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  • Eva Kurilova

How the Canadian Anti-Hate Network is Policing Thought Crime with Your Tax Dollars

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

by Eva Kurilova

Canada has a growing problem not only with free speech but free thought, and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network is leading the charge to silence unpopular opinion.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) is a federally funded organization that claims to monitor far-right hate groups in Canada, including neo-Nazis. Among its other targets are anyone critical of gender identity ideology, including feminists, women’s rights organizations, and those advocating to stop the medical harm caused by childhood gender transition.

CAHN was founded in Toronto in 2018. According to CBC, it was formed by a group of more than 15 academics, journalists, legal experts, and community leaders with the intention of “keeping an eye on the Canadian far right.”

Since its establishment, CAHN has received support from Canadian institutions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada’s largest union. The 2021 CUPE National Convention report lists CAHN among the beneficiaries of its 2019 and 2020 financial contributions to coalition partners and allies that help “build a better society and a better world.”

In June 2020, CAHN was also listed as one of the recipients of a $1 million donation from BMO Financial Group for “organizations in North America to support social and racial justice, and inclusion.” It was not specified how much each organization received, but the substantial gift was divided only four ways.

The following October, CAHN officially established ties to the Canadian government. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Heritage announced $15 million in funding for anti-racism projects across the country. CAHN received $268,400 for their “Containing and Countering Canadian Hate Groups” project, which has a stated aim to “increase the monitoring of extreme-right groups, report on their activities, and file complaints with law enforcement.”

CAHN has also received smaller donations from organizations like the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. At the beginning of 2021, the foundation awarded CAHN a sum of $6,000 from its Community Mobilization Fund. CAHN solicits private donations through its website as well.

After receiving all of this funding, CAHN decided that a good use of its resources was to run a series of articles against Canadian “TERFs,” a slur that stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” and is levelled at any woman who has questions, concerns, or the slightest hint of trepidation about gender identity ideology.

On April 13, 2021, CAHN published a piece by Sébastien Roback targeting the Canadian Women's Sex-Based Rights (caWsbar) organization, titled The ‘Gender Critical’ Group Building a Cross-Country Anti-Trans Coalition.

The article is full of inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies. It begins by putting “sex-based rights” in quotations, leading one to assume that CAHN doesn’t believe women actually have sex-based rights, despite sex being a protected characteristic in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It also calls caWsbar “Canada’s largest TERF group,” despite the fact that it is a non-partisan, single-issue, and not an explicitly or implicitly radical feminist organization—something that is obvious after a few minutes on the caWsbar website.

Roback seems particularly upset that caWsbar is willing to work across party lines to protect women and children from gender ideology. “Despite billing themselves as feminists,” he writes, “it is not rare for TERF groups like caWsbar to collaborate with right-wing groups and individuals.”

Here, he lets his ideological and political bias shine. Though CAHN is ostensibly concerned about extreme-right hate groups, it is obvious that Roback has a problem with anything remotely “right-wing” at all (which is likely anything slightly to the right of his own politics). It is no less than left-wing authoritarianism hiding under the guise of “anti-hate.”

In a response to the piece, caWsbar wrote:

It should be noted that recent CAHN articles targeting caWsbar never provide a rationale as to why our position is supposedly “hateful.” They never mention it is women they are ruthlessly targeting and attacking with unfounded slurs of “bigotry” for refusing to be redefined. Indeed, they never state what we’ve actually written or said.

Roback, who graduated from McGill University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, describes himself as a freelance journalist and researcher with CAHN. In a phone interview for a CTV article about rising "anti-trans hate" in Canada, he pretends to be an expert on feminism and opines that Canada’s “TERF groups” come from “a very reactionary application of second-wave feminism theory.”

Second-wave feminism, of course, was deeply rooted in the reality of sex. Many early second-wave feminists and lesbian feminists spoke openly against the incursion of males identifying as women in their spaces.

Sébastien Roback

Roback’s main gripe seems to be that some women stubbornly insist feminism is for female human beings, otherwise known as women, and refuse to jump on board with the more “gender inclusive” third-wave feminist movement, as he calls it.

Roback’s follow-up piece about the problem of Canadian women thinking for themselves, “Canada’s Capital Fights Back Against Anti-Trans Hate with Counter Postering Campaign,” was posted by CAHN on April 21.

He begins by claiming that “transphobic stickers and posters” had been found in downtown Ottawa. Choosing to forgo journalistic integrity, he doesn’t show any pictures of these offensive materials nor let the reader know what they said. He does, however, quote activist and trans-identified male Fae Johnstone about how Ottawa has become unwelcoming and unsafe for trans people as a result.

