We created CIFRS as a way to answer the question, "what will it be next time?"
In early 2022, people across Canada—and indeed the world—were glued to their television, computer, and smartphone screens as images and videos of trucks rolling in downtown Ottawa began inundating mainstream media. Social media and alt-tech sites were filled with commentary for and against the so-called Freedom Convoy. While the movement began as a trucker protest against the vaccine mandate for cross-border travel, it became a rallying call for the right-wing in Canada. It encompassed many far-right concerns as signs against the mandates were waved alongside those with anti-Communist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigration rhetoric, as well as pro-oil and pro-Nazi sentiments.
Thousands joined in the protests in Ottawa and other major cities across Canada, while many more joined via social media livestreams, and over 10 million dollars was raised in support of the protests. Blockades were erected in Alberta and Ontario, stifling movement across the Canada/US border and costing millions in lost trade. The blockade at the Coutts border in Alberta resulted in a dozen arrests and the confiscation of weapons and tactical gear.
Many in Canada looked on with shock as governments and police forces at all levels failed to quell the protests that increasingly looked like an occupation-meet-dance party.
“This isn’t our country!” was a common response.
“This is an American thing” was another.
Yet, as scholars of the far-right in Canada and across the world, we looked on with somewhat less shock, albeit just as much frustration. There has been a growing resurgence of the right-wing in Canada over the last decade alongside an increasing sense of victimization, alienation, and hostility, as the country grapples with a volatile economic system, global pandemic, and impending climate crisis. Unfortunately, as a country, we have been slow to stem this rising tide.
As the Freedom Convoy movement began to dissipate, particularly after key organizers were arrested and bank accounts associated with the movement were frozen, our group of co-founders began to wonder what will it be next time? And, perhaps more importantly, how will we help intervene and translate what we know of the far-right in Canada in a way that is useful to activists, media, and community members in the moment? How can we leverage our knowledge and networks for the betterment of Canadian society?
To that end, we decided to establish the Canadian Institute for Far-Right Studies (CIFRS).
CIFRS is an independent think tank dedicated to the critical study of the far-right in Canada, as well as its connections to global far-right networks. We provide analysis and research to media outlets, academic institutions, and community members interested in challenging far-right extremism. Our areas of research include 1) white supremacy and ethnonationalism, 2) gender and male supremacism, 3) religion and extremism, 4) racism and violence, and 5) prevention and intervention.
If you are interested in joining us, please visit our home page to contact us, or join our mailing list if you would like to stay up to date on our work.