Meet the Extremists and Social Media Influencers at the Centre of the Far-Right Siege of Ottawa

URL freedom_convoy_2022-michael_cooper-swastika_flags.png

Conservative MP Michael Cooper appears in an interview in support of the Freedom Convoy rally as a swastika appears over his shoulder.

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Title Meet the Extremists and Social Media Influencers at the Centre of the Far-Right Siege of Ottawa
Subtitle Who is really behind the far-right occupation of Canada's national capital?
Author PressProgress
Date published 2022-02-08
Curation date 2022-02-08
Curator Dr. Victoria A. Stuart, Ph.D.
Editorial practice Refer here  |  Date format: yyyy-mm-dd
Summary Ottawa is under siege, but who is really behind the occupation? 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and the rules being protested only impact a small minority of truckers that do regular cross-border routes. Canada's trucking industry had been vocal in disavowing the Freedom Convoy 2022 well before they arrived in Ottawa as their extremism became clear. In many cases, participants have been opposed to public health measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, stalked Justin Trudeau at campaign stops and protested at hospitals during the 2021 federal election. This article identifies extremists and social media influencers who are amplifying their messages, fulminating social discord and civil unrest.
Main article Freedom Convoy 2022
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Ottawa is under siege, but who is really behind the occupation? The siege began as a so-called "Freedom Convoy"  [Freedom Convoy 2022] of truckers disgruntled about public health rules for those crossing the U.S.-Canada border. Or so Canadians were told.

The fact remains 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and the rules being protested only impact a small minority of truckers that do regular cross-border routes. Canada's trucking industry had been vocal in disavowing the convoy well before they arrived in Ottawa as their extremism became clear.

While some, like Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, have sought to downplay extremist elements within the protests as just a few bad apples, many of the group's organizers and participants are drawn from the same old cast of characters.

In many cases, participants are the same people who've opposed public health measures throughout the pandemic and, more recently, stalked Justin Trudeau at campaign stops and protested at hospitals during the 2019 Canadian federal election.

Here's a run-down of the extremists and social media influencers helping to amplify their messages who have been spotted in Ottawa:

The Extremists

The Freedom Convoy was originally organized by a group called Canada Unity, which was founded by a man named James Bauder. James Bauder is linked to far-right   "Yellow Vest" groups  [Yellow Vest Canada] and has harassed picketing oil refinery workers. Bauder is an author of the convoy's "memorandum of understanding" that calls for overthrowing Canada's democratic government and replacing it with an unelected junta consisting of convoy leaders, the Senate of Canada, and the Governor General of Canada.

Other top organizers include Benjamin Dichter, a failed Conservative and People's Party candidate, who recently stated he welcomes the Confederate flag in Ottawa, as well as Pat King, a far-right figure who previously broadcasted rants about the "depopulation of the Caucasian race" and suggested the only way the convoy to Ottawa would be solved is with bullets.

One of the most visible political figures during the siege has been Randy Hillier, an Independent Ontario MPP who was kicked out of Doug Ford's party  [Doug Ford, current premier of Ontario and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario since March 2018] a few years ago. Randy Hillier is getting ready to run under his newly created Ontario First Party in this spring [2022]'s election. Over the weekend [2021-02-{05-06}] - while standing on the steps of Parliament Hill - Randy Hillier delivered a dangerous speech that likened the convoy's struggle to that of Canadian soldiers fighting at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Randy Hillier then told his supporters: "This is the hill we die on."

Randy Hillier appears to be leveraging connections from No More Lockdowns  [local copy], a group Randy Hillier founded in response to COVID-19 public health restrictions - the group's corporate records list Randy Hillier's daughter, Chelsea Hillier  [local copy] - a failed candidate for the People's Party of Canada - as the for-profit company [No More Lockdowns]'s sole proprietor. In fact, Randy Hillier has played a key role communicating and coordinating with a network of drivers of large industrial and agricultural vehicles that have clogged-up Ottawa streets, often using encrypted social media apps like Telegram.

