Tea & Bannock: Cultural appropriation by the alt-right

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Living in Montreal exposes me to political dynamics in Quebec. I’ve been engaging in public debates as a columnist for the newspaper Métro Montréal for about a year and a half now, so part of my job is to follow current events in the province. Some topics are more sensitive than others. Racism is one of them. Writing about alt-right groups often leads to harassment from online trolls.

I’ve been watching these groups from afar, trying to understand how they organize, operate and their goals. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the term “alt-right” encompasses a range of people “who reject mainstream conservatism in favour of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy.”

In Quebec, groups like La Meute grew more active in recent years as thousands of Syrian refugees were accepted by Canada. They claim that immigrants, especially Muslims, are a threat to Quebec’s values and culture. Unfortunately, they receive a lot of media coverage, making it easier for them to promote their brand of hate.

Members of La Meute use Indigenous peoples as an argument to justify their hate towards immigrants. They often say that Canada should take better care of Indigenous communities instead of helping people fleeing war or persecution. These groups produce fake news stories about immigrants that often go viral on social media. But the reality is: immigrants do not get a government-funded life of luxury here. They do not receive free dental care and free driver’s licenses as these stories and memes often claim.

Mohawk communities had to step in to tell La Meute to stop using the Warrior flag in their demonstrations. Mohawks made it clear they do not support the group and pointed out that it erases the history and meaning of the flag.

But La Meute keeps whitewashing Indigenous symbols. Their leader, Sylvain Brouillette, is ubiquitous on social media under the alias of “Mahikan” – which means “wolf” in many Indigenous languages.

Using the symbol of the wolf for violent and aggressive ends angers me. In our spiritualities, wolves are medicine and caring spirits, not tools of violence. Members of the wolf clan work in housing, social welfare and care for their community. They’re not out there creating racist propaganda to post on Facebook.

Recently, La Meute’s leader claimed they share the same fight as Indigenous peoples, claiming that Quebecers also faced genocide. Assimilation? Yes. Genocide? No.

Rewriting history is dangerous. Saying Quebec has always been friendly to our Nations is false. History books sure won’t teach you that two-thirds of the 4185 slaves listed in Nouvelle France were Natives. Romanticizing French colonization as a tactic to seduce Indigenous peoples is just gross. Triangular trade was violent, built on slavery and stolen lands. Brouillette even claims that he’s Aboriginal because “Quebecers come from this land.” I hope he pulled a muscle reaching that far.

If I can give you a piece of advice, verify your sources before sharing something on Facebook. There’s a lot of fake news out there for the sole purpose of marginalizing immigrants. As I often say, there would be fewer immigrants if the West stopped destabilizing governments and bombing cities in the Middle East.

Neither are they the reason that our languages, ways of life, cultures and lands are threatened. The real threat lies in the political and legal institutions of this country. I refuse to let racist people use my existence and resistance as a way to validate their xenophobic agenda.

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