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This week we share updates on two new proposals for prisons in New Brunswick and Quebec. We also have updates from many actions over the past few weeks defending libraries and university campuses alike from reactionary queer and transphobes. Finally, we share news of a recent doxxing of a far-Right recruiter in Ottawa, and updates from the court case of a prominent neo-Nazi.
An action took place in the Terrain Vague in Montreal this week, at the site of the ongoing struggle against the construction of a storage container yard. According to a post on social media, Ray-Mont Logistics had their work day disrupted and participants hoped to communicate that the project is not accepted by the neighborhood.
New Prisons Proposed in Fredericton, Montreal
For the past year, New Brunswick government officials have been promoting the proposed construction of a new jail in Fredericton by arguing that jails in the province are massively overcrowded. However, a CBC investigation has shown that the statistics they are using to make this argument are inaccurate and misleading. NB recently changed the way they count prison capacity, and are now counting people serving time in the community as if they are taking up space in the prisons. These inflated numbers make it seem that jails are much more overcrowded than they are. And while NB jails were over capacity on average by single digits in 2022, in no other year since 2012 have they even been at capacity.
We know that overcrowding is much more easily solved by letting people out than building more jails, but this story shows that this jail should not be built, even by their their own logics.
A plan to build a $400 million women’s prison in Montreal has been announced. Construction will begin this year and if it is built it would be open in 2029. It is slated to have 237 beds. The news releases regarding the plan are already pretending that the project will be beneficial to incarcerated women, and “centre their reality.” No woman, nor anyone else, should be in prison.
Far-Right Doxxings and Consequences
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network recently revealed the identity of a far-Right organizer based in Ottawa, who used the online name “Aquila the Eagle.” Ben Mockler, also known as Ben Burke, is the owner of the Nova Signum gym in Ottawa, and a personal trainer. He is also a recruiter for the Active Club Ottawa, the local branch of a set of white-only workout clubs across North America tied to the Vinland Hammerskins, a white power gang. He is also the administrator of several Telegram channels associated with the Church of Aryanity, a white supremacist organization. Mockler apparently had a falling out with the founder of the ‘church’ over whether members should be banned from having relationships with those who have been vaccinated.
In other news, neo-Nazi writer Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, also known as “Zeiger,” was found guilty of willfully inciting hate against an identifiable group for his statements about Jewish people. Sohier-Chaput was a writer and editor behind the popular neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and contributor to the internet forum Iron March. An arrest warrant was first issued for Sohier-Chaput in 2018, after his identity was published by the Montreal Gazette based on research conducted by Montreal antifascists. He disappeared for two years, finally reappearing to face the charges in 2020.
In the end, the verdict of his charges hinged on comments made in one Daily Stormer article, which he tried to defend by positioning the writing as satire. No Borders Media, who live-tweeted the court date, rightfully pointed out that the Montreal Police Hate Crimes Unit brought forward an unfortunately weak case against Sohier-Chaput, failing to establish that he was a major contributor to a neo-Nazi website. Furthermore, they highlighted that the major victory in anti-fascist organizing in this case is the original doxxing of Zeiger in 2018, thanks to the dedicated work of anonymous antifascists.
Drag Storytime Community Defense
1/ If you were at the Drag Defence event at Coquitlam Library earlier this month, you may have spotted Amy Hamm skulking around with the (vastly) outnumbered group of Free Speech Warriors attempting to shut down a voluntary drag event. A short thread on Amy Hamm & Team Freedumb. pic.twitter.com/SpVFLhN2EB
— Community Over Convoys (@COCVancouver) January 24, 2023
Over the past few weeks, communities across so-called Canada have stepped up to defend Drag Storytime events which have recently come under attack from the far-right. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network recently reported that that events in Coquitlam, Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, and Calgary, all witnessed protests and counter-protests, and that in each case those in support of queer-friendly kids events far outnumbered the haters. In Sault Ste Marie, over 100 people showed up to hold space outside a local library. In Coquitlam, supporters managed to surround the library and shield it from transphobic protesters. A party atmosphere and a division of tactics kept everyone safe and in good spirits. In Peterborough, folks came from as far as Ottawa and Toronto to support the event.
Montreal Shuts Down Transphobe
On January 11th, over 100 people showed up to shut down a transphobic talk at McGill University. The talk, titled “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate In the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T” was to be given by a member of the UK-based group LGB Alliance, widely known for its anti-trans lobbying. The group has opposed legal protections for trans people from conversion therapy, and has argued for the exclusion of trans people from ‘LGB’ activism.
According to reports, the crowd stormed the conference room where the event was to take place and blocked the doors, mostly preventing attendees from accessing it. Shortly after it began, the talk was called off. Before the speaker left, he had baking flour thrown in his face by protesters.