanted to transform it into a mosque. Local opposition to the sale was so strong the bishop nixed the deal out of fear for the safety of city’s Muslims.

Certain conservative columnists, Camus says, espouse nationalist rhetoric that helps to popularize a type of soft xenophobia, which becomes increasingly acceptable to the wider public. Far-right groups feed on that and take it a step further.

“More and more, in the collective memory, we have this common enemy — the Muslim,” he said. “And this figure of the common enemy was constructed. My bet is that it can also be deconstructed.”

It’s unclear whether Camus and a collection of anti-fascist moles actually “destroyed” La Meute. The group’s website and Facebook page are still active, and La Meute’s spokesman, Sylvain Brouillette, said Camus had as much influence on his group as have “pigeon droppings.”

Brouillette said in an interview through Facebook that La Meute continues to organize events at the “regional clan” level. The only reason his group hasn’t held any recent demonstrations, he said, is because its members have been satisfied with the current Quebec government of Premier Francois Legault.

Charbonneau questions whether far-right sentiment is truly increasing in the province and whether anti-hate vigilantism does anything to reduce intolerance in society.

But Camus says he is convinced that he and allies in the anti-fascist movement are doing the work that police, politicians, and journalists are failing to do to make the far-right as distasteful as possible to the wider public.

“The role of my blog will always be a sort of safeguard, to make different kinds of intolerance retreat,” he said. “My role is to show people: ‘Look, this is not normal what they are saying.’ These organizations are not normal.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 26, 2020.

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Health officials urge Canadians to get coronavirus information from credible sources – Global News

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Even before Canada’s first coronavirus case was announced in Toronto over the weekend, Canada’s medical community was on alert — and not just for the disease.

Public health officials said they were keeping an eye on social media because misinformation has become a threat against illness prevention and they were cognizant of the impact it could have on addressing the respiratory illness that has sickened at least 2,000 people and killed dozens of others.


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“In health care, in general right now, we are struggling a little bit to combat misinformation about health care from social media and from all fronts and I don’t suspect this will be any different,” said Dr. Sohail Gandhi, president of the Ontario Medical Association.

“We have a media staff that are actively monitoring different emerging trends … If they feel there is too much misinformation particularly on one matter, we will speak out against that.”

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The information monitoring by the OMA and other organizations during an outbreak is a relatively recent development. After all, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat were still years away from being founded when in 2002, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) rattled southern China, infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800, including 44 Canadians.






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Coronavirus outbreak: No plans for Canadian government to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, China on flight

In the age of coronavirus, however, there is a plethora of places for Canadians to get their news — and not all are credible or being vetted by medical experts. A tweet or snap can easily convince someone to disregard proper hygiene or even create fearmongering about the risk of contracting an illness.

“People may actually take the wrong course of action and engage in what they believe are protective measures that are in fact not warranted and in some cases may be harmful,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health.

Coronavirus misinformation, she said, is especially important to watch out for because our understanding of the illness is only just developing.

Doctors and researchers are still looking into the coronavirus’s origins, how it reached humans, is transferred and what can be done to eradicate it.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus risk remains low in Canada despite first presumptive case: Health officials

“Those are the kinds of areas where there’s some uncertainty and I think when there is some uncertainty, there is often fear and anxiety associated with that,” she said. “That’s where you see some misinformation.”

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To combat the spread of misinformation, the federal government is keeping in touch with ethnic media and trying to be as transparent as possible with updates on the illness, said federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu at an Ottawa news conference on Sunday, where she revealed more coronavirus cases are expected in Canada, but cautioned the risk to the public is low.

“Misinformation is difficult to combat online,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that misinformation is creating a perception for Canadians that belies the reality that the risk remains low.”






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Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus


Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus

Meanwhile, Toronto Public Health had set up a coronavirus webpage with information on symptoms, risk level updates, treatment information and federal and provincial resources.

De Villa said that adds to the organization’s constant practice of watching for health misinformation on social media.


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“Fundamentally as public health officials, this is our purpose and our goal,” she said. “It is our objective to ensure the people we ensure are given evidence-based, credible information, so they know what is happening and what to do in order to protect their own health.”

De Villa and Gandhi urged Canadians trying to verify what they may see online about coronavirus to pay attention to official health sources, including Toronto Public Health, the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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More Canadian cases of coronavirus 'would not be unexpected': officials – CTV News

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TORONTO —
While stressing that the risk of the new coronavirus being spread from one person to another in Canada remains low, federal health officials said Sunday that Canadians should not be surprised to hear of more individual cases within the country.

“It would not be unexpected that there would be more cases imported into Canada in the near-term, given global travel patterns,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at a news conference.

Canada’s first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus was announced Saturday. Officials have said the virus may have been found in a man in his 50s who travelled to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak, and ended up in hospital one day after returning to Toronto.

The man is being kept in a negative pressure room at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto pending the results of laboratory tests, which are expected to be completed by Monday. His condition remained stable as of Sunday, hospital officials said.

He had flown to Toronto on China Southern Airlines Flight 311 from Guangzhou, China, after previously flying to Guangzhou from Wuhan. His flight landed at Pearson International Airport at 3:46 p.m.on Jan. 22.

“This patient may have had some mild symptoms [on the plane] – certainly not something that would have been particularly obvious,” Tam said.

Pearson is one of three Canadian airports, along with the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport and Vancouver International Airport, where enhanced public health measures have been implemented as the outbreak has worsened.

