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Vicky Mochama: Trudeau is right to call anti-immigrant groups racist

La Meute has much in common with neo-fascist and anti-migrant groups elsewhere. Unlike other places, it is unique and refreshing to hear explicit language from a leader.

During the summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called anti-immigrant protesters an “angry, frustrated group of racists,” writes Vicky Mochama.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

During the summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called anti-immigrant protesters an “angry, frustrated group of racists,” writes Vicky Mochama.

On Saturday, a 28-year-old Italian man shot at African migrants, injuring one woman and five men in a central Italian town. Over a two-hour period, the man shot from his car at Black migrants from "Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia and Mali" according to RAI state television. The shooter is being charged with attempted murder with the aggravating circumstance of racial hatred.

While this particular act is being described as a retaliation for the murder of an Italian woman, for which the main suspect is a Nigerian man, there has been a marked increase in anti-migrant crime since 2014. Neofascist groups are, according to Infoantifa, responsible for 142 attacks since 2014. One group, Forza Nuova, has grown massively. A Guardian analysis notes that in 2001 the group had 1,500 members; today they have over 13,000. At 241,000, its Facebook following is almost 20,000 more than the Democratic party, Italy’s biggest left-wing party, the Guardian notes.

The growth of anti-migrant groups dovetails with the ongoing migrant crisis. More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy over the past four years — most are sub-Saharan Africans.

But it's not just the Italians. Canadians do not have to look too far for our own example. La Meute is a Quebec-based group that grew out of a hostility to Islam. In recent months, however, Islamophobia has not been their sole cause.

CBC reports that La Meute initially focused on Islamophobia but has developed an obsession with "illegal" immigration that began in late July 2017, when the number of migrants crossing the border through Quebec spiked substantially. Press photos from Quebec often show Black migrants who are believed to be Haitian.

During the summer, Prime Minister Trudeau called anti-immigrant protesters an "angry, frustrated group of racists." More recently, at the anniversary memorial for the attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre, he described La Meute, without naming them, as "racist" and "nonos", a French insult.

La Meute's leaders have taken umbrage with this description. Particularly, they decry any association with Alexandre Bissonette, the man facing trial for the deaths of six Muslim and North African men in Quebec City.

Anti-migrant hostility, especially where it overlaps with anti-Blackness, is indeed racist. La Meute has much in common with neo-fascist and anti-migrant groups elsewhere. Unlike other places, it is unique and refreshing to hear explicit language from a leader.

Though he does everything but explicitly name them, the prime minister is right to label La Meute and similar groups as racist. Connecting their values and rhetoric with the tragic loss of life and diminishing safety is the apt and honest thing to do. Hostility to migrants isn't some idle philosophical debate; confronting the full racist truth is a matter of life and death.

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