It is said that you can take the measure of a man by the company he keeps.
By that objective calculus, the toxic company that Canada’s Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, stubbornly keeps ought to disabuse anyone of the silly notion that Canada is an antidote to the pestilence of white nationalism infecting other, Western “liberal” democracies.
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Scheer has a long history of courting white nationalists by appealing unabashedly and overtly to their ugly, nativist, xenophobic and racist temperaments (to describe them as “ideas” is antithetical to the word).
Serious attention should be drawn to Scheer’s relationship with Canada’s extreme right wing since, if accurate, a recent spate of public opinion polls suggest that the Conservative chief may well become prime minister come the next federal election scheduled for October.
Of course, Scheer is a faithful disciple of former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper who besmirched himself and, perhaps more importantly, the country he served by championing racism-infused “policies” as a means to mine the support of Canadian bigots who would be attracted to such malevolent policies at election time.
Harper’s sorry, signature gambit in this regard was the unveiling – stripped of its government-sanctioned rhetorical embroidery – of a “snitch” line, where Canadians were encouraged to report other Canadians guilty of culturally “barbaric practices” deemed “incompatible” with “old stock” Canadian values.
Harper’s legion of apologists insisted that his snitch line and use of the benign “descriptor…old stock Canadians” weren’t Exhibit A and B of how to practise sectarian wedge politics. So, stop hyperventilating you perennial politically correct types, the apologists cried.
Today, the same cavalier defence is being employed by the same band of apologists to dismiss as inconsequential Scheer’s undeniable associations with notorious white nationalists that should, if decency had any currency in politics, be disqualifying.
On February 19, Scheer spoke at an event on Parliament Hill organised reportedly by “disgruntled pipeline workers” who had travelled from Western Canada by picayune convoy to Ottawa to “have their voices heard”. He was joined by several members of his Conservative caucus who took dutiful turns praising the “protesters” and pledging fidelity to their amorphous cause.
“We are fighting for you. We are standing with you,” Scheer told the small, yellow-vested gathering. One Conservative senator was less trite, urging the assembly to “roll over every Liberal left in the country”. His invitation to violence was predictably greeted with hoots and cheers.
The rumble-ready “United We Roll” contingent that Scheer and company welcomed, encouraged and applauded, included attendees who – anti-hate groups detail – celebrate their white nationalist, white-supremacist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim credentials online.
Still, for the doubters, the “protesters'” convictions surely became apparent when Faith Goldy was also asked to speak at the “rally” as their marquee guest.
Goldy has, for years, flaunted her white nationalism on a variety of media platforms. Among her other noxious “beliefs” is the “theory” that the white race is facing “genocide” and is on the precipice of extinction.
In December 2017, Canada’s racist-in-residence, who also thinks launching another Crusade to retake the Holy Land is a laudable geopolitical strategy, recited, with little prompting and with evident glee on a racist podcast the white supremacist clarion call, The Fourteen Words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
A few months earlier, Goldy displayed her white nationalist bona fides again by appearing on a podcast affiliated with [neo-Nazi website] the Daily Stormer while in Virginia.
Goldy described her tete-a-tete with Nazis as a “poor decision.”
Scheer knew all this and more when he chose to attend the same event, organised by the same people who thought it appropriate and right to invite Goldy, who told Indigenous peoples who assailed her presence on Parliament Hill: “If you don’t like our country, leave it.”
Rather than say no, Scheer and his caucus colleagues opted to stand – figuratively speaking – rancid shoulder to rancid shoulder with a racist in the rank pursuit of parochial, political self-interest. And with that, the nexus of traditional “conservatism” and the wretched right wing was fashioned – married by two speeches in one place, at one time, separated by just a few metres.
Scheer and Goldy have shared more intimate moments. Before she was fired over her “poor decision” to enjoy a convivial chat on a Nazi podcast, the telegenic Goldy was a host on a network featuring a cavalcade of frothing, perpetually indignant, anti-establishment personalities called Rebel Media.
In early 2017, then-Conservative leadership candidate Scheer was Goldy’s chummy, featured guest on her defunct programme On the Hunt – for what precisely remains a mystery.
In any event, the “hot” topic du jour was a non-binding, symbolic motion introduced by a Liberal MP to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city terrorist who murdered six Muslim men praying in a mosque.
Scheer told Goldy he would emphatically vote against the motion because, like his effervescent TV pal, he was concerned that denouncing the hatred that fuelled the butchery of Muslim worshippers by way of a parliamentary motion would inevitably morph into an “attack” on free speech. “Absolutely,” Goldy said, approvingly.
Fast forward to the horror in New Zealand, when another racist who referenced “white genocide” and “The Fourteen Words” in his “manifesto” slaughtered 50 Muslim children, women and men and grievously injured scores of other innocents because of where they prayed and who they prayed to.
Scheer’s response? Not surprisingly: muted platitudes on Twitter. “Freedom has come under attack in New Zealand as peaceful worshippers are targeted in a despicable act of evil. All people must be able to practice their faith freely and without fear,” he wrote without naming the faith of the massacred or the sites of their massacres. You see, “freedom”, not Muslims, was “attacked”.
That vapid, perfunctory tweet was consistent with Scheer’s reluctance to offend the odious likes of Goldy et al for fear of alienating a potential well of votes during a likely close election. Donald Trump has proven that racist overtures – blatant or cloaked – can afford a winning edge in a tight race.
Only later, after a torrent of criticism, did Scheer issue a second statement on Facebook, daring to mention Muslims and mosques. By then, it was too late. His initial response indeed reflected the measure of the man and the company he keeps.
Despite claiming now to shun the decaying network, Scheer holds other Rebel Media alumni close to his bosom. His 2019 campaign manager was a founding director of Rebel Media.
Like his mentor Stephen Harper, Scheer is intent on, it appears, leading Canada down a dangerous, sinister slope.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.