Luckily, on March 15, Johnstone had provided some images to show us what all the fuss was about. He tweeted four photos of the supposedly “transphobic” and “transmisogynistic” content: the caWsbar “7 issues affecting women's sex-based rights” flyer, a sticker with the dictionary definition of “man” (adult human male), a sticker that says “keep prisons single sex,” and a sticker that says “female sex rights are not political.”

Johnstone described the posters and stickers as part of a “concerted effort to strip trans people of their rights.” He gave no justifications for this incendiary statement and Roback did not push for any.

One would have to make a great reach to find hatred in these materials, but CAHN’s funding relies on it. If it is “hatred” for women to defend their sex-based rights, then CAHN’s crusade will never end, and it will always have a justification to solicit more funding. After all, there will always be women willing to fight for their rights. Painting them as right-wing extremists is good for business.

CAHN continued its tirade against women who think the wrong way by turning its attention specifically to Albertan feminists, which should come as no surprise. Despite the fact that Alberta is in lockstep with the rest of Canada when it comes to gender identity issues, and despite the fact that it has embraced the SOGI 1 2 3 program that confuses kids about sex in schools, Alberta is still a favourite conservative boogeyman province for the Canadian far left.

On August 19, 2021, posted another anti-feminist piece called “The Hill I Am Prepared to Die On’: the Fight Against Trans Women in Alberta.”

The piece opens by targeting Raine McLeod, founder of Alberta Radical Feminists, and claiming that “the group was created in response to a perceived threat towards the rights and privacy of ‘biological’ women.” CAHN seems to think that either there is no such thing as biological women or that women shouldn’t speak about their rights and privacy—or both.

The article then takes aim at the Alberta Women’s Advocacy Association (AWAA), a non-profit also started by McLeod, smearing it as “trans-exclusionary” and taking issue with the organization’s criticism of “sex work” and surrogacy. CAHN doesn’t seem to think that a women’s rights organization should have a problem with industries that abuse and exploit women.

CAHN sent an e-mail to AWAA with a request for comment prior to publishing the piece. Knowing how it had previously slandered caWsbar, AWAA sent a cease-and-desist letter warning legal action for any defamatory, libellous, slanderous, or otherwise untrue material.

CAHN published the piece anyway, so AWAA posted a lengthy response, explaining that:

In the anonymously-written published piece, CAHN repeatedly lie, misquote, and decontextualise both our work and the work of other women and organisations in Canada. They use factual errors (only two of which were begrudgingly "corrected" after publication, and one of the "corrections" is still wrong and contains a gendered slur) and deliberate disinformation to mar women's rights activism in Canada.

In a personal statement to Gender Dissent, McLeod added:

CAHN's malicious and defamatory attacks on women like me and the other feminists named in the mostly fictional hit piece only serve to prove how very not-oppressed the transgender community is. No other 'oppressed' group has near-universal support and a well government-funded organization working as their personal propaganda machine.

The article also targets highly regarded women’s advocate Linda Blade. Blade is the president of Alberta Athletics and co-author (along with National Post columnist Barbara Kay) of Unsporting: How Trans Activism and Science Denial are Destroying Sport.

It goes on to name several women who took part in two women’s rights events in Edmonton and Calgary that past spring, including University of Alberta associate professor of anthropology Kathleen Lowrey. In 2020, Lowrey was dismissed as the department’s associate chair of undergraduate studies for believing that biological sex is not irrelevant.

Not satisfied with attacking women’s rights advocates, CAHN turned its attention to people who are critical of the medicalization and sterilization of children in the name of “gender affirmative care.” On October 19, 2021, the website published a piece called “‘We've Been Targeted’: Ontario Parents Want Notorious Anti-Trans Activist Away From Schools And Their Children.”

The reporter on the case this time was Peter Smith, who describes himself on his LinkedIn as an investigative journalist for CAHN. In the article, Smith takes aim at activist Chris Elston, also known as “Billboard Chris,” who travels Canada and the United States raising the alarm about the harm of childhood medical transition, for which he is painted as an “anti-trans advocate.”

Elston’s message is not radical or hateful. In fact, his sentiments are echoed by countries such as Sweden, Finland, France, and England, all of which have revisited their approach to medically transitioning children because of the experimental nature of the methods, the poor data, and the growing number of detransitioners who were harmed by medical transition.

Canadian medical professionals are also beginning to take note. This past August, Dr. Joey Bonifacio, former medical director of the Toronto SickKids Hospital gender clinic, spoke to the National Post regarding his concerns about the rapid rise of girls and children with autism receiving these treatments.

