Recent developments in Canadian migratory policy have propelled Canada ahead of its G7 counterparts in population growth. Hundreds of thousands of newly arrived immigrants from all around the globe step foot on Canadian soil every year, and their presence, while welcomed by many, has elicited fear and intolerance by far-right extremists who see immigrants as a cultural and societal threat to the country.
In passing the Multiculturalism Act of 1988, Canada elevated the legal status of individuals of all origins despite vocal opposition that deemed this policy as threatening Canadian unity. Multiculturalism, as history has shown, was here to stay as official government policy. Continued attacks against the Act have crystallized in certain far-right communities into adherence to White ethnonationalism. Ethnonational ideology seeks to stigmatize racialized Canadians by repressing their lives and asserting the superiority of the White race with the ultimate goal of overthrowing our current liberal democracy in favour of a White Canadian ethnostate.
Canadian far-right proponents have not garnered as much scholarly attention as their United States neighbours. Few studies have mapped their activities, and leading intelligence groups warn of the continued threat far-right extremists pose to national security. Christian Costanzo-Vignale’s M.A. thesis examines the Canadian far-right through a case-study approach of a leading White ethnonationalist virtual community where members discuss and mobilize around key contemporary political issues.
How do White ethnonationalists in this community perceive the Other? What are their political demands? What White supremacist tropes inform these demands? By marrying both quantitative and qualitative research methods, Christian’s research presents a snapshot of the virtual community’s numbers, activity, and themes that preoccupy far-right members in 2021.
While online communities on traditional social media platforms (e.g., Facebook) have to moderate user-generated content to avoid censorship, the studied community benefits from its self-hosted status as its users can conduct themselves in the manner they see fit. Members can thus assert their ideological positions in ways that would be impossible to do on other platforms. This laissez-faire approach to content moderation allows for an unfiltered analysis of the content found within this White ethnonationalist community.
Christian’s research intervenes in the discussions around the increasing threat that ideologically motivated terrorism poses in Canada by deconstructing the movement’s political aspirations and main tenets. It also seeks to highlight how far-right groups can use conspiracies and disinformation to promote and justify intolerance in all its forms. Christian’s goal is to contribute to the ongoing efforts by the Canadian intelligence community in responding to public security threats online.
Christian Costanzo-Vignale is a second-year M.A. student in the Critical Human Geography program, supervised by Dr. Liette Gilbert. He graduated from Concordia University with a B.A. in History and Human Environment, where he earned a Scholar’s List 2020-2021 award for highest academic performance in the Department of History. His research interests include political extremism, disinformation, intelligence, and public safety.