Posted on June 16, 2022

Numbers Show Racist Great Replacement Conspiracy Theory Has Found Audience in Canada

Omar Mosleh, Toronto Star, June 14, 2022

Timothy Caulfield has spent the pandemic battling bunk science and lies.


So busy, he says, he felt he didn’t have time to really delve into one, particular conspiracy theory that was gaining traction: the racist lie that there is a co-ordinated effort to replace white people with immigrants, in what is known as the Great Replacement theory.

But it’s becoming impossible to ignore, he says, in the wake of what he calls alarming numbers about how the theory is finding adherents in Canada.

The University of Alberta professor points to a climate in which communities of believers have become more entrenched online and in which more mainstream politicians seem intent on co-opting conspiracy theories for their purposes.

“I am worried that that a large percentage of these individuals are going to remain in these communities, because they have become communities, Caufield said. “I think it becomes much more difficult to change people’s minds once that happens.”

Research conducted by Abacus Data asked 1,500 Canadians about their stance on conspiracy theories that have become popular during the pandemic.

It found nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they believe in the Great Replacement theory {snip}

The numbers struck Caulfield, who has lived and breathed the world of misinformation for much of his career.

“I’ve been studying this for a long time. You see these numbers, the degree to which people are completely disconnected from reality … it kind of almost breaks your heart,” he said.

More than half of survey respondents said official government statements can’t be trusted; 44 per cent said they believe a secret cabal of elites are controlling world events; and about 37 per cent, or the extrapolated equivalent of about 11 million people, said they believe “There is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native born Canadians with immigrants who agree with their political view.”


“I think what a lot of these polls reflect is a normalization and almost an institutionalization of conspiracy theories,” Caulfield said. “They’ve gone from being on the fringes and believed by a fairly consistent percentage of the population throughout history, to now kind of bleeding into general public discourse.”

Caulfield said it shows how more and more people are willing to accept ideas that may have once seemed implausible.

“This isn’t ‘I don’t trust the current Canadian government because I think they have too many ties with industry,’” Caulfield said. “These are conspiracy theories that are pretty elaborate and far-fetched and aren’t even mildly plausible from a rational perspective.

“Despite that, you see a huge percentage of Canadians at least open to the idea that these conspiracy theories are true,” he added. “And that’s kind of terrifying.”