Canadian youth are being targeted, groomed, and recruited by white supremacist movements.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is proud to be launching our education platform, including our Confronting and Preventing Hate in Canadian Schools toolkit, and our repertoire of workshops and webinars, to empower community members invested in supporting youth who are harmed by hate - both as perpetrators and as victims.
According to Statistics Canada, there were an estimated 223,000 self-reported hate crimes in Canada in 2019, with the highest proportion in Ontario (33%), Quebec (28%), and Alberta (14%). This means that perceived hate crimes are more commonplace in Canada than motor vehicle injuries.
In the last 10 years, more than 1 in 5 individuals accused of police-reported hate incidents in Canada were minors, and 87% of those were identified as male.
Youth are being specifically targeted by hate propaganda, which exists practically everywhere they socialize online. Before the pandemic, a study of American high school students found that 57% of participants reported being exposed to hate messages online in the two months prior to the survey. Canada First, a young white supremacist group, has teenagers in its chatrooms and discusses how to recruit young people.
- Fascists are infiltrating primarily-youth online spaces, such as Roblox, Minecraft, and other gaming spaces.
- Some neo-Nazi parents and caregivers are raising their children to follow in their footsteps.
- Young white nationalists use detachment-based humour and irony to recruit their peers.
Our research on hate promoting movements and actors has led us to notice that there is sometimes a correlation between individuals "having something to prove," and the extremity of their beliefs and actions. We see this in cases of teenage girls who are groomed and recruited into hate movements, and on the basis of their gender and age, feel the need to adopt extreme positions in order to prove their worth and dedication to the (largely) adult men in these spaces; but the same can also sometimes be said for teenage boys.
At the same time as teenagers are exploited by adults in hate movements, for their youth and its associated conditions — naivete, impulsiveness, susceptibility to peer pressure and influence, struggles with identity — they are also sometimes leading figures and recruiters themselves. In this role, their capacity to relate to and share experiences with their peers makes them especially dangerous.
In March 2021, we uncovered the transnational “Rightwingism” network, spread across at least 30 countries, of young white nationalists selling fascism to youth. The membership of the Rightwingism community skews very young. A disturbing number of page administrators identified through our research were found to be underage, indicating that this movement is not only a youth-oriented community, but also a youth-led one.
In an even more extreme example, in 2020 the leader of the Feuerkrieg Division, an international neo-Nazi terror network, was revealed to be a 13-year-old boy from Estonia.
Given what we know of hate-promoting movements' propensity to use digital media to groom and recruit youth, young peoples' increasing reliance on technology for socialization and education, has led to youth an increased likelihood of encountering bad actors of all kinds, online. The Southern Poverty Law Centre and the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) reported this, and other factors such as “reduced social supports from trusted adults” and “isolation from others who might challenge new beliefs” as new risks for youth recruitment into hate, during the COVID-19 era.
How we’re helping
The Confronting and Preventing Hate in Canadian Schools toolkit will help school professionals, parents, and all adults invested in the wellbeing of youth, in establishing around the young people in their lives, a fence of protection against racist, gendered, and anti-2SLGBTQ+ harassment and violence. When used by caring adults in their community, this toolkit will help when children and youth are being groomed and recruited by white supremacists, and other purveyors of hate.
The toolkit is the central portion of a suite of resources for community members that the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has begun to deploy; including our education portal, found at antihate.school, which will host the toolkit for free download, as well as regularly posted new content focusing on youth and and hate.
We have also begun delivering workshops to community stakeholders in fighting hate, including school professionals. These workshops include a combination of subject matter educational content, as we believe that understanding the context of hate and conspiracism is integral to confronting it; alongside tangible, developmentally attuned, trauma-informed, strategies for community support and intervention. Both our toolkit, and workshops, are dynamic and rooted in the self-reported needs described to us by community stakeholders.
In the future, keep an eye on this space for content related to hate movements, youth, and schools, including:
- Successes and challenges schools have experienced while confronting and preventing hate
- Profiles on adult individuals who were recruited into hate movements as youth
- Analyses and reporting on relevant current events
- Youth-driven anti-fascist organizing