Editor’s Note: The “protest timeline” section of this article does not link to sources in an effort to avoid platforming far-right extremism.
In short: The Canadian anti-lockdown protests, which have been active since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, have come as a result of a coordinated effort to unite science denialist-conspiracy theorists with far-right activists. Across the country, protests have blended opposition to the Covid-19 lockdown with anti-vaccine and anti-government conspiracy theories.
Different Conspiracy Theorists: A coalition between different conspiracy theorist communities is not unprecedented but has so far been largely unreported in the media.
- This article will follow the timeline of events to explain the political motivations and differing conspiratorial beliefs within these groups.
- This can help readers recognize them when they inevitably protest a different cause or under a different name.
Science Denialists: While science-denialism can come in many forms, there are two types most present at the protests.
- The first are anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists that believe there are dangerous ingredients intentionally put into vaccines to cause dangerous effects on the vaccinated.
- The second are germ theory denialists who reject the widely held scientific belief that pathogens invade living hosts like humans and animals and are the cause of infectious diseases.
Far-right activists: The different far-right activists who have taken part in the protests have come from a wide range of right-wing conspiracy theorists in Canada. One such group are “Yellow Vesters”, an anti-government protest group focused on climate-change denialism, who have made up a majority of the right-wing protesters across the country.
- Anti-government activists and propagandists have been a constant presence at protests, often pushing conspiracies of our government being secretly controlled by “globalists” in alliance with China and progressive leftists.
- Another group that has played a smaller roll in the protests are Neo-Nazis, with one of the organizers behind the Vancouver protests being an open Nazi-apologist and Hitler admirer.
- April 12th – A protest against the Covid-19 lockdown, at Vancouver City Hall, is organized by science denialist and conspiracy theorist, Susan Standfield-Spooner and esoteric Hitlerist, Brian Ruhe. The protest is attended by far-right conspiracy theorist and propagandist, Dan Dicks. Ruhe and Dicks both film the protest and interview those attending. Around two dozen people attend the march. A similar rally takes place in Vernon.
- April 17th – A second protest at Vancouver City Hall is organized by Standfield and Ruhe. Dicks again attends and films the march. Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, a former People’s Party of Canada candidate for Burnaby South, also attends and records the march for her youtube channel. Again, around two dozen march. Meanwhile, Calgary Yellow Vests, a far-right anti-environmentalist group, organizes a very small anti-lockdown protest near the Calgary City Hall.
- April 19th – A third Vancouver protest is organized by Standfield and Ruhe, this time starting at the Seaforth Armory in Kitsilano. The protest is noticeably smaller and Dicks is not seen attending.
- April 25th – Around two-hundred people gather at Queen’s Park in Toronto against the lockdown. Doug Ford calls the protestors in Toronto a “bunch of yahoos” which the protesters start to use proudly to identify themselves.
- April 26th – A fourth Vancouver protest is organized by Standfield and Ruhe, this time starting at Sunset Beach. More than one hundred people march and there is notable hostility from people not involved in the protest.
- May 2nd – Around twenty people gather at Parliament Hill in Ottawa in protest against the lockdown. A second protest takes place in Toronto, smaller than the first.
- May 3rd – A fifth Vancouver protest is organized by Standfield and Ruhe, this time starting at Science World. More than one hundred people march and the atmosphere is notably more negative than in previous protests.
- May 6th – In Kelowna, approximately 20 people protest against the lockdown while standing across from City Hall. Notorious Neo-Nazi, Paul Fromm, is filmed in attendence though media sources covering the protest fail to identify him or his extremist beliefs.
- May 9th – Following the government’s announced assault rifle ban on the 1st, another Toronto protest gathers around 300 attendees, this time with as much focus on gun control as on the lockdown.
- May 10th – A sixth protest of more than 50 attendees is organized by Standfield and Ruhe and starts at the English Bay Cactus Club in Vancouver and marches to St. Paul’s Hospital. Protestors are filmed accosting hospital workers, yelling conspiratorially about Covid-19. Around a hundred protestors are present.
- May 16th – In the largest protest yet, 500 people gather again in Toronto opposing the lockdown. The protest is made up of a variety of far-right anti-government activists and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists.
- May 24th – The seventh Vancouver protest takes place, this time organized by Ruhe and Marco Pietro, a previous protestor who has called frontline healthcare workers “glory hogs”. The protest takes place at the BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix’s office.
- May 27th – The eighth Vancouver protest is organized by Standfield, Ruhe, and Pietro, this time under the name “Human Rights Movement Vancouver” as an attempt to distance the protest from previous negative coverage surrounding Ruhe’s admiration of Adolf Hitler and the protestors being filmed accosting hospital workers. The protest is smaller than previously, around 50 marchers, with several previous attendees not attending citing the negative atmosphere of recent protests.
- May 30th – In the most recent anti-lockdown protest in Toronto, there were fewer attendees than previous, with around one hundred people attending.
The bottom line: While it is extremely worrying to see continued cooperation between science-denialists and far-right conspiracy theorists, hopefully bringing increased public scrutiny towards the dangerous individuals making up this protest movement will convince some to challenge their conspiratorial beliefs or at least to stay home during a pandemic.
- Protest Movements in the Time of COVID-19
- Motivating a Movement: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19” | Op-Ed