Regardless of his legitimate concerns about kids being rushed down the medical transition pathway, CAHN ran another hit piece on Elston on October 27, 2021: “A Paramedic Is Protesting Against Trans Kids.” This time, it also focused on a second concerned parent who joined a few of his protests, Frank Spiegelberg.

Spiegelberg was identified as the Canadian coordinator for Parents of ROGD Kids, a group for parents whose children have suddenly declared a transgender identity and who are highly skeptical of the gender affirmation approach. He is currently raising funds to take legal action against CAHN for its defamatory and libelous statements.

The piece also targeted Ontario teacher Chanel Pfahl simply for appearing at one of Elston’s protests. Pfahl has been an outspoken advocate for keeping radical gender ideology and critical race theory out of Canadian schools. She is being investigated by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) due to a complaint arising from two innocuous comments she made in a private teachers’ Facebook group.

Like CAHN, the OCT has taken it upon itself to police the thought of its members. Writing for the Hamilton Spectator, Michael Zwaagstra said it best:

Regulating professional activity is one thing. Regulating political ideology is quite another. Teachers can be effective in the classroom regardless of whether they are right-wing, left-wing, centrist, or completely apolitical. Simply put, one should expect to see a diversity of opinions among the members of any profession.

Not one to back down, Pfahl decided to run in the Ottawa School Board Trustee election. CAHN, of course, took issue with this and, on August 23, 2022, posted another piece smearing her and fellow candidate Shannon Boschy. Titled “Anti-Transgender Candidates Enter School Board Elections,” it gives the byline to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, but it was Smith who reached out for a comment, calling both candidates “outspoken anti-trans advocate[s].”

Pfahl and Boschy have made it very clear on numerous occasions that what they are concerned about is the effects of radical gender identity ideology on the growing bodies and minds of young children.

In a statement to Gender Dissent, Pfahl said:

This is not about hate; it is about safeguarding vulnerable children from permanent harm. Beyond that, the emphasis on group identity in schools has simply gotten out of control. Schools need to stop with the politics and get back to focusing on educating. Students should learn fundamental skills like writing and reading, gain proficiency in subjects like mathematics and science, and become independent thinkers.

Boschy eloquently shared his views in an unaired, 15-minute interview with CTV, which also ran a biased and inaccurate piece on the two candidates.

The CTV article insinuates that Pfahl and Boschy’s reasonable concern about medical harm being done to children has contributed to alleged threats of violence against the Boston Children’s Hospital, which faced intense backlash for a series of videos on “gender-affirming” care like puberty blockers, hormones, and surgery for minors.

Outlets like NPR have also been pushing the idea that hospitals are facing harassment due to criticism for providing such treatments. On Twitter, evolutionary biologist Dr. Colin Wright of Reality’s Last Stand pointed out that this is a silencing tactic against legitimate concerns.

Both Pfahl and Boschy endorse the Blueprint for Canada platform, which seeks to improve education and respect parental rights while removing extremist ideologies from the classroom. Unsurprisingly, CAHN has painted Blueprint for Canada as a far-right group that supports candidates who “deny trans identities.”

At the end of the day, CAHN is defaming legitimate candidates whose only crime is a difference of opinion. This organization is essentially attacking the democratic process itself. What is going on here? Why is an “anti-hate” organization targeting advocates for women and children, calling them hateful, doxing them, and painting them as far-right extremists?

An important part of the answer lies south of the border. According to executive director Evan Balgord, CAHN is inspired and supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is essentially its American equivalent. Like CAHN, the SPLC maintains an ever-growing list of “hate groups” across the United States. In 2017, the SPLC also went after feminists who are critical of gender ideology, connecting them to the “Christian Right” and accusing them of “adding fuel to the fire of this dangerous anti-trans frenzy.”

The SPLC has been under fire for the last several years as more commentators question the organization’s expanding and one-sided definition of “hate.” In 2018, The Washington Post ran a piece titled “The State of Hate,” asking: “researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have set themselves up as the ultimate judges of hate in America. But are they judging fairly?”

Many people would say that the SPLC is not judging fairly, including Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam International, a (now closed) British think tank that described itself as a counter-terrorism organization. In 2018, the SPLC lost a defamation lawsuit to Nawaz and had to pay out a $3.375 million settlement for including Quilliam International in its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”

Writing for The Federalist, Kyle Shideler sums up the issue well in his article “How The Southern Poverty Law Center Started Inventing ‘Hate Groups”:

In the earliest days of the SPLC, the Alabama-based civil rights law firm did target truly racist and hateful groups, most famously the United Klans of America, which the SPLC devastated in a successful lawsuit it launched in 1984.

