National Post (Latest Edition)
‘We’ll take him in Canada for four years’
The line of cars snaked through downtown, large Donald Trump and “Stop the Steal” flags protruding from their windows.
The motorized rally last Wednesday was in some ways a familiar sight in this season of endless dispute over the U.S. presidential election. As it unfolded, protesters egged on by President Trump stormed the Capitol building in Washington.
But the vehicular demonstration didn’t take place anywhere in the United States. The pro-trump event traversed downtown Toronto, as other fans of the U.S. president held similar gatherings in Vancouver, Calgary and Red Deer, Alta.
And some Canadians actually made the trip to Washington, one describing on video his interactions with police outside the Capitol, the wider confrontation there triggering Trump’s unprecedented second impeachment on Wednesday.
Polls indicate that few people in this country think much of the hugely controversial U.S. leader.
But his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud have propelled a small coterie of Canadians to voice their loyalty in surprisingly visible ways.
“he is a true hero,” said Nasser Pooli, the Iranian-canadian activist who organized the Toronto rally. “The whole world is behind donald Trump … he stands with people, not with the government, not with the media — they lie to your face.”
Pooli’s Canada for Trump Facebook page is full of Trump accolades.
“We’ll take him in Canada for 4 years,” says dan Morgan of Maple ridge, B.C. “The swamp here is brimming and needs a loooong deep drain!”
One poster on the page, identifying herself only as “yisrael Canada,” said she had travelled to Texas to rally for the president, and posted photographs of a woman at a Trump rally holding a sign with a Canadian flag. yisrael Canada’s own Facebook timeline also contains crudely anti-semitic memes and posts promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, vaccines, the 9-11 attacks and the u.s. election.
Political scientist Paul J. Quirk sees public expressions of Trump fealty here as an offshoot of a broader phenomenon: Canada’s obsession with the drama surrounding a norm-shattering president.
“Canadians see so much news about the u.s. that many become vicarious participants in American politics,” said Quirk, a professor and u.s. specialist at the university of British Columbia.
“Trump has become a symbolic figure, standing for a constellation of attitudes … opposition to immigration, resentment of racial and ethnic diversity, hostility toward political and cultural elites,” he added. “Coming out to a protest march in Trump regalia is a way of thumbing one’s nose at all of the major Canadian political parties.”
In the u.s., politicians across the partisan divide have condemned the attack on the Capitol and Trump’s role in encouraging the crowd. Several republican lawmakers voted to impeach the president, while others have called for his resignation.
The most striking manifestation of Canadian support for the president, and an illustration of the movement’s overlapping causes, was the appearance by two Ontario nurses at that Washington rally.
Kristen Nagle and Sarah Choujounian were in d.c. primarily to take part in a public event by a group called Global Frontline Nurses. It opposes mask-wearing and other COVID-19 public health measures, and generally accuses the healthcare system of “corruption” around the pandemic. They made their way afterward to the besieged Capitol.
Choujounian and American colleague Erin Marie Olszewski livestreamed their tour around the outside of the building, describing the crowd of hundreds as largely peaceful, but also like “a revolution.”
In a video made the next day, Nagle argues that the event had been misinterpreted as violent by the “outof-control” and “manipulative” media. She introduces an unidentified man as a fellow Canadian who was also there.
he calls the event a “beautiful thing” and says there were only a few bad apples misbehaving, as the police “let it happen.”
The rally that same day in Vancouver took place outside the city’s art gallery, with two dozen or so demonstrators carrying Trump flags and various signs suggesting he had been robbed of election victory. “Bible over logic over science 100%,” said another placard.
The mostly peaceful event ended in some disarray, as a man who appeared to be a demonstrator punched Ben Nelms, a CBC photojournalist documenting the rally.
The red deer event, which saw a similar number of people line a sidewalk with flags and signs, also came to an anti-climatic close. RCMP officers charged the organizer with violating Covid-related rules on public gatherings.
In Toronto, Pooli said about 200 cars took part in last week’s drive-by, and believes Trump would have more support here if the media did not portray the president in what he called an unfair way.
he said Trump has done a far better job of countering Iran’s authoritarian rulers than past democratic administrations, but feels the republican is generally a great leader.
“I feel really sorry for the united States that a bunch of antifas and democrats are going to run their country,” said Pooli.
The poll numbers, though, indicate that fewer than 20 per cent of Canadians would have voted for Trump. Even Conservatives preferred democrat Joe Biden, an Environics Institute/focus Canada poll last September concluded.
In fact, Environics polling suggests that a large majority of Canadians have favoured the democratic candidate in u.s. presidential elections for two decades. It was not always so, with opinions more evenly divided or even leaning toward republicans like ronald reagan or George Bush, Sr.
Still, while Trump’s personal unpopularity in Canada is in line with recent GOP predecessors, there have been other marked changes since his election. The percentage of Canadians with a favourable view of the u.s., for instance, plunged from 73 per cent under Barack Obama to 29 per cent this past year, the September Environics report suggests, the lowest level since it started tracking such opinions in 1982.
And despite predictions that Trump’s anti-immigrant, nationalist bent might rub off in Canada, the opposite has occurred, said Parkin, with polls suggesting Trumpstyle policies have actually become less popular here.
“yes there are Canadians who would go to Washington to try to overturn the election result,” he said. “But they’re going in one direction when the overall population is going in the opposite direction.”