In January, with little fanfare and even less media coverage, PEGIDA landed in Quebec.
A Facebook page set up by the group, featuring photos from PEGIDA demonstrations around the world, had attracted just under 600 “likes” as of Wednesday, and their first official rally is set to take place on March 28 in St-Léonard. The Montreal Gazette reached out to the organizers behind the page on Wednesday, but they did not respond to a request for comment.
While small, the group is not alone. PEGIDA Quebec’s appearance came only two months after members of another group, dubbed Québec Identitaire, appeared to take credit for vandalizing four mosques in the Quebec City region. A Facebook group bearing the Québec Identitaire name had 502 members as of Wednesday, with the group’s description making it clear “we are not a radical extremist group,” but that “we firmly believe a native Quebecer has the right to refuse to have cultures and religious rituals imposed by ‘adopted Quebecers’ without being demonized.”
In February, the Jewish Defence League — a group that the FBI has branded “a violent extremist organization” — resurfaced in Montreal and attempted to form an organized chapter, claiming that someone needed to properly monitor the city’s Muslim extremism “problem.” They were quickly rebuffed by Jewish community leaders and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who tweeted that the JDL was “not welcome” in his city.
That frosty reception did not surprise Frank Chalk, director of Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights. While right-wing, anti-Islamic groups have recently found a strong foothold in countries where multiculturalism is not the norm, he said, they are unlikely to gain widespread support in Quebec.
Even if they are not drawing thousands into the streets, the Canadian government is apparently watching right-wing groups like PEGIDA, Québec Identitaire and the JDL closely. The Canadian Press reported on Tuesday that Canada’s spy agency (CSIS) recently advised the office of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney of its concerns during a secret September briefing, noting that Canada’s burgeoning anti-Islam movement poses an “ongoing risk, particularly as its proponents advocate violence.”
CSIS did not respond to a request for additional comment about the briefing.