Quebec Police Oust Counter-Demonstrators at National Assembly

La Meute and Storm Alliance Significantly Outnumber Anti-Fascists

Members of far-right group Storm Alliance cheering as Quebec City police escort them to the front of the National Assembly on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Police dispersed anti-racist protesters by use of force and chemical irritants to clear the path for Storm Alliance and La Meute. Photo Brian Lapuz

QUEBEC – Far-right groups La Meute and Storm Alliance protested in front of the National Assembly this afternoon after Quebec City Police dispersed anti-racist and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators.

The far-right groups significantly outnumbered anti-racist counter-protesters.

“I’m mad, because it’s always the same people who decide. It’s always the same who cry the loudest and are heard,” said Catherine Lefrançois, radio-host for the feminist show Les Simones on CKIA-FM, a Quebec City-based station.

“We’re here to denounce racism, something that we all know is evil. But police are out here today trying to control me, as if I’m someone dangerous, when it’s the other side who’s dangerous and most prone to act violently,” she continued.

Photo Brian Lapuz

By the end of the night, Quebec City police said 44 people had been arrested as a result of the demonstration.

Far-right groups gathered to denounce the Liberal government’s Forum Validating Diversity and the Fight Against Discrimination.

The original mandate of the commission, which was to focus on systemic racism, was radically altered. Its focus is now on how Quebec can improve job opportunities for minorities and immigrants, and reduce discrimination against them in workplaces. Despite the change, the two far-right groups have remained critical of the forum.

La Meute in particular came to protest against women who choose to wear the burqa and niqab, even though the recently passed Bill 62 prohibits women from covering their face when using public services.

La Meute came with the support of about 400 people, and stood with their backs turned to the National Assembly. Both later marched along René-Lévesque Blvd, but Storm Alliance, with about 250 in attendance, marched about half a street block ahead of La Meute.

Storm Alliance President David Tregget said they chose to do so because they’re not on board with La Meute’s Islamophobic rhetoric.

Neo-fascist anti-immigration group Atalante, who on their Facebook page warns against white genocide, also made a brief appearance—standing on top of the wall by the National Assembly with a sign reading “Le Québec aux Québécois.” Police showed no reaction, and the group left just a few minutes after arriving.

On the other hand, anti-fascist demonstrators were pepper sprayed repeatedly, despite showing no noticeable provocation towards police. After being pepper sprayed, some counter-demonstraters threw snowballs in retaliation.

“It’s pretty clear to us what side they’re on, and it’s really telling,” said anti-racist demonstrator Carolyn Jong, who came from Montreal.

Photo Brian Lapuz
La Meute and Storm Alliance tend to market their ideas to working class Quebecers who feel like their sense of identity is being attacked by the influx of immigrants.

“People are, for good reason, getting worried about their futures and worried about where things are going with austerity. Some of these economic policies are really affecting a lot of folks,” Jong continued. “Unfortunately that [anger] gets directed against a scapegoat, in this case immigrants or Muslim people, as a way of deflecting attention from the people with the real power and money.”

This rhetoric shines through in a recent interview with Tregget and Sylvain Brouillette, the newly named president of La Meute, with far-right YouTube commentator Stu Pitt.

“It’s minorities pushing the government to do this against us,” said Tregget in the interview. “But the people are waking up to this.”

“We’re no longer a big nation, we’re all immigrants. We’re not a society with a distinct identity, we’re a minority in Canada,” he continued.

Photo Brian Lapuz
Both far-right groups repeatedly argue that Quebec is the most welcoming province, and that it’s Quebec people who are the real victims, rather than people of colour or Muslims.

“Quebecois people have dealt with contempt, discrimination, and racism for a long time, because for the last 400 years we’ve fought against the dark side of human nature that our ancestors were victim to,” Brouillette wrote on La Meute’s public Facebook page in the days leading up to the demonstration.

Last summer, La Meute lead the campaign against a Muslim cemetery in St-Apollinaire, Que, and successfully blocked the project.

“I think it’s telling,” said counter-protester Joachim Despland, who also came from Montreal. “If they feel the need to react defensively like that, it’s because they’re the problem.”

Anti-racist and anti-fascist groups say that far-right groups in Quebec began to gain momentum after the the mosque shooting in Quebec City last January.

Since then, the mosque has continued to be the target of hate crimes. A car belonging to the president of the mosque, Mohamed Labidi, was torched in August.