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Shopify Executive’s Right-Wing Media Website Rails Against Immigrants While Defending a Legally Designated Terrorist Group

Right-wing Canadian media website ‘True North’ deletes interview with the founder of the Proud Boys after being contacted by PressProgress

True North, a right-wing Canadian media website launched by Shopify’s Chief Operating Officer, has taken down a recent interview in which the founder of the Proud Boys rails against immigrants and floats racist theories for why the group was legally designated as a terrorist entity in Canada.

The now-removed interview was posted last Friday and featured a conversation between Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and True North personality Harrison Faulkner wherein the pair took turns bashing immigrants, trading racist jokes and lamenting ethnic diversity in the City of Toronto.

Harrison Faulkner’s now deleted tweet originally posted July 5, 2024

“Being opposed to mass immigration has become mainstream,” Faulkner tells McInnes in a now removed video, adding that he feels the City of Toronto has “completely ethnically changed.”

“When Canadians walk around our cities, it’s demoralizing, it is genuinely demoralizing to be in a city that is no longer the city it was just even 10 years ago,” Faulkner later says of immigration. “I have no idea why they’re doing it. It’s astonishing.”

“What is Toronto?” McInnes asks later, gesturing to a window. “People have been walking by and – I’m not a white supremacist – but there has not been one white person walk by.”

While McInnes denies being a white supremacist, national security officials say otherwise about the group he takes credit for founding. According to Public Safety Canada’s official list of designated terrorist entities, the Proud Boys are a “neo-fascist” group associated with “white supremacist ideologies” known for engaging in “political violence” and playing a pivotal role in the January 6 insurrection:

“The Proud Boys is a neo-fascist organization that engages in political violence and was formed in 2016. Members of the group espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies and associate with white supremacist groups.”

Through the interview, McInnes goes unchallenged while downplaying the Proud Boys’ violent history and floating a racist theory that the only reason they were designated as a terrorist entity was because the “terrorist list” was “all brown guys” and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wanted to add “some white guys.”

“Jagmeet Singh is so f–king stupid,” McInnes says. “He’s like ‘too many browns, get some whites.”

404 error for the Harrison Faulkner and Gavin McInnes interview on the True North website

McInnes also defended several members of the Proud Boys who were suspended from the military in 2017 for disrupting a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax.

The Proud Boys founder, who repeatedly used racist voices to impersonate and caricature various ethnic groups, is seen consuming alcohol throughout the entire interview while seated next to Faulkner.

“Straight white conservative males tend to be the least racist people in the world,” McInnes says. “They make up anti-racist laws directed at us and they’re like ‘next time you say the N-word, you’re gone’.”

True North removed its interview with Gavin McInnes shortly after being contacted by PressProgress.

By Tuesday afternoon, all traces of the interview on True North channels had been pulled down, including a video on YouTube and an episode of the “Faulkner Show” podcast. All tweets mentioning the interview on Harrison Faulkner’s personal Twitter account were also scrubbed.

In a statement, True North founder and Editor-in-Chief Candice Malcolm denied any personal involvement in the McInnes interview, explaining she has recently been “away on maternity leave.”

“Our family recently welcomed our fourth baby to the world,” Malcolm proudly told PressProgress.

Malcolm did not specifically address questions about whether there had been editorial breakdowns in her absence or if Faulkner’s interview was in line with True North’s editorial standards.

In two other incidents on the same day, Faulkner appeared in a far-right podcast line-up along with alt-right influencer Lauren Southern and also denounced Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri as “pathetic” after she thanked police for laying hate crime charges against a man who allegedly burned a Pride flag.

Dan Collen, an extremism researcher and a member of the Canadian Institute for Far-Right Studies, notes the man who was arrested is a well-known neo-Nazi who has a Nazi swastika tattooed to his chest.

“Kevin Goudreau is a neo-Nazi with a history of unwanted publicity and controversy even in white power activist communities,” Collen told PressProgress. “He is often considered someone too controversial for even some white nationalists to publicly defend or associate with.”

At his sentencing on criminal harassment charges earlier this year, an Ontario judge noted Goudreau was “unapologetically racist” and ordered him not to “utter words or wear clothing or hold signs” that “depict any Nazi slogans, including but not limited to ‘Heil Hitler’.”

Faulkner is the former president of a campus conservative club that was mired in controversy at what is now Toronto Metropolitan University. The club was disbanded by the university’s student union and expelled by the Ontario PC Youth Association. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network later reported on links between Faulkner’s club and white supremacists associated with the “groyper movement.”

Collen notes recent photos show Faulkner “met with self-identifying members of the Diagolon movement.”

Faulkner’s tweet attacking Ferreri, which was later referenced in a CBC News article, was not pulled down.

Harrison Faulkner (Twitter)

True North was launched in 2017 by Candice Malcolm, a former Toronto Sun columnist, and her spouse, Kaz Nejatian, the Chief Operating Officer of Shopify – the number two executive at the third largest publicly traded company in Canada.

