In the lead-up to this week’s elections, one Toronto mayoral campaign triggered particular curiosity and revulsion. Faith Goldy, who finished a distant third, is a 29-year old media personality associated with white supremacy and the alt-right.
Goldy has raised the fallacious spectre of "white genocide," has shared choice words about Jews and Muslims, has publicized the white supremacist slogan known as the "14-words," has appeared on a Neo-Nazi podcast, and has praised Richard Spencer’s white supremacy ideas as being "well-thought-out.”
Goldy managed to pose with President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, with Ontario premier Doug Ford, posting the photo on Twitter (before Ford - himself an enemy of many progressive values - belatedly distanced himself from her ideas), and received the endorsement of white supremacist-sympathetic Republican Congress member Steve King.
All this may have provided some comfort to the candidate who believed herself besieged. She had accused the media of launching a "blackout" on her campaign, and had attempted to sue Bell Media for refusing to air her ad. (The judge dismissed it.)
She was ethusiastically supported by the racist far-right Jewish Defense League. Thankfully, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Israel lobby that seeks to be non-partisan, spoke out against Goldy in the lead up to the election.
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Fortunately, Goldy garnered only 3.4% of the votes in yesterday’s election. But that's still 25,000 votes.
Following the race’s end, things got weirder. Richard Spencer sought to distance himself from Goldy, accusing her of not focusing enough on "White identity" (capitalization his) and instead too much on "Zionism."
Goldy was "converted" to the "one state solution" (meaning permanent Israeli occupation) during an infamous trip to Israel with her then-employers Rebel Media. During the campaign she tweeted that she loves Israel and loves "the wall."
Since 2015, Rebel Media in Canada has provided a platform for far-right, extremist ideas, despite the co-founder, Ezra Levant, being Jewish. (Levant eventually fired Goldy, who had been a Rebel correspondent.) All this has likely contributed to a concerning rise of white nationalist groups in Canada.
Goldy isn’t the first white supremacist to run in Canada. While there have been a handful of white nationalists who regularly run in local elections, only Kevin J. Johnston (who has been charged with hate crimes) has broken the 10% barrier, coming in second, with a worrying 13.5%, in this month’s mayoral race in Mississauga, west of Toronto.
Indeed, we should be concerned about the likes of Goldy and her supporters. We should fight the neo-Nazi ideas that continue to plague our major cities.
And we should be on the lookout for white supremacists wherever they are running; Goldy's rise to prominence is a trend that follows white nationalists coming out of the woodwork to run for office across North America, with nine such candidates currently in the race for a seat in the U.S. midterms.
But we need to remember that this is a two-front battle. We need to both focus on exposing and sidelining bona fide white supremacists, and we need to address the society-wide racism we are all a part of.
In other words, there are actual white supremacists - the Richard Spencers and Faith Goldys of the world - and there are the less visible, but still very present, structures of white supremacy.
It’s easy for most of us to claim to distance ourselves from the former. But it's harder to recognize and dismantle those structures and institutions and policies and informal practices that make up systemic racism for the very reason that most of us are partly responsible for keeping these systems of power and privilege in place.
As for Canada specifically, especially since the election of Trump in 2016, Canadians like to think ourselves far removed from the most unsavory aspects of American political culture. But despite our more charming and telegenic head of state and our relative social safety net, we are not immune. In fact, we suffer from a similar disease of systemic racism, even if it has, perhaps, not yet metastasized as quickly and broadly.
We have hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women, and a suicide epidemic on Indigenous reserves. We have racial profiling - especially against Indigenous and Black individuals. We too, have, in short, a racism problem.
While Faith Goldy retreats from a fringe bid for mayor in Canada's largest city, she has, perhaps unwittingly, reminded us of all the work left to be done in all our societies when it comes to basic issues around race, justice and basic humanity.
Mira Sucharov is associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa. Twitter: @sucharov