On Dec. 18 far-right politicians Maxime Bernier and Randy Hillier plan to bring an anti-vax mob to X (Ryerson) University to deny Indigenous genocide and say that statues are more important than thousands of dead Indigenous children. This is a blatant act of provocation against the democratic will of students to change the name of the university away from an architect of the genocidal residential school system. These far-right organizers are completely alien to the campus, highlighted by the fact that they are organizing their demonstration in the middle of exam season. Fightback at Ryerson are calling for a united front of the university community to say no to these hateful outsiders, and for the broader movement to join us in opposing the far right.
The organizers of the Dec. 18 protest are billing their gathering as “the single largest conservative event ever held at Ryerson University.” It is impossible to know if they will live up to their boast, but we do know that there have been increasing far-right anti-vax demonstrations in Toronto numbering in the thousands, and that Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC) has seen its support trending up after the September election. Some polls even put the PPC’s support at 10 per cent. Therefore this protest should be seen as a real threat, uniting anti-vax with anti-Indigenous sentiment. If these outside agitators go unopposed, it will embolden them to further harass Indigenous people and students from oppressed communities.
Ryerson University is seen as a major target for the far right as the campus has been at the forefront of political clashes over the recent period. In 2017 a coalition including Socialist Fightback Students at Ryerson organized a demo against fascist organizer Faith Goldy and transphobe Jordan Peterson, which ended up being shut down by the university administration to much right wing anguish. In 2018 Fightback students led a movement against Doug Ford’s attempt to criminalize student protest, and in 2019 we spearheaded a movement for a student strike at the campus.
More recently, X (Ryerson) U became a focal point in the struggle to recognize the reality of Indigenous genocide and Canadian colonialism. The discovery of thousands of unmarked graves at residential schools was a real moment of truth. Angry at the inaction of the administration to change the school’s name away from that of a founder of the residential school system, students and supporters tore down the statue of Egerton Ryerson. This act was the literal tipping point forcing the board of governors to change the name of the university. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of students, staff, and faculty support turning away from its old tainted name, the far-right supporters of colonial genocide insist on putting Indigenous students back in their place by re-imposing symbols of colonial capitalism. In fact, they plan on holding their rally at the exact location where the statue used to be. Their very clear and stated aim is genocide denial.
In a prime example of Orwellian doublespeak, Bernier’s acolytes denounce vaccines and “mob justice”. This is quite astounding coming from the mouths of the same people violently harassing health-care workers and students trying to care for COVID-19 patients! We cannot forget that Ryerson has a nursing school and has educated many of these essential front-line workers. These “conservatives” are desperately concerned about “violence” enacted against inanimate objects like statues, while being totally fine with the actual violence inflicted on thousands and thousands of Indigenous children. Now they plan to bring their mob of non-students to our campus. We say no!
The far right try to hide behind the smokescreen of “free speech” to conceal their violent message. We remind them that we also have the free speech to say no to their hatred. They have had no problem uniting with Proud Boys, QAnon and other fascistic elements complicit in storming the U.S. Capitol building. Hillier has called Indigenous people opposing colonialism “dishonest ideologues” who “are attempting to derail Canadian society”. Bernier promoted a dangerous anti-vax protest in Montreal that shut down vaccinations at the Olympic Stadium. He accused “ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and other minorities” of rejecting “basic Western values”, refusing “to integrate into our society”, and wanting “to live apart in their ghetto”. He concluded by saying that diversity “will destroy what has made us such a great country.”
Bernier’s party has spread the racist conspiracy of “mass immigration” that will “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country”. It has blamed immigrants rather than rich property speculators for increasing housing prices, while labeling people escaping violence abroad as illegal freeloaders. Additionally, the PPC has had no problem employing known white nationalists in its security detail who violently accosted a Pakistani journalist.
It is important that the X (Ryerson) community unite to say no to these outside provocateurs seeking to spread hatred on our campus. We will not allow them to deny the reality of Indigenous genocide. We will not allow them to promote anti-vax conspiracies and harass health-care workers and students. We will not allow them to overturn the democratic will of the student body to change the name of our university.
It is also vital that the wider community unites against the far right. In the 1930s the British fascists attempted a provocation of marching through the London Jewish neighbourhood on Cable Street. They were met by thousands and thousands of workers, Jews, trade unionists, socialists and communists, and were given a resounding defeat that halted their advance. Today we are organizing in the tradition of the Battle of Cable Street to create a united front of the organizations of workers and oppressed. We cannot allow Indigenous students to be targeted by these reactionaries. Now is the time to SAY NO!
Where: X (Ryerson) University, Toronto. Intersection of Gould and Bond.
When: December 18, 12:30pm
Event page: https://fb.me/e/2Vzuk9AZH