Saunders: The Christchurch massacre may have had a Canadian connection – but there’s a reason you may not know about it [Rebel Media]

Of note:

Three years ago this week, a young man drove to a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers and, strolling through them while firing an arsenal of military-style weapons at worshippers, killed 51 women and men. In the midst of the massacre, he posted an online manifesto that described the murders as acts of racially motivated terrorism intended to stop immigration, using phrases and ideas borrowed from a small circle of extreme-right and white-supremacist publications.

The young man – who we are not naming, in following New Zealand convention – had learned these ideas over a period of months. And one of the apparent sources of those ideas was a Canadian fringe-media outlet – something you may not know, as a result of that outlet’s determined efforts to use the courts to prevent you from reading about it in this newspaper and elsewhere.

Between January of 2017 – around the time he first “had a terrorist attack in mind” – and August of that year, when he moved from his native Australia to New Zealand to begin actively planning the attack, the future murderer spent months reading far-right literature and communicating with people and organizations that had inspired him. By the end of that summer, he possessed “a fully developed terrorist ideology.” Those were the conclusions of a detailed forensic report on the massacre published by the New Zealand Parliament in November, 2020, after the young man had been imprisoned for life on murder and terrorism charges.

We now have a sense of what ideas might have inspired him during those eight formative months. The investigation found that in August and September of 2017, while he was making active plans for the rampage, he made a series of donations to a small circle of publications and organizations. The recipients of his donations, all on the extreme right, had all published or promoted a similar set of then-obscure racially oriented ideas.

One of those organizations was Rebel Media, the Canadian right-wing publisher known for online video sites such as Rebel News. On September 15, 2017, the future terrorist made a donation of $106.68 from his personal bank account to Rebel News Network Ltd. of Canada, using PayPal. Around the same time, he made donations to organizations such as the neo-Nazi publisher Daily Stormer and the white-supremacist organization Generation Identity. It is reasonable to conclude that he felt influenced by those organizations, because they were among the few places in the world then publishing and publicizing the collection of ideas that would be at the core of his manifesto.

Canadians may not be aware of this connection between the Christchurch massacre and their country’s fringe media – and that’s because Ezra Levant, the publisher of Rebel Media, went to great lengths to ensure that it stayed out of the press. Around the time that the New Zealand parliamentary report became public, Mr. Levant launched a series of libel suits against journalists who had mentioned his organization’s possible influence on terrorists and violent individuals and groups. That included a suit against the author of this column for having mentioned the terrorist’s donation to Rebel Media on Twitter, after it appeared in the New Zealand report.

None of these lawsuits have been successful. In 2021, three of them were thrown out by Ontario judges, who agreed with the defendants that the suits were simply attempts to silence the media (or, in legal terms, “strategic lawsuits against public participation”). This January, a judge ruled that, in two suits, Mr. Levant and Rebel Media were “using litigation to silence critics” and ordered the outlet to pay more than $250,000 in costs. In late 2021, Rebel Media dropped its suit against me, too, with an agreement not to pursue its defamation claim against me with respect to my tweets or their contents, and not to pursue any claims against me relating to them.

What Rebel Media appears to have been trying to keep out of the public eye – and, to a large extent, successfully so – was any suggestion that their content could have influenced terrorists and violent figures in several countries.

In preparing my defence around the lawsuit, I found a string of articles and videos that were published on Rebel Media’s sites during those key months when the terrorist was gathering influences, shortly before he made his donation to the Canadian organization. Most have been subsequently deleted from their sites, but can be found on internet archives.

Central to many of those articles is Martin Sellner, an Austrian extreme-right figure who was arrested in 2006 for painting swastikas on synagogues and who, in the late 2010s, made declarations about the “Jewish question” and funded attacks on refugee ships using his extreme-right organization Generation Identity. He has popularized a racial conspiracy theory known as “the Great Replacement,” which holds that people in Western countries from racial or religious minorities are not simply fellow citizens, but the subjects of a plot to “replace” white and Christian people. He is also known for promoting the concept of “white genocide,” which holds that the immigration of racial minorities is a form of extermination.

The Christchurch terrorist was an admitted admirer of Mr. Sellner’s. He corresponded with the extremist repeatedly during those formative months of 2017, and he titled his manifesto “The Great Replacement,” filling it with Mr. Sellner’s quotes and concepts, including “white genocide.” The murderer’s donations appear to have all been directed to Mr. Sellner’s organizations or those that regularly published and advocated his ideas.

That includes Rebel Media. On June 22, 2016, Rebel Media published a post headlined, “Leader of Generation Identity Austria: We want to stop what we call the Great Replacement,” devoted to an adulatory video interview between a Rebel staffer and Mr. Sellner. The post remained visible until at least March of 2019, and carried the tagline, “Martin Sellner of the Austrian chapter of Generation Identity joined me to talk about Europe’s disastrous immigration policies, and why more people like him are fighting back.” Rebel Media’s main Twitter account promoted it with the line, “We want to stop the Great Replacement,” and a photo of Mr. Sellner with one of their staff.

