Neo-Nazis try to get a foothold in Scarborough

by Priya Rabindranath

Neo-Nazis plastered the intersection of Victoria Park and Ellesmere with posters promoting white supremacy and condemning immigrants and refugees in late September.

The campaign in Scarborough followed a summer of demonstrations by far-right groups across the continent. The black and white posters called on residents to ‘Join your local Nazis!’, linking to websites of international fascist and neo-Nazi organizations. One poster, depicting a group of blonde men with their arms raised in the Nazi salute, proclaimed ‘Only bullets can stop us!’.

But most residents were either unaware or unfazed by the far right’s calls for mobilization.

“I never knew this was going on,” said Sophia, who attends the local middle school. “That’s a little shocking.”

Roy, who’s lived in the area for eight years, said, “I might have seen it but I never paid attention.”

Those interviewed were quick to condemn the messaging of the posters.

“Are you kidding me? That’s disgusting,” said Brian, who works at a nearby telecommunications outlet. “I think it’s really appalling that people would actually consider these types of websites.”

By the end of September, most of the posters had been removed and replaced by anti-fascist posters with slogans such as ‘I hate Nazis!’ and ‘Racists have no chance in our neighborhood’. One had a sketch of a woman with a hijab, with ‘Everyone is welcome here’ written underneath.

Anti-Fascist, anti-racist posters and graffiti had replaced the neo-Nazi posters in Victoria Park and Ellesmere by the weekend of September 30 // Photo credit: Priya Rabindranath.

The remaining neo-Nazi posters were ripped up and scratched, with messages like ‘Nazi go home’ scrawled across.

When asked about what they think prompted the act, many thought the perpetrators were influenced by the political climate of Donald Trump’s America.

“I know all these people obviously existed, but it’s like [after Trump], all these people came out from underground, from hiding,” said Natasha.

“People are just letting the hate be their prominent emotion,” said Greg, a father of two. “I think people like to deflect and try to blame the problems, issues, and chaos [in their lives] on other people and other situations.”

These recent attempts by neo-Nazis to plant roots in Scarborough are part of a wider trend across the Greater Toronto Area. Sightings of new posters are an almost weekly occurrence in neighbourhoods across the city.

Most recently, during the first week of November, white supremacist posters were seen on the corner of Broadview and O’Connor in East York.

The resurgence of the far-right can be traced back to as early as 2016 when groups like the Soldiers of Odin patrolled the city and made their stance on anti-immigration clear. Concerned Torontonians are closely documenting these groups’ growing presence on social media by sharing photographs of posters, rallies, and organizing activities.

Most of the Scarborough residents who spoke with BASICS appeared unperturbed by the posters, and many believed that there was no cause for alarm.

The steady increase in the visibility of these far-right organizations across Toronto, Canada, and North America over the last year, however, suggests that their presence and activity may not subside anytime soon.