Other top organizers include individuals with police and military backgrounds, which may help explain their unusual strategies and tactics, including the establishment of elaborate bases and supply lines. One such organizer, Tom Quiggin  [local copy, bio at Gatestone Institute, a far-right think tank known for publishing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim articles  |  author at Mackenzie Institute, a think tank in Toronto, Ontario], is a former RCMP and intelligence officer and taught at the Royal Military College of Canada. Tom Quiggin has spoken at events hosted by the right-wing Manning Centre  [now: Canada Strong and Free Network], where he falsely claimed the Québec City mosque targeted by a far-right terrorist in 2017  [Quebec City mosque shooting] was, itself, helping terrorists.

Others involved with the occupation have long ties to protests against various public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Henry Hildebrandt  [local copy] - a doomsday preacher from Aylmer, Ontario - is a close ally of Randy Hillier and Hillier's No More Lockdowns group. In an interview with CTV's television news program W5, the pastor of Aylmer's Church of God  [a congregation within the Church of God (Restoration)] stated he believes the support he is receiving opposing COVID-19 public health measures are the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophesy and a sign that "the end of coming." Henry Hildebrandt was filmed pleading with a police tactical unit that raided one of the protesters' illegal logistics camps set-up at Ottawa's baseball stadium.

The Line Canada  [local copy] was one of the first anti-public health groups that organized protests in opposition to COVID-19 measures in 2020-04. The Line Canada's leader, Lamont Daigle, was filming videos inside his car in Ottawa. Vladislav Sobolev  [local copy] - whose anti-mask group Hugs Over Masks   [see also] received media attention early in the pandemic - was also spotted on Parliament Hill.

Nadine Ness  [local copy] - the leader of a group with links to far-right conspiracies called Unified Grassroots - is also in Ottawa. Nadine Ness' group, which opposes vaccination policies, had a long phone call with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in 2021-12.

Another figure spotted in Ottawa this weekend [2022-02-{05-06}] was an anti-vaccine activist named Chris Sky [Christopher Saccoccia, a Canadian conspiracy theorist known for his involvement in the anti-mask, anti-lockdown, COVID-19 denial and anti-vaccine movements during the COVID-19 pandemic], who recently had a warrant issued for his arrest in connection to an incident where he led an angry unmasked mob into a West Edmonton Mall toy store (Chris Sky reportedly turned himself into police a few days later). In Ottawa, Chris Sky posted a TikTok video showing himself amid a hostile mob that was charging at police, forcing them to fall back from a position near Parliament Hill.

Chris Sky [Christopher Saccoccia] is not the only siege participant with a spotty criminal record. The crowdsourcing website Convoy Traitors caught former Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer smiling for a photo with convoy member Christopher Scott in Ottawa. Christopher Scott was handed a criminal conviction after his business violated public health rules, and he was sentenced to 18 months probation in 2021-12.

Four members of a group called Canada First were filmed at Ottawa City Hall this weekend [2022-02-{05-06}] harassing Ottawa residents. Tyler RussellCanada First's leader, was spotted with a man who was criminally charged with assaulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a weapon at a campaign stop during the last federal election. On Sunday [2022-02-06], Tyler Russell was spotted in a red "Canada First" hat yelling at police during a raid on the protesters' illegal command base established at Ottawa's city-owned baseball stadium.

A man named Chris Elston - an anti-trans activist  [see also: transphobia] who has been travelling the country staging protests outside of elementary schools - was spotted on the Rideau Canal. Sandra Solomon - a noted anti-Muslim activist - delivered a speech on Parliament Hill. Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist   Kelly Anne Farkas was reportedly heard encouraging protesters to use bathrooms at the Holiday Inn Downtown Ottawa.

The siege has also featured an appearances by Romana Didulo, the self-declared "Queen of Canada" who was arrested in 2021-12 after threatening health workers - PressProgress spotted Romana Didulo's recreational vehicle camping out overnight in front of the Department of Finance Canada's headquarters in Ottawa.

The protests have also featured vehicles displaying signs promoting the sovereigntist Maverick Party  [formerly known as Wexit Canada] and Wexit, a far-right secessionist movement that seeks to break away Alberta, Saskatchewan and other western provinces from the rest of Canada. Top convoy organizer Tamara Lich is a long-time Wexit activist and a founding member of the Maverick Party's governing council.

