Far-right protests target Trudeau’s Canadian election rallies

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a media conference at the end of an EU-Canada summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Far-right protesters threw gravel and small rocks at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an election campaign stop Monday in the southwestern Ontario city of London. Since August 27, when Trudeau was forced to cancel a campaign appearance in Bolton, Ontario, after a virulent right-wing mob threatened him with acts of violence, the Liberal leader’s campaign appearances have been dogged by anti-vaxx, anti-mask protesters and other far-right elements.

Typically the protests have included no more than a few dozen right-wing extremists. Some have carried signs accusing Trudeau of “treason” and “communism” or chanted “Lock him up!,” a slogan popularized by supporters of Donald Trump, the fascistic former US president.

Media observers agree the protests mark something new in Canadian politics. “In two decades covering federal politics, I have never seen the kind of frenzied contempt directed at a politician as that aimed at Justin Trudeau at campaign events in Ontario on Friday,” wrote John Iveson, a right-wing National Post columnist who can hardly be accused of exaggerated sympathy for Trudeau, following the cancelled Bolton rally. “There’s no doubt that had the 200 or so protesters in Bolton, a town 50 kilometres northwest of Toronto, been able to get their hands on the Liberal leader, they would have torn him limb from limb, such was the manic rage.”

On September 1, five days after the Bolton events, unruly protests denouncing COVID-19 vaccines and all public health measures to counter the deadly virus were held outside hospitals in more than a dozen cities across Canada. Led and dominated by the far-right, the protests turned violent in British Columbia, where a health care worker was assaulted.

The leaders of all five parties with representation in the last parliament have rushed to condemn far-right violence and tout their “democratic” bonafides. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole had to explicitly distance his party from the Bolton protest, many of whose participants wore pro-Conservative Party T-shirts, and announce that party volunteers who had joined the anti-Trudeau-rally would be excluded from future campaign activities.

The key question these events raise for working people is how is it that far-right forces, mobilized by the likes of the fascist Proud Boys, La Meute, and the III Percenters and without broad popular support, can be playing such a prominent role in a Canadian election. The answer to this question is two-fold. Firstly, the far-right has been emboldened by the increasing support it and its chauvinist, anti-social, and authoritarian views are receiving in Canada and internationally from sections of the ruling class, its political representatives, and the military-security apparatus. Secondly, as the result of the systematic decades-long suppression of the class struggle by the trade unions and the social-democratic NDP politicians, the working class has been prevented from politically asserting itself through mass struggle and advancing its own program to answer the deepening capitalist crisis—including the ruling class’ ruinous “profits before lives” pandemic policy.

The responsibility of the political establishment

No politically literate worker can take O’Toole’s attempts to distance the Conservatives from the far-right protests seriously. Canada’s Conservatives, like their US Republican and British Conservative allies, have long-established and burgeoning ties to the social conservative and libertarian right. Broad sections of the Conservative Party were Trump enthusiasts. Ontario Premier Doug Ford styled himself as the Trump of the North during his 2018 provincial election campaign, and sections of the party explicitly endorsed Trump’s economic nationalism and anti-immigrant chauvinism.

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