An opinion article by Steven Zhou for CBC on January 15 titled, “Canadian campuses see an alarming rise in right-wing populism,” stated that in the past few months, several Canadian campuses have experienced “outright racist messages” through posters, flyers, and other activities.
A few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, the burgeoning right-wing sentiment on university campuses stems from the rise of political figures such as Trump, according to the op-ed.
“This is a result of an emboldening populist wave following the election of Trump, an event that has also inspired several elected officials on the Canadian right to espouse a similarly populist message,” it stated. “The success of president-elect Donald Trump has emboldened nativist elements of Canadian society just the same.”
Slogans such as “make Canada great again,” and “Tired of an anti-white propaganda?” were found at McGill University and McMaster University. Posters that read “Fu*k Your Turban” were found at the University of Alberta, as well.
“Regardless of what the theoretical conception of Canada is—socially and politically—whatever and whichever a prime minister wants to choose to say that Canada is a liberal democracy and that we have a multiple code-listing identity […], that has never, on the ground, done anything to sort-of medicate this kind of domestic threat, […] like a violence threat,” Zhou told The Medium in an interview when asked if the multicultural environment that Canada is known to have would be able to overcome such hate-speech incidents.
“Right now, we’re seeing [political discourse] around the world start to stipple to the right, and whether or not the Conservative Party will be capitalized in the next general election, it’s never made to be seen,” he continued. “But if that happens, then you’ll certainly see more holding of [right-wing] groups throughout Canada.”
Zhou links an example in his op-ed back to a U of T incident in September 2015, where “White students’ union posters” were taken down for appearing to “advertise a union for white students.”
“No case of hate-speech at UTM has been brought to my attention,” UTM’s interim principal, Ulrich Krull stated in an email to The Medium.
Krull believes that “extreme right-wing” activities have existed throughout modern history.
“I do believe it is true that Trump has encouraged some ill-informed behaviours, and it would be hard to argue the point when seeing a Canadian sign that reads ‘Make Canada Great Again’—we know where this slogan originated,” Krull said. “However, the reality is that right-wing sentiment has been on the fringe of our Canadian society, just as the left-wing has, and the fringe always tend to explore the latitude of public opinion. It is a cyclic phenomenon, where the fringe pushes, and the large majority eventually pushes back.”
In response to whether or not a hate-speech incident would be considered free speech, Krull stated that the issue of hate speech “arises that a judgement is required between freedom of speech and what is prescribed in law.”
“There are also policies and the code of conduct at the university,” he added. “These are not law, but define the expectations of the university community that have been agreed to through our governance system.”
According to Krull, if there is a situation that “might contravene policy or code,” the head of the unit where the situation takes place would take responsibility for action. He added, “These matters are often confidential, so that due process can proceed and evidence can be assessed.”
Krull also explained that in a hypothetical case where the university needs to take action, although largely dependent on the situation, the university would follow the policy, which is to call the police.
However, Krull added, “this is always done with caution and respect” to ensure that the person involved in use of hate speech “has no mental issue in which they have no control over. We would much rather support such an individual to improve their health than persecute them through a policy.”
The opinion article has attracted nearly 20,000 shares, as of press time.