Journalists have also identified at least one other Rebel interview with Mr. Sellner(which has since been deleted), as well as two other instances of posts that appeared during this period in which Rebel hosts reportedly express advocacy for Mr. Sellner. These were among the few places in the world, aside from the Daily Stormer and Mr. Sellner’s own sites, where his ideas could be found in any detail during this period.

The concept of “white genocide,” central to the terrorist’s manifesto, featured prominently on Rebel Media platforms during the time the young man was planning his terrorist attack. On May 31, 2017, Rebel published a much-discussed article, also later deleted, titled “White genocide in Canada?” which asked whether “diversity is just code for population replacement.” Another, published in December, 2016, claimed that a CBC show “celebrates white genocide.” During 2018, other Rebel posts and tweets promoted the “white genocide” concept.

I am not suggesting that this Canadian fringe-media site was responsible for, or approved of, the murderous violence of March 15, 2019; that is solely the responsibility of the man who committed the crimes. But it is quite reasonable to conclude that Rebel Media was an influence on his ideas during the time he was planning an attack, as were the people and concepts the outlet regularly and enthusiastically promoted during those years.

What does appear clear is that Mr. Levant and his colleagues at Rebel Media have devoted considerable effort and expense to ensuring that Canadians do not hear any discussion of their organization’s potential influence on people who commit horrible crimes in the name of baseless racial conspiracy theories.

While Rebel Media’s legal efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, they do mean that many Canadians have spent three years without hearing a word about what could be a Canadian connection to this, and other, atrocities. At a moment when the online publication of hateful fictions is having an increasingly damaging effect on the world, we need to be on guard against such attempts to silence the media.

Source: The Christchurch massacre may have had a Canadian connection – but there’s a reason you may not know about it

Immigration levels plan: Reactions

Have been following the various reactions to date regarding the government’s (overly) ambitious targets for the next three years. Relatively few op-eds and commentary, possibly due to the focus on COVID and the US presidential election which are taking up most of the oxygen.

And much of the commentary focusses overly on the administrative issues, not the more substantive issues related to economic integration of immigrants during an economic recession, one that is likely to linger for a few years.

Have grouped these by constituency:

Business-oriented

The plan was welcomed by the business sector.

“There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, which represents some of the country’s largest businesses.

“Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes, … The minister’s plan will allow Canada to make up lost ground as the pandemic eases. It will inject new dynamism into our economy.”

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters even went one step further, saying Ottawa’s objectives were too modest and will not allow the country to catch up quickly enough over the coming months to compensate for the reduced number of immigrant admissions this year.

“Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand,” said Dennis Danby, its president and CEO, who represents 2,500 leading manufacturers in the country.

“If manufacturing is to be at the core of the economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more in prioritizing immigration from the economic stream.” (Toronto Star)

As Canada’s leading voice on smart population growth, Century Initiative continues to advocate not just for increasing our population, but for policies to support that growth through investments in education and in the national and urban infrastructure that will allow our communities to grow in a sustainable manner. We also need to prioritize supporting parents with a national childcare strategy, and our children with early education programs.

Now is the right time to invest in growing our population. Environics Institute’s recent Focus Canada survey shows that a record two-thirds (66%) of Canadians reject the idea that immigration levels are too high, and that Canadians recognize the critical contribution immigrants make to our economy and our social fabric. We have a tremendous opportunity before us and welcome the opportunity to continue working with gover(nment to seize it in the interest of future generations of Canadians. (Century Initiative)

Opposition critics

Opposition MPs took aim at the way the government has handled immigration throughout the pandemic and questioned how the new targets would be achieved.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the government is announcing new levels without a plan for how they will be safely implemented.

Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the NDP, said she believes the numbers are “a bit of a hoax” because the backlog to process applications is so great that the targets will be hard to meet.

Christine Normandin, the Bloc Québécois immigration critic, said in French that Ottawa is taking the opposite approach to the Quebec system. She said the province takes only as many immigrants as it can process in one year, while Ottawa sets goals without taking into account its capacity to do the paperwork. (Globe)

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan. 

“The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease,” she said in a statement.

It’s also not clear how unused room is being carried over. 

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday’s plan, they are aiming for 59,500. 

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals. 

So it’s possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn’t clear when asked about that issue Friday.  (Canadian Press)

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government must not overlook the compassionate aspects of the immigration system, such as removing travel restrictions for asylum seekers and ensuring permanent residence status for migrant workers in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic.

“The immigration department’s processing abilities is still spotty at best and serious investment in staffing, far beyond what we’ve seen so far, is needed,” said Kwan.

