Jonathan Montpetit, CBC, January 8, 2017
On a sunny day in mid-October, about 100 people gathered outside Quebec’s National Assembly, chanting their concern that immigration was eroding Quebec culture.
They were members of the various groups that make up the far right in Quebec: Justiciers du peuple, PEGIDA Quebec and Soldats d’Odin among them.
Standing apart from the crowd that Saturday were a dozen members of a group that even the rest of the far right finds radical.
Scaling the nearby walls of the Citadelle, Atalante Québec unfurled a banner that read, “Death to terrorists, Islam Out.”
“Atalante are guys that are a bit more extreme than us,” said Katy Latulippe, who heads the Quebec chapter of Soldiers of Odin, a group that has proposed patrolling Quebec City neighbourhoods popular with Muslims.
Other far-right groups avoid talking about race, preferring to speak of religious fundamentalism instead.
Atalante, on the other hand, advocates openly for a “renaissance of the neo-French in Quebec.”
The group hands out food in Quebec City’s underprivileged neighbourhoods but, according to a recent communiqué, only to people of “Neo-French origin.”
Its Facebook page is replete with videos of members marching through the capital’s streets, bearing the Fleur-de-lis and, on at least one occasion, torches.
But Atalante is hardly isolated in its efforts to introduce concerns about race and ethnicity into mainstream debate.
It has an important ally in the Fédération des Québécois de Souche (FQS), an older group plugged into the global neo-nationalist movement.
Together these two groups are working to bring European-style neo-fascism and American-style white nationalism to the province.
The FQS was founded in 2007, in the middle of Quebec’s reasonable accommodation crisis, by a Quebec City teenager.
Maxime Fiset’s goal in creating the group was uniting the province’s fragmented skinhead community, “from simple NSBM [national socialist black metal] enthusiasts to actual violent skinheads,” he said.
In its early days, Fiset told CBC Montreal, the FQS took its cues from American neo-Nazi groups such as the National Alliance, which advocated genocide to create an all-white homeland.
The FQS’s initial members were drawn mainly from the Quebec page on Stormfront, a well-known white nationalist site based in the U.S.
Fiset’s group made headlines shortly after its creation, when he was arrested for inciting hatred. Over the years, the FQS earned a reputation for holding small demonstrations with various neo-Nazi groups in the province.
Fiset eventually drifted away from the group (he now speaks out against right-wing extremism).
With the change in leadership came a shift in orientation.
That change coincided with the reinvention of the white nationalist and white supremacist movements in the U.S.
Richard Spencer, a Ph.D. dropout turned magazine editor, is often credited with rallying these, and various other strains of anti-establishment conservatism, under the banner of the Alternative Right.
He launched a webzine with that name in 2010.
One cornerstone to this new intellectual edifice was identitarianism, a youth-oriented critique of multiculturalism and immigration that began in France.
Media-savvy and provocative, identitarianism advocates racially homogeneous political communities. It found a ready audience among the radical right in the U.S., keen as it was to expand beyond neo-Nazi sub-cultures.
The rebranding effort has been successful, so much so the alt-right is credited with helping propel Donald Trump to the White House.
As the alt-right worked its way towards the American mainstream, the FQS multiplied its contacts with leading figures in the movement.
Its editor, Rémi Tremblay, himself contributes to several leading alt-right publications. He won second prize in an essay contest last year held by Spencer’s magazine, Radix.
“We fight like a threatened animal in order to protect our pack, our people,” reads the essay, entitled “Why I am an identitarian.”
“Our traditions are being trampled. Our way of life is being ridiculed. Our people is becoming extinct.”
The FQS has since moved away from its more activist beginnings. It focuses now on organizing lectures, holding meetings and publishing its magazine.
Atalante has taken up its activist mantle in the meantime.
“We are more interested in spreading ideas, and documenting critiques of mass immigration and multiculturalism,” Tremblay said in an email exchange with CBC News.
“They [Atalante] have a more activist way of furthering their ideas.”
Atalante did not respond to an interview request, and Tremblay denies there is a formal relationship between the two groups. But, according to Fiset, there is a fair degree of membership overlap.
“Even though Atalante is a relatively young group, the members of the two groups have known each for 10 years,” he said.
In August, they co-hosted a lecture in Quebec City by Gabriele Adinolfi, a prominent intellectual of the Italian neo-fascist movement.
Atalante’s brand of activism is modeled after CasaPound, the best-known exponent of Italian neo-fascism.
They, like Atalante, are committed to welfare programs and direct action. An Atalante member visited the CasaPound compound in Rome earlier this year, the group said in a Facebook post from October.
If other far-right groups in Quebec keep their distance from Atalante, they also don’t criticize it outright.
“They don’t totally share our ideas. They might have ideas that are a bit different,” leaders of the Justiciers du peuple, including Christian Desrochers and Alain Parent, told CBC News during a recent conference call.
Soldiers of Odin have organized patrols with Atalante in the past and Latulippe said she hopes to continue collaborating with the group in the future.
“They’re a group I respect enormously,” she said.
With the active presence that the FQS maintains online, white nationalist and neo-fascist ideals are now able to reach an audience beyond Quebec’s skinhead community.
This, said Fiset, represents a big change from 10 years ago.
Far-right groups like Atalante and the FQS have become adept at choosing their words carefully in a quest to make their ideas more mainstream.
Identitarian, neo-French, alt-right – all terms are part of a “whole new way to conceal a radical far-right ideology based on racism and rejection of others,” Fiset said.
What’s worse, he added, the strategy appears to be working. Ideas once considered racist are now acceptable topics of conversation.
“I feel that the extreme right is having a field day.”