But to keep the money flowing, the SPLC kept insisting hate groups and white supremacy were expanding. To do this, an ever-widening definition of hatred was required. The SPLC expanded its list of “hate groups” to include not just the shrinking numbers of vile KKK and neo-Nazi groups, but groups that were merely controversial and even harmless.

Unfortunately, CAHN thought this was a model worth importing into Canada, and it instantly went about the business of smearing Canadians as hateful for their political opinions or differences in belief. John Klein says it well in his piece for C2C Journal, “The Wrath of CAHN”:

Having inserted itself into public discussions on hate, the next requirement in SPLC mimicry is to build a case that Canada is a seething hotbed of hatred.

The SPLC and CAHN thus grandly claim for themselves the overlapping roles of investigator, adjudicator and punisher of actions, opinions and ideas they determine to be wrong… No single organization should ever have such sweeping powers combined, let alone a private group of activists.

While both organizations have appointed themselves as the morality police, their own leadership has been embroiled in scandal. In 2019, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees was fired following allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Writing for The New Yorker, Bob Moser explains:

Dees’s ouster had come amid a staff revolt over the mistreatment of nonwhite and female staffers… A number of staffers subsequently signed onto two letters of protest to the center’s leadership, alleging that multiple reports of sexual harassment by Dees through the years had been ignored or covered up, and sometimes resulted in retaliation against the women making the claims.

In 2022, CAHN chair Bernie Farber was also embroiled in controversy when he tweeted an image of an anti-Semitic flier he claimed had been found at the trucker rally in Ottawa. Journalist Jonathan Kay pointed out that it was the exact same picture taken two weeks prior in Miami.

It is worth noting that the SPLC has received financial support from the Arcus Foundation, as well as multiple grants over the years from the Tides Foundation (2000, 2001, 2016, 2017, 2019). Both of these foundations have been involved in funneling large sums of money to promote gender identity ideology in Canada.

Two SPLC law fellows (Sam Brooke and Eric Ward) have also received grants from George Soros’ Open Societies Foundation, which has likewise been a key player in Canada’s wholesale embrace of the new gender religion.

It is easy to see why the Canadian government apparently doesn’t have a problem with taxpayer dollars funding a campaign against Canadians who recognize the harm that gender ideology is doing to women and children. On the contrary: the government has chosen to continue working with CAHN. On June 29, 2022, Canadian Heritage announced that the Government of Canada was partnering with CAHN to launch an “anti-hate toolkit” for Canadian schools.

The goal of the toolkit is ostensibly to “help educators and parents protect kids from racist, gendered, and anti-2SLGBTQ+ bullying.” While this would perhaps be a worthy goal in other, more capable, and non-biased hands, CAHN is the least qualified organization for such a project.

That the Trudeau government thinks a group with a clear disdain for women’s boundaries and the safeguarding of children can be trusted to protect children is disappointing, but not at all surprising. After all, this is the government that passed the disastrous Bill C-16, which added gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code at the direct expense of women’s sex-based rights.

Later, when feminists agitated for the “gender-based analysis” that the Trudeau government promised to carry out for any new legislation, they received a highly redacted document with little more than some nonsense definitions of terms like “gender identity” and “gender expression” left visible.

This is also the government that passed Bill C-4, which was sold as a ban on “conversion therapy.” In actuality, the bill potentially makes it a criminal offence for clinicians to do anything but “affirm” a client’s stated “gender identity,” even in the case of a child.

In an open letter to the Senate of Canada, Canadian Gender Report wrote:

It’s clear that the rest of the world is taking steps to understand and approach medical gender transition of young people with extreme caution. Bill C4 may move Canada in the opposite direction.

A growing number of individuals and groups across Canada are expressing legitimate concerns about the impact of gender identity ideology on women’s rights and children’s health and safety. Among them is Trish Wood, an award-winning investigative journalist and former host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate. Wood recently explored these topics in her powerful Substack piece, WE ARE LIVING THE FALL OF ROME.

These voices offer rational and well-thought-out critiques of very important issues only to be vilified by the likes of CAHN as hateful, right-wing extremists. Imagine the (rightful) outcry if a conservative government gave a quarter of a million dollars to an organization that solely tracked left-wing hate groups. Now imagine if what that organization actually did was attack and smear its political opponents in an effort to silence them instead.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is an ideologically driven and authoritarian organization with an interest in seeing hate everywhere to justify continued funding and donations. To this end, it has gone after women advocating for their charter rights and concerned Canadians fighting against the medicalization and sterilization of children. One is left asking: when does an anti-hate group become a hate group itself?

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