Trigger warning: This post contains an image of a Facebook post containing racist language, and a reference to dehumanizing words used to describe a trans person.

Canadians watch with smug superiority the hate and anti-science movements in the United States, but fail to recognize that regressive attitudes flourish here too. You might be surprised to find Canada Among Very Worst White Supremacist Countries, but remember you curate your own Facebook feed. Aside from some racist uncle you had to friend, your feed shows material that aligns with your politics and values. But you don’t have to go far to witness our shame, in a Facebook group named Yellow Vests Canada. Based only in name on France’s Mouvement des gilets jaunes, the group represents a safe haven for its 103,000+ members to openly share and support stories full of far-right, hateful, ignorant material, including:

  • racism
  • sexism
  • homophobia
  • transphobia
  • anti-immigration
  • anti-science (climate change, vaccines, COVID-19)
  • conspiracy theories
  • gun advocacy

Knowledge of this group has compelled me to keep an eye on it, and recognizing that silence equals complicity, recently pushed me to respond to some of the garbage there, not with the illusion that I would change anyone’s mind, but in the role of disruptor, a dampener in an echo chamber of hate and idiocy. My experience there aligns perfectly with this piece from Vice: What It’s Like Monitoring Canada’s Yellow Vest Movement Every Day.

They Hate Snopes.com

While harrowing to witness the dark opinions of many Canadians, the work in contradicting posted material was pretty easy. False claims from conspiracy websites could be debunked with a quick Google search or a visit to Snopes.com, which is naturally reviled there:

Thread Killer

At other times I would be the lone voice of compassion and tolerance in a thread of bigoted responses. In some cases my intervention either slowed or brought to a complete halt some lively thread – it had an effect. And once or twice, my fact-checking was appreciated…

Facebook is Culpable

I also reported many offensive posts to Facebook itself, with little success. Facebook’s reporting engine aggressively dissuaded me from reporting (“there are lots of reports and we haven’t used enough of our billions in revenue to hire sufficient staff to respond quickly”), and even so, 90% of my reports received a reply that the material did not violate Facebook’s “community standards.”

Does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards?

How I Got Banned

I learned quickly why the trash festers – contradicting it gets you turfed. While explaining to a member – who posted a video of a trans person being violently assaulted – that his use of the words “thing” and “it” represented dehumanization, a practice exercised by the Nazis…

Ted Roffel replied consistently with the same message

…group administrator Tyler Malenfant summarily banned and blocked me. No warning, no explanation – the group suddenly gone from my feed and searches.

When “Freedom-Lovers” Censor

These self-professed lovers of capital-F Freedom quickly censor any and all reasonable opposition, thereby preserving the group as a safe space for hate and idiocy. The result is impunity, a full-on parade of attitudes and behaviours good people would condemn if openly expressed.

Anyone who lives in the dreamworld that Canadians are overwhelmingly of good conscience with progressive values needs to visit this group, even for a moment. What you see there will alarm you – and it should. These are your neighbours and friends and co-workers and family members. They are among us, and they are thriving.

Addendum 23 June 2020: Most of my replies and posts in the group have been deleted, that is, censored. For example, in the thread shown above, my comments are gone, even though they are verifiably true. Here’s another example:

I reached out to moderator Michelle Adams, and she reports she did not delete my comment, and didn’t know who had. The original thread was Seán Mactavish’s.

Deleting indisputable truths is clear evidence the group’s content is being manipulated to fit an agenda. I’ve reached out to moderators to see if that’s official policy, or the actions of one rogue actor. I will report if they reply…