This past October, Friedrich Ebert Foundation Canada hosted a thought-provoking roundtable discussion on the nuances of historical memory, hate networks, and the rise of far-right movements in Canada and Germany.
The event, titled Historical Memory and Hate in Today’s Canada and Germany, was based on newly released research that explores the ties between far-right hate groups in Europe and Canada in historic and contemporary contexts. It brought together experts and stakeholders from various fields to foster a dialogue on countering the misuse of history in the rhetoric and actions of far-right groups.
Moderated by Achim Hurrelmann of Carleton University, panelists were co-authors of this latest research: Jennifer Evans from Carleton University, Swen Steinberg from Queens University and the German Historical Institute in Washington, David Y. Clement from Carleton University and International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, and Danielle Carron from Carleton University.
Beginning with the strange case of the far-right “Reichsbürger colony” on the eastern Canadian island of Cape Breton, the talk shed light on the complexities of historical misinformation and its intersection with contemporary hate networks. It touched on:
The panelists explored how historical disinformation circulates, particularly during moments of crisis, and its impact on public imagination. They illustrated how flows of hate that wove between Canada and Germany and back in the early 20th century, through figures like the Canadian white supremacist Adrian Arcand and Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. The panelists underlined that hatred was not simply imported to Canada – but rather that it found resonance with deep-rooted homegrown antisemitism.
An analysis of the links between 20th century far-right groups in Canada and Germany revealed the importance of the civilizational arguments they based their appeal on. Notably, settler-colonial narratives in both Canada and Germany positioned Canada as a “land without people”, a refuge for far-right Europeans – a theme which found echoes in Canada’s Eurocentric immigration campaigns of the past.
The event explored the alarming trend of historical misinformation seeping into the broader public sphere, particularly through seemingly innocuous social media accounts, and creating easily accessible portals into the far right. The panelists emphasized new trends that adopt Canadian nostalgia as a vehicle for historical mis- and disinformation.
Historical Memory and Hate built on work done by FES in September 2022 to bring Canadian and European experts on the far right into conversation, and served as an important opportunity to build awareness and empower communities to actively challenge historical disinformation.
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