Tim Kelly, The Star, February 18, 2020
A professor who specializes in the study of hate crime said posters placed across Durham Region warning of the “Great Replacement of European Canadians” are “fear-mongering about diversity.”
The posters, which appeared last fall in Newcastle and Port Perry and most recently in three locations in Whitby, are the subject of an ongoing Durham Region police investigation.
The posters state “The Great Replacement of European Canadians is not a ‘conspiracy theory’ and add “It is an undeniable fact supported by statistics from the government of Canada.”
The posters go on to state Canada’s European Canadian makeup was 98 per cent in 1867, 96 per cent in 1971 and is 72 per cent today. They say it will drop to 50 per cent by 2036 and to 20 per cent by 2100 and claim the numbers come from Statistics Canada data.
Statistics Canada has spoken out about the use of its data and Whitby town councillors have unanimously condemned the posters. The Durham District School Board has also spoken out against them.
Barbara Perry, who is director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, raised particular concerns with the language in the poster.
She said a term like the “great replacement” is fundamental to extreme right-wing rhetoric. “It is embedded in the narrative of you (immigrants) will not replace us (whites).”
She said an example was the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rally in 2017 where a woman died after being run over by a white supremacist and 28 others were injured.
“The chants there were ‘You will not replace us,’ and ‘Jews will not replace us,’ ” Perry said.
She said fear of replacement crops up in the manifestoes of mass shooters, most infamously in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2018, when a white supremacist killed 51 and injured 49 in an attack on two mosques.
“It (replacement) summarizes for them all the fears, all the threats of loss of identity; not just loss of identity but loss of privilege and power in a changing society,” Perry said.
For Maleeha Shahid, a Whitby town councillor who immigrated to Canada, the posters are “awful and completely unacceptable.”
Shahid said that, “as an immigrant myself who has always been welcomed in Whitby I can tell you our town is an inclusive and a very acceptable town.”
She said the posters made her “extremely sad to see this.”
Perry, whose books include “Hate and Bias Crime” and “In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes,” said it was important to “use opportunities like this in order to challenge that kind of positioning (replacement) in general, not just this particular poster but that distortion and fear-mongering about diversity and immigration. It’s not a crisis.”
She added that “even if (the numbers stated in the poster) is a fact, why is it a problem, that we have increasing immigration, increasing diversity? The kinds of immigration patterns we’ve seen have done an incredible job of making our lives more exciting, of increasing access to a bigger labour force.
‘That’s one of the calls for increasing immigration — that we need more skilled labour.”
She said many immigrants “face job and workplace discrimination and create jobs themselves, by opening small and large businesses. They really are drivers of economic growth and cultural dynamism.”