Megan Gillis, Ottawa Sun, November 1, 2018
Posters proclaiming “It’s okay to be white” were reported at downtown Ottawa intersections Thursday morning, a year after they first appeared on streets and campuses across the continent.
Stewart Wiseman, a 26-year-old civil servant, photographed some of the unattributed posters he spotted at intersections near his bus stop at Albert and O’Connor streets on his way to work.
“The first thing in my mind was thinking about Pittsburgh and what happened in the United States,” said Wiseman, a member of the local Jewish community, recalling the Oct. 27 shooting in Pennsylvania and the kind of rhetoric heard at a racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.
“To me, I saw that as a kind of white nationalist, white pride-type message,” he said.
The signs reportedly stem from an anonymous post in a thread on message board 4chan calling on people to print them out and post them to expose anti-white bias and convert “normies” to the far-right cause.
The signs appear innocuous, just text without images or symbols, but send a disturbing message to communities who’ve been targeted by the extreme right, Wiseman said.
“There’s a reason why we’ve had vigils at synagogues and community centres all across Canada this week,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s always in the back of people’s head that something like this could happen in Canada.
“The words on it are what worries me. These things start small.”
On Thursday, similar signs were also reported in Halifax, at Tufts University in Boston and in Adelaide, Australia, where a senator who spotted them on the street and responded that “pro-Nazi slogans like this are not welcome.”
An Ottawa graduate student had a similar reaction to the posters.
“Nothing like coming across a bunch of ‘It’s okay to be white’ posters (in) downtown Ottawa on your way to work to ruin your morning,” tweeted Sarah Harney, an Anishinaabekwe.
“This poster campaign was created by specific hateful groups with the intent to stir up media backlash and lead people to the far alt-right,” she added.
A year ago, “it’s okay to be white” posters turned up on campuses including the University of Regina, University of Alberta and the University of Toronto. Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke tweeted that the reaction proved “ubiquitous anti-white hate (and) racism!”
Mina Cohn, the director of the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES) at Carleton University, called them “alarming” and a “chilling reminder of alt-right activity.”
When mainstream political leaders make “xenophobic” ideologies are promulgated by mainstream leaders, it gives license to victimize minorities, she said.