Arrival screens at these airports display messages imploring passengers to alert border security officers if they feel flu-like symptoms and have recently travelled to an area affected by an outbreak. An extra health screening question has also been placed on customs kiosks.

In the circumstance of the man at the centre of the presumptive Canadian case, officials said Sunday that his actions – calling 911 once his symptoms worsened and immediately alerting authorities that he had recently been in Wuhan, allowing paramedics to take proper protections –suggested that the messaging at the airports was effective.

“For me, that is a sign that the information at the [airport] did actually percolate through to the patient,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday.

Passengers who sat within three rows of the man are being notified about their possible exposure to the virus, as are airline employees who may have been in contact with the man.

OFFICIALS SAY RISK LOW

Tam said that, given the number of cases of the virus around the world involving people who had been to Wuhan, it “was not unexpected” that the coronavirus could eventually make its way to Canada – or that there could be future cases.

She stressed that evidence to date suggests the virus can only be transmitted from person to person through “close contact, and particularly prolonged contact,” making the risk of acquiring it from a stranger small.

“Although we now have a case in Canada, the risk to Canadians remains low,” she said.

The virus is believed to have originated in an animal sold at a market in Wuhan to be consumed as food, and somehow been transmitted to humans from that animal.

Asked about fears of acquiring the virus by attending Lunar New Year events or other public gatherings, Hajdu downplayed the concerns.

“There is no need for Canadians to be alarmed that they will contract the virus in a casual setting,” she said.

“My advice to Canadians is to take normal precautions to protect their health.”

Tam noted that influenza season is underway in Canada, and said there is no need for anyone who has not been to Wuhan to take precautions beyond what they would do to avoid the flu or similar illnesses.

“We absolutely advise people to do the usual things – wash your hands, don’t cough toward someone, cough into a tissue or into your sleeve [and] stay home when you’re sick,” she said.

Many coronaviruses cause flu- or cold-like symptoms and carry minimal risk of death. Scientists have yet to determine the power of the new coronavirus.

THE GLOBAL PICTURE

Globally, the death toll from the coronavirus has reached 56. All the deaths have occurred in China, where Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday that “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”

The U.S. has made plans to airlift American citizens out of Wuhan, one of a number of cities to essentially be cut off from the rest of China by the government. Hajdu said Sunday that Canada does not expect to follow suit, and that anyone concerned about relatives in the outbreak area should contact Global Affairs Canada.

“At this point, it doesn’t appear that we have the need to charter a plane,” she said.

Canada has issued a travel advisory for Hubei, the province that includes Wuhan, warning citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the area. Tam said a full travel ban is unlikely to be enacted unless the World Health Organization first issues similar guidance.

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Health officials expect more coronavirus cases, but say risk of outbreak in Canada remains low – CBC.ca

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Federal health officials expect more cases of the coronavirus, but say the risk of an outbreak in Canada remains low.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said officials at all levels of government are working with hospitals and international partners to prevent and respond to potential infections. 

“We’re working actively to limit the spread of the virus,” Hajdu said at a news conference in Ottawa Sunday morning after the first “presumptive” case of coronavirus was reported in Toronto.

CBC.ca is carrying the news conference live.

Hajdu said much has been learned about the SARS virus in 2003. Since the first cases were reported in China in December, the federal government has been in close contact with the provincial health authorities and international players to share information and is taking a “collaborative, responsive” approach.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said despite the fact the number of cases in China is increasing, the export to other countries remains low and the risk remains low in Canada.

Tam said the reported case Saturday was “not unexpected.”

Canada confirmed its first “presumptive” case of coronavirus in Toronto on Saturday after receiving lab results. The patient, a man in his 50s who had recently travelled to Wuhan, China, is isolated at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and is now in stable condition.

“The health system is on alert to detect potential cases and to respond promptly when they are confirmed,” Tam said. “It shows that our systems are working.”

Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, agreed that the case was not unexpected, and that other cases in Canada are likely.

The number of infections worldwide now exceeds 2,000 cases, most of them in China, which reports 56 deaths.

“All necessary precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of infection. This makes it the first case in Canada, pending confirmation of the result by PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg,” Hajdu said in a statement Saturday.

“The government of Canada has been working closely with provincial and territorial counterparts, and international partners, since China first reported 2019-nCoV cases to ensure that our country is prepared to limit the spread of 2019-nCoV in Canada. Canadian hospitals have strong infection control systems and procedures in place to limit the spread of infection and protect health care workers.”

Risk mitigation measures

Risk mitigation measures now in place include messaging on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver airports reminding travellers to advise border officials if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

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Experts say Canada is much better prepared for the new coronavirus than it was for SARS in 2003. 0:40

“While the risk of an outbreak of novel coronavirus in Canada remains low, I encourage Canadians to tell your health-care professional if you have travelled to an affected area of China, and develop flu-like symptoms,” Hajdu said.

Officials said the man took a flight on Jan. 21 from Wuhan to Guangzhou, then from Guangzhou to Toronto, arriving on Jan. 22.

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says people are encouraged to take normal precautions such as washing hands and coughing into their elbow to prevent transmission of any kind. 0:51

He is believed to have travelled “privately” from the airport to his home. Officials do not believe he took public transit. They have not said what part of the city the man lives in.

Upon arriving, he told family members he felt ill and called 911. Officials say paramedics arrived prepared, taking all necessary precautions “right from first contact” until the hand-off to the hospital’s emergency department on Jan. 23, officials say.

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