The dangerous rise in eco-extremism in Canada is fueled by identity politics and exaggerated climate anxieties

Joseph Quesnel: Canada's eco-extremism threat is flying under the radarThe rhetoric surrounding “decolonization” and identity politics, coupled with exaggerated concerns about climate change, is giving rise to a dangerous form of eco-extremism that is spreading unchecked across the country.

This trend is vividly illustrated by the February 2022 terrorist assault on a Coastal GasLink pipeline project site in British Columbia. Approximately 20 masked assailants armed with axes and flare guns descended upon the site, instilling fear among security personnel and workers and causing an estimated $20 million in damages, as reported by B.C.’s Independent Contractors and Business Association.

Had the mainstream media exercised greater journalistic diligence, they might have discerned the ideological motives behind the attackers, evident from the clues they left behind.

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy recently released a major report highlighting the looming threat of eco-extremism in Canada. Our research reveals a nexus with an “Indigeno-anarchist” movement that remains largely unmonitored by governmental bodies, media outlets, and security agencies.

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Regrettably, governmental and media attention remains disproportionately fixated on extremism associated with the right-wing factions. Recall the undue emphasis on the convoy protests, falsely linked to extremist foreign influences.

Similarly, Canadians witnessed a tendency to downplay instances of arson and vandalism targeting nearly 100 churches despite clear links to fabricated allegations concerning residential schools.

Furthermore, a recent RCMP report warned about the dangers of “paranoid populism,” potentially stoking civil unrest over declining economic conditions. In February, CSIS voiced its concerns regarding an alleged “anti-gender” movement, purportedly posing a violent threat to the LGBTQ+ community in Canada. However, despite intense public debates on gender-related issues, no evidence emerged to support such claims of violence.

Elite institutions are fixated on exaggerated threats from the right while overlooking the looming threat emanating from far-left factions championing “decolonization” ideals, radicalized by anti-fossil fuel rhetoric.

The origins of this rhetoric can be traced to the toxic influences within Canada’s publicly funded universities, where self-proclaimed “Indigeno-anarchists” conduct recruitment drives and propagate toxic ideologies under the guise of academic freedom.

The masked, axe-wielding assailants of the Coastal GasLink attack left behind graffiti bearing the messages “LAND BACK” and “CGL EVICT,” which highlighted a broader ideological stance. While “LAND BACK” initially stemmed from Indigenous movements reclaiming sovereignty over ancestral lands, it has been co-opted by non-Indigenous actors subscribing to identity politics and anarchism, who resort to sabotage and property damage in pursuit of their agenda. The term became identified with the meaningless term “decolonization” and became associated with groups that wanted to “dismantle White supremacy.”

These groups, driven by a cocktail of identity politics and alarmist views on climate change, perceive fossil fuel projects as primary contributors to environmental degradation, disregarding nuances and complexities of the issue.

In recent years, many of these self-righteous anarchists rallied around the Wet’suwet’en conflict and its complicated relationship with the Coastal GasLink pipeline, aligning themselves with one faction opposed to the project despite broader community support. Although most activists opposing Coastal GasLink were peaceful, some resorted to unlawful tactics, including intimidation and property damage, tantamount to terrorism under the Criminal Code.

Lacking nuance, they attached themselves to one segment – a group claiming to be hereditary chiefs from the community but who were receiving funds from foreign environmental foundations – that was opposed to the project despite strong community support from the elected band government and the wider Wet’suwet’en community.

The RCMP deserves credit for establishing a specialized unit to address these attacks. However, it is time for Canada to finally address the “Indigeno-anarchist” threat.

First Nations must condemn these groups in one voice, and governments must use the Criminal Code and legislation to address eco-terrorist rhetoric and acts.

Joseph Quesnel is a senior research fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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