And then there's QAnon. QAnon is a delusional online community that believes   Donald Trump is waging a heroic battle against a secret cabal of Satanic pedophiles. They had a highly visible presence at the U.S. Capitol during the 2021-01-06 insurrection [2021 United States Capitol attack]. A number of trucks associated with the Ottawa siege display slogans associated with QAnon.

Other signs make reference to "Nuremberg 2.0"  [Reiner Fuellmich], an idea popular in QAnon circles that those responsible for public health restrictions will be tried and hung for treason in secret trials.

Plaid Army  |  Diagolon Group

Elements on the extreme far-right are also embedded in the convoy. Several members of the so-called Plaid Army, a neo-fascist group  [neofascism] that wishes to stage a violent revolution to establish a new "Diagolon" country joining the Canadian West with parts of the United States  [neo-fascist Diagolon movement], have been spotted at the centre of the chaos in downtown Ottawa.  |  See also: Diagolon group.

  • [, 2022-02-15] 4 Alberta border protesters charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers.  Young roommates among 9 others charged in blockade at Coutts, Alberta, judge hears.

  • Additional Reading: Diagolon Group

    The Social Media Influencers

    The siege has also occupied the attention of Canada's right-wing media ecosystem. All the usual characters are in Ottawa: The Post MillennialTrue North, and Rebel Media - former Rebel Media personality Keean Bexte even hosted an online event with convoy organizer Benjamin "Bj" Dichter and alt-right figure Lauren Southern.

    The occupation has also brought out a number of social media influencers that have been a mainstay at anti-lockdown protests. Former 700 Club host  [The 700 Club] and People's Party candidate  [People's Party of Canada] Laura Lynn-Tyler Thompson  [leader of the Christian Heritage Party of British Columbia] has been livestreaming from the streets of occupied Ottawa - as has another livestreamer named Selena Paley, a People's Party of Canada supporter who runs a page called Freedom Central Canada  [Freedom Central Canada website].

    Another character, Jim Kerr  [local copy], has been a familiar face at anti-lockdown protests over the last two years [2020-2021], driving from town to town in a psychedelic school bus called the "Church of Bubbles." Jim Kerr was spotted at protests at PB's Peterburgers in Peterborough, Ontario, as well as Henry Hildebrandt's  Church of God in Aylmer, Ontario. Kerr, who has been a prolific livestreamer, was also spotted at a rave on the steps of Parliament Hill.

    Other social media influencers have gotten in on the action. Austin Hill, runs an Instagram account called ShotsByHill - previously an amateur photography account that has since become radicalized.i Austin Hill has been creating videos, wandering around downtown Ottawa handing out $20 bills directly to truckers in support of the occupation, funds which he obtained by requesting donations via PayPal.

    Additional Reading

  • [📌 pinned article] [, 2022-02-10] Who is who? A guide to the major players in the trucker convoy protest.

  • [📌 pinned article] [, 2022-01-27] The "Freedom Convoy" Is Nothing But A Vehicle For The Far Right.  They say it is about truckers, and have raised over $6 million dollars on GoFundMe. But if you look at its organizers and promoters, you'll find Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, and incitements to violence.  |  local copy

  • [, 2022-03-03] Politics of convoy protests 'here to stay,' and so are movement's leaders: experts.

  • [, 2022-02-18] A Network of Far-Right Evangelical Pastors Helped Occupy Ottawa and Block US-Canada Borders.  Group implored Justin Trudeau to "take a knee before Christ the King lest you perish in the way."

  • [, 2022-02-18] Black drivers who saw this Confederate flag in London, Ontario, have a message for homeowner.  "There is a long history of hatred behind that as a symbol," says Trish Kiwanuka, who spotted the flag.

  • [, 2022-02-17] The Canada Truck Protest, Once Small, Now Has a Fascist Life of Its Own.  |  "I am mortally certain variations of this thing will be the Hot Item on right wing calendars by March, 2022."

  • [, 2022-02-16] How white Christian nationalism is part of the 'freedom convoy' protests.

  • [, 2022-02-16] Raging Dissident Jeremy MacKenzie's pal Chris Lysak charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

  • [, 2022-02-14] Dismantling 'freedom convoy' must be coupled with education on the dangers of extremism.

  • [, 2022-02-09] Liberals propose to expand trucker convoy fundraising probe into study on ideologically-motivated extremism.

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