The couple previously worked together as spokespersons in the office of former Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

As PressProgress reported in 2019, True North was originally established in 1994 as a charity to welcome British immigrants and help them integrate into Canadian society. Malcolm and Nejatian took over in 2017 and converted it into a “full-spectrum digital media organization produced through a registered charity.”

True North is connected to the registered charity and has previously advertised charitable tax receipts to donors. The charity reported $2 million in revenue in 2022.

Malcolm told PressProgress she and her spouse Nejatian are “one of the largest donors to True North.” Records show another big donor to the charity is former SNC Lavalin Chairman Gwyn Morgan, an old oil industry tycoon whose foundation has given their right-wing digital media project half-a-million dollars.

Apart from his big donations, serving on True North’s board of directors and a passion for “promoting responsible journalism,” Malcolm stresses her spouse has no involvement in day-to-day operations.

“Kaz has no involvement in the operations of True North. None whatsoever,” Malcolm told PressProgress. “He’s on the board simply because we needed a placeholder.”

True North director and Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian (CBS News)

But Nejatian, who previously worked as a lawyer, would be more than a simple “placeholder” – under Canadian charity law, board directors have legal duties to be “responsible for the operations and administration of the charity” and oversee the charity’s affairs with a high standard of care.

Records show Nejatian has served as a director of the True North Centre for Public Policy for several years. The other two current directors of the charity are former Manning Centre activist William McBeath and National Post columnist Barbara Kay.

McInnes and Faulkner’s comments about high skilled immigrant workers in the tech industry are especially awkward given Shopify’s public efforts to recruit foreign workers – Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke is himself an immigrant to Canada who began developing what would become Shopify because he lacked a Canadian work permit.

“My brother was in tech and he can’t compete,” McInnes says in the deleted interview, before mimicking an Indian accent: “I have a PhD from Djibouti University.” Faulkner laughs at McInnes’ racist caricature and agrees, singling out young “rural white Canadians” as one demographic that can no longer find jobs.

Shopify did not respond to questions from PressProgress about its Chief Operating Officer’s role with a right-wing website that promotes anti-immigrant views and defends groups on Canada’s terrorist list.

Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke, Shopify President Harley Finkelstein and Shopify COO Kaz Nejatian (Twitter)

Rachel Gilmore, a journalist who has reported on Shopify’s platform being used by anti-LGBTQ+ groups, far-right media outlets and influencers and Nazi memorabilia vendors, says the company’s laissez-faire attitude towards issues relating to hate and extremism is an ongoing problem.

“Shopify provides merchant services to websites selling Nazi memorabilia and previously provided its services for the anti-LGBTQ account LibsofTikTok,” Gilmore told PressProgress. “When I asked them about this, they stood their ground and told me this didn’t violate Shopify’s policies.”

On paper, the company’s “Acceptable Use Policy” prohibits users from selling “hateful content” that promotes or condones “hate or violence” against identifiable groups.

“If Shopify has ever enforced its AUP in the context of vendors who promote or condone hate against people based on gender, sexuality, race and religion, I haven’t seen it,” Gilmore said. “This is putting dollars into the pockets of the kinds of folks who think it’s a good idea to sell products that demonize, ridicule or otherwise harm vulnerable groups.”

“Not only that, but Shopify takes a cut.”

Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke previously defended his e-commerce platform’s tolerance to hateful organizations on the basis that “products are speech” and Shopify is “pro-free speech.”

One vendor, which Gilmore previously identified to Shopify, continues to sell merchandise featuring Nazi swastikas and images glorifying Adolf Hitler. Shopify did not respond to questions from PressProgress about why it allows Nazi memorabilia to be sold on its platform.

Nazi memorabilia online store powered by Shopify

Shopify, which employs 8,000 workers, also offered no response to PressProgress about its message to workers with immigrant and racialized backgrounds who may have questions about why they should trust a company whose number two executive is involved in extracurricular activities like True North.

Gilmore says past decisions by management to allow anti-LGBTQ+ influencers like LibsofTikTok to use its platform have created “internal conflict” for Shopify employees.

“I obtained a leaked memo that Shopify employees had been sent which told them they must hold a tension between ‘opposing ideas that may need to coexist’ and if they can’t, they could talk to their boss about whether they could ‘continue to feel engaged’ at Shopify,” Gilmore said. “To me, that reads like a threat to their jobs – if you can’t get on board with management’s decision to keep working with certain awful merchants, there’s the door.”

Shopify did not clarify what role, if any, Nejatian would have in these kinds of situations or the company’s policies on hateful content in his capacity as Chief Operating Officer or his previous role as Shopify’s Vice President of Product, but Gilmore suggests “the fact that one of its highest-ranking executives” is involved with an outlet that has “employees interviewing the founder of the Proud Boys” is problematic enough to raise questions about Shopify’s leadership team.

“If his ideology is accurately reflected by True North’s so-called ‘reporting’ and he even puts a finger on the scale, that could help explain some of the disconnect between Shopify’s stated policies and the way they are enforced.”

 

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Luke LeBrun
Editor
Luke LeBrun is the Editor of PressProgress. His reporting focuses on the federal political scene, right-wing politics as well as issues in technology, media and culture.

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