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Analysis

Right-Wing Think Tank That Hosted Pierre Poilievre Keeps Promoting Conspiracies About Residential Schools

‘It is deeply distressing Poilievre spoke at an event organized by an organization that peddles in racism and antisemitic conspiracy theories’

A right-wing think tank that recently hosted a talk by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has wasted no time publishing a new run of articles push far-right conspiracies – including talking points about “cultural marxism” that Jewish groups describe as an “antisemitic dog whistle.”

Earlier this year, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre hosted a lunch at an obscure right-wing think tank based in Winnipeg called the Frontier Centre For Public Policy, vowing to take a “different approach” to reconciliation.

It was quickly noted that in 2018, the think tank ran a series of paid ads calling claims that Canada’s residential schools “robb(ed) native kids of their childhood” a “myth.” In response, the Conservative Party said Poilievre’s decision to speak to the Frontier Centre isn’t alone an endorsement of “the views of everyone who has ever worked for the group.”

However, since Poilievre spoke to the think tank, it has continued to publish at least two other articles defending residential schools.

In one March 2023 essay, Frontier Centre Senior Fellow Brian Giesbrecht falsely claimed that Canada’s residential schools program aimed not to “take the Indian out of the child” John A. Macdonald once said – but to instead “save” Indigenous people.

“The most startling fact is Macdonald was building schools for Indian parents who wanted them for their children,” the Frontier Cenre article falsely claims. Macdonald, it argues, was a “friend to the Indian.”

“If not for him, they might have disappeared, or sunk into irrelevance.”

In reality, Macdonald’s government was clear that the purpose of the residential schools was to separate “savage” children from their parents and forcibly assimilate them.

Another March 2023 article published by the Frontier Centre, titled “North Americans Are Divided by Ideology, Not Race,” dismisses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings that the residential school program was an act of genocide and claims the Commission itself was a plot by “cultural Marxists”:

According to Frontier Centre Senior Fellow William Brooks:

“…Cultural Marxists have now turned their attention to stoking animosity and resentment among Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

In sync with the racially charged intellectual atmosphere in the United States, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) produced an unqualified condemnation of the way Indigenous peoples have been treated throughout Canadian history.”

The article encourages readers to “reject the negative influence of neo-Marxist ideology,” going on to allege a connection between “cultural Marxists,” the “Chinese Communist Party” and “Davos globalists” at the World Economic Forum:

“The left opposes traditional virtues, well-ordered liberty, and national sovereignty. They favor permanent socialist majorities, ‘Woke normativity’, and the surrender of economic freedom to Davos globalists and the Chinese Communist Party. Cultural Marxists are becoming more extreme and less credible. They deliberately focus on the absolute worst in the history of any people they oppose.”

Pierre Poilievre at Frontier Centre for Public Policy event

Pierre Poilievre at Frontier Centre for Public Policy event (Frontier Centre)

This “cultural Marxist” influence has “fractured nations” over the last “two centuries,” the Frontier Centre fellow goes on to claim. “The real conflict is not between people of one skin color or another. Division is deliberately generated and kept alive by political elites in the political arena.”

“Cultural Marxism,” is a very old far-right conspiracy theory.

The Southern Poverty Law Center points out the story behind “cultural Marxism” traces its origins to an anti-Semitic conspiracy, an attempt to blame America’s changing social norms from the 1960s onwards on a “tiny group of Jewish philosophers who fled Germany in the 1930s”:

“The theory holds that these self-interested Jews — the so-called “Frankfurt School” of philosophers — planned to try to convince mainstream Americans that white ethnic pride is bad, that sexual liberation is good, and that supposedly traditional American values — Christianity, “family values,” and so on — are reactionary and bigoted. With their core values thus subverted, the theory goes, Americans would be quick to sign on to the ideas of the far left.”

Earlier this year, in another Frontier Centre article, Brooks linked Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist organizations to a longstanding effort to “take away our capacity to choose what we want to say” and “transform free societies into authoritarian backwaters.”

This effort, Brooks wrote, started with the “Frankfurt Institute Marxists” and their “deceptive post-modern theories,” which supposedly “infer” that “only Marxist opinions deserve a hearing.”

Aside from confusing the meanings of “infer,” and “imply,” Brooks also incorrectly conflates “Marxism” and postmodernism – two very different philosophical positions.

But, Brooks does claim both have a curious fascination with Adolf Hitler.

“Radical pundits regularly conjure up ‘vast right-wing conspiracies’ and the ever-present legacy of Adolf Hitler. This is the Marcusian-inspired rationale for shutting down adversary opinion and denying any measure of open discourse. Our urbane Wokerati duplicately depict ‘free speech’ as ‘hate speech’.”

Aaron Lakoff, spokesperson for Independent Jewish Voices says Brooks’ essay makes clear use of an “antisemitic dog whistle.”

“It is deeply distressing that Poilievre spoke at an event organized by an organization that peddles in racism and antisemitic conspiracy theories,” Lakoff told PressProgress.

Neither the Frontier Centre for Public Policy nor the Conservative Party responded to requests for comment from PressProgress.

In response to Poilievre’s January 13 event, the Frontier Centre issued a release announcing it was “considering legal action against certain members of the media and others for deliberately misrepresenting the Centre’s mission as ‘racist’, promoting ‘white supremacy’ and not being fact based.”

“A variety of activists, other political party representatives and some media worked in a concerted effort the day of the event to make false and damaging accusations against the Centre,” the release said. The think tank complained activists had used “guilt by association” tactics to “discredit not only the Leader of the Opposition, but anyone in attendance.”

“These misrepresentations focused on a number of policy issues, including the Centre’s work on the Federal government commissioned Truth and Reconciliation Report and also falsely accused the Centre of being anti-vaccination and climate change deniers,” the Frontier Centre said.

In 2018, the Frontier Centre came under fire for running radio ads questioning the harmful impacts of residential schools. The think tank has hosted special events for former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant and also hosted one of Rex Murphy’s paid speeches questioning climate change science.

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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