The discovery of a “whites-only mom & tots” poster in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, is raising major concerns about the rise of racism and hate speech in the province.
Posted on Instagram by Indigenous journalist Brandi Morin, thousands of Canadians have commented, horrified by the poster that asks white parents if they’re “tired of being a minority?” The poster also shares how white people can “escape forced diversity” by joining “other proud parents of European children to create an atmosphere in which their kids can feel like they belong.”
“Invest in your child’s sense of well being and racial identity by giving them the gift of time spent amongst their own people – because they deserve it,” the poster states, accompanied by a URL link and an email address for parents to join a chat group.
Morin joined the "White Tri-cities" group and posted screenshots of the chat discussion which includes hundreds of members being encouraged to keep their identities anonymous. The chat mainly focused on when and where the parents can meet, as well as discussion about why they feel they’re “not the racists.”
“It’s a thinly veiled meeting of white supremacy that breeds hate into the next generation – truly sickening and wholly unsafe,” commented Instagram user @indigi_nish under Morin’s post.
“It’s pretty easy to see the scandalous unethical behaviour in this country, especially when most leadership stood and applauded for a Nazi veteran in our parliament. Nothing here is unbelievable anymore,” wrote another user.
“Their ancestors imposed their presence on native lands at the expense of Native American and African people and now they want to act victimized,” commented another user.
Poster may be a 'campaign for attention'
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) says the poster’s messaging aligns with groups like “White Lives Matter” that have used similar language.
“It is draping racist messaging in the same terms used by social justice movements. It is an old tactic, but effective. The poster isn't advocating to create a place where children can thrive, but where they can be kept apart from those they view as lesser. There is also the very real possibility this poster is not actually seeking parents for a white-only daycare, but a campaign for attention,” Peter Smith, a journalist and researcher with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, wrote in an email to Yahoo News Canada.
While CAHN doesn’t track the number of incidents of posters and propaganda distributed in the country, the network says it’s a very common tactic to put up posters with hateful messaging in public places with hopes that locals will see the material firsthand and that media outlets will spread the message for them.
We are seeing growing support for the far-right and racist politics. There are a number of opinions about what is driving this global rise of the far-right, but it is also important to remember that prejudice and intolerance of people who exist outside the majority is nothing new, and certainly not in Canada.Peter Smith, journalist and researcher, Canadian Anti-Hate Network
He says the good news is that most people are outraged and do not want this type of hate in their communities.
“Vigilance and education against intolerance is the best preventative steps people can take. Those who want to be proactive against racist and authoritarian groups and movements should consider organizing within their communities, monitoring and sharing information on the local far-right, and connecting with like-minded individuals to build strong networks of support for each other,” Smith wrote on behalf of CAHN.
Despite government support, 'racists are getting too comfortable'
Under Morin’s Instagram post that exposes the group, many online users are calling on the government to address what’s been called an “escalating and unsettling” organizing of white supremacy.
In an email to Yahoo News, Mable Elmore, the B.C. Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, wrote, “I am deeply troubled by the appearance of posters promoting a ‘white-only’ moms and tots group in the Metro Vancouver area. This is completely unacceptable. These acts of racism and bigotry have no place in any community in B.C. I applaud citizens' and local municipal leaders' proactive response to this ignorance. Everyone has the right to feel safe and to participate freely in their community.”
Through the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, Elmore says the government is improving support services and empowering more people to diffuse hate incidents where and when they happen. One way that she says the government is working to address racism at the community level is through the recently launched K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan, which puts tools and resources into the hands of parents, teachers and students to better equip them to be active agents of anti-racism in their communities.
“B.C. is the only province in Canada with a dedicated integrated Hate Crimes policing unit. This team provides advice and guidance to police throughout the province investigating hate crimes, as well as to Crown Counsel that prosecute those crimes. This policy provides guidance to prosecutors dealing with offences that are motivated by the offender’s bias, prejudice, or hate towards others and notes that these offences are driven by bigotry and intolerance for others and are to be regarded as serious matters,” Elmore wrote.
She explains how this year, the government reinstated B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and increased funding by $4.5M per year to the Human Rights Tribunal and Community Legal Assistance Society to improve access to justice, fight racism and other forms of discrimination across the province.
Yet, despite government policies, people online still say, “Racists are getting too comfortable.”
In her Instagram post, Morin reminds users that Canada is founded on Indigenous land by a European settler society.
She ends her posts with a simple quote, “Racism has nothing to do with feelings. It is a measurable reality that white people are not subject to, regardless of their income or status (Harriot, 2018).”