“Without these investments, applicants are to expect significant increases in processing times for years to come, which were already long before the pandemic.” (Toronto Star)

Tweets from CPC critic Dancho:

The Liberals have failed to layout a plan to  bring in newcomers to Canada safely. No widespread access to rapid tests and the 14 day quarantine is not a financial option for many people. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270115921055746?s=20

They have no plan to better resource immigration department to fulfil the levels promised.  Liberals are simply adding to their massive, years-long immigration backlogs that fail to provide potential newcomers with certainty, dignity or respect. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270117384851456?s=20

The ministers announcement did not acknowledge the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 or the hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing unemployment since the pandemic hit and how these new ambitious immigration numbers will impact them. #cdnpoli https://twitter.com/RaquelDancho/status/1322270118290903040?s=20

International organizations

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative. 

“In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians,” she said in a statement.

“The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated.” (Canadian Press)

Academics

While experts had expected Ottawa to stay the course with its immigration goals — given the government had publicly stated immigration would be key to restarting the post-COVID-19 economy, they were surprised the Liberals would decide to take it up a notch.

Although critics have raised concerns about high immigration given that the country’s jobless rate hovered at nine per cent in September — after peaking at 13.4 per cent in May — from 5.6 per cent before the pandemic, some experts say the government is on the right track.

“The timing for expanding the program now is good. But I’m surprised how high the targets are they have set. I don’t know how realistic it is from a bureaucratic administrative perspective,” said Carleton University economist Chris Worswick, who specializes in the economics of immigration.

“I commend the government for thinking about immigration again. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. I wonder if they’re being too ambitious. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll end up at a good place.” (Toronto Star)

Immigration lawyers and advocates

Immigration and refugee experts welcomed the move to grant permanent residency to those already in the country.

“I’ve always thought, even before COVID, that it makes a lot more sense to target people who are already educated here, or have work experience here, or at least have lived here. … These are people who are already demonstrating their genuine interest in Canada,” immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization has urged the government to give permanent residency to those in Canada.

“What we need to see is that realization actually reflected in actual operations, actual policies, because at this point, the way the Immigration Department is working is running in completely the opposite direction,” she said. (Globe)

We need #StatusforAll and Fairness.
Today’s Canada’s Immigration Plan does neither. pic.twitter.com/xhsJtrZBtj— Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (@MWACCanada) October 30, 2020

Contrary to what the government is saying, there is NO INCREASE in IMMIGRATION LEVELS. Instead, there was a 150,000 shortfall in immigrants in 2020, and the government is trying to catch up for it by increasing 50,000 each year for the next three years. But as COVID-19 continues, these promises are unlikely to be kept.+

The overall proportion of new immigrants remain the same, with the primary focus on “high waged” immigrants. However, to qualify for these immigration programs, migrants must show 12-24 months of high-waged work. With COVID-19-related job losses disproportionately impacting racialized people, many migrants don’t have access to these jobs and won’t qualify. No plan has been announced to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrant and undocumented people right now.+ Many migrants — including care workers and former international students — were not able to complete requirements for permanent residency in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, there is no meaningful increase in numbers on fixing of rules for these migrants in today’s announcement. (Migrant Workers Alliance)

On the right

Recent polls have shown that Canadians are weary about increasing immigration levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A poll commissioned by True North found that an overwhelming 76% of Canadians strongly agreed with the idea of a temporary pause until a coronavirus vaccine is developed and unemployment drops to pre-coronavirus levels. Note: Polling firm unknown and thus is not credible

The poll results show a surprising consensus among political parties as well with 67% of Liberals wanting to impose a temporary pause, 66% of NDP voters and 89% of Conservatives. 

“Given today’s global circumstances of a public health pandemic and severe economic crisis, now is the perfect opportunity to revert back to our successful historic immigration model, listen to the majority of Canadians, and take another pause,” True North’s founder Candice Malcolm wrote when the poll was released. 

“It’s time for our leaders to listen to the people and do what’s best for our country.” (“True” North)

While the government touted the need for migrants to strengthen the economy, the unemployment rate in Canada, the unemployment rate currently stands at 9%, from an all-time high of 14% in May. Over 8 million Canadians applied for emergency COVID relief benefits in the form of the CERB. Canada’s unemployment rate was around 5% prior the pandemic. (Rebel Media)

Links:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/10/30/canada-raises-immigration-targets-to-record-level-eyeing-covid-19-recovery.html

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-aims-to-accept-far-more-immigrants-in-next-three-years/

https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/10/30/open-arms-in-an-era-of-closed-borders-pandemic-era-immigration-plan-to-be-released/

https://www.centuryinitiative.ca/2020/10/30/statement-by-century-initiative-in-response-to-todays-announcement-on-canadas-new-immigration-levels-plan/

https://www.rebelnews.com/canada_to_increase_immigration_targets_after_covid_disruption

https://www.facebook.com/notes/migrant-workers-alliance-for-change/immigration-announcement-fails-to-ensure-fairness-status-for-all/10101179406532842/