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Friday, September 30, 2022
Reflecting on the U.S. Capitol attack, Niagara MPP asks Ford to disavow Canadian-founded ‘Proud Boys’
Wayne Gates
Wayne Gates Richard Harley/File

Niagara Falls riding MPP Wayne Gates
Special to Niagara Now

As a member of a democratic legislative body, yesterday was a heartbreaking day. I watched as one of the oldest houses of democracy in the world was overrun by an unruly mob. I saw scenes yesterday I never believed I would see in my lifetime.

Upon deep reflection I am left with two overarching lessons. The first is that words matter. As much as words matter, silence also matters. For four years too many of us have watched Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets, chalked them up to the ravings of a man hungry for ratings and simply moved on. All the while growing legions of his supporters bought into the rage and division he was stoking. All the while his refusal to condemn the worst fringes of his movement allowed the most disturbing of views to have oxygen and grow. We must learn the lesson quickly that way we say and do as civic leader’s matters. We must speak words against these fringes if they exist in any of our parties or social movements – no exceptions. And make no mistake about it, these views are festering in our democracy as well. We now know that Canada has seen a 200% increase in active hate groups over the last five years.

When the ugly events of Jan. 6 are investigated it will assuredly be revealed that there were a litany of preventive actions that could’ve been taken before the riot to stop the mayhem. Had racist and tyrannical viewpoints not been allowed to flourish, had anger not been stoked, had fictions not been given room to grow than it’s likely the ugliness we saw in Washington, DC could’ve been averted. We stand at that preventative moment where we can speak out and quash these ideals before they spread. We must denounce hate speech in all it’s form, disavow these leaders and fight more than ever for a democracy where political foes can still see each other as colleagues and dare I say, even friends.

This is why we have called on Premier Ford to immediately disavow the so-called ‘Proud Boys’ – a Canadian founded far-right hate group which echoes the worst of President Trump’s sentiments and that was involved in yesterday’s attack. The Premier must disavow them because they clearly think he’s one of them, going so far as to name him the ‘Proud Boy of the Month’ in the past. There can be no more photos with their supporters, soft language skirting around disavowal or silence about their praise. 

Beyond this is the second lesson – actions matter. Mr. Ford must inform authorities in Ottawa that Ontario requests the Proud Boys be added to the Terrorist Entities list and included in counter-terrorism strategy.

Yesterday was a dark day for democracy anywhere. Canada’s most beloved and fundamental houses of democracy began here in Niagara. We have seen many attacks on democracy and inclusion in our history. Now, more than ever, we must all accept our civic duty and speak out, take action and promote inclusivity, civic debate and peaceful disagreement. We now see what choosing another path can lead to.