Activities by far-right groups have gone from two a year to two a week in the last decade, with 2020 considered to be the busiest year, according to a study released Friday by a Quebec centre that studies radicalization.
The Centre d'expertise et de formation sur les intégrismes religieux, les idéologies politiques et la radicalisation is based in Longueuil, on Montreal's South Shore.
The pandemic — and government measures to restrict its spread — have changed the focus of many groups from issues of identity and multiculturalism to an anti-authority and anti-democracy discourse, the report said.
The study used a broad definition of far-right, focusing on activities planned on the basis of "a hatred" of liberal democracy and traditional values.
"The spread of the right-wing extremist discourse in the population surprised me, the fact that it has become normalized," Frédéric Nadeau said, one of the authors of the study.
"We were expecting that rise but not to that point."
Study identified 45 groups, more than 500 'activities'
The authors looked at a swath of groups whose ideology fit their definition of far-right, honing in on protests, conferences, crimes and other activities held both privately and in public.
The report identified the far-right group Atalante Québec as the busiest of the decade but noted the emergence of the anti-public-health measures movement as being led by far-right figures.
"They kind of reoriented their discourse from that identity and culture focus to a more anti-authority, anti-democratic one," Nadeau said.
"In one year, they held almost more events than most of the other groups that have been active since the beginning of the decade."
According to the study, the movement against health measures held 72 events in 2020 alone.
Nadeau notes though, that most of the participants attending the anti-mask or anti-curfew protests are not necessarily believers in the far-right, and are likely unaware of the political affiliation of the organizers.
The study looked only into the number of activities and not the reasons behind the rise.