In an exclusive story from North99, we investigate the troubling connections between the Koch-backed Atlas Network, far-right Canadian advocacy groups, and their efforts to indoctrinate and brainwash university students across Canada.
To learn more about the Atlas Network’s influence in Canada, and the groups they fund, please read our story Dark Money in Conservative Politics: The Shadowy American Nonprofit Bankrolling Canada’s Conservative Movement.
This investigation is the first in our series analyzing the impact of these groups on Canadian campuses, particularly one organization called Generation Screwed.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Generation Screwed
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is a Canadian advocacy group and an Atlas Network partner. They claim to be an independent think tank and are often treated as such by the mainstream media. But as reported by other media outlets, the organization’s structure is opaque and misleading:
The CTF’s seven current board members are the group’s only members, despite the media’s repeated claims it has tens of thousands of members — a reference to the group’s “supporters,” people who have clicked on a web button to find out more about the CTF.
We’ll look more into the Taxpayers Federation at a future date. Suffice to say that at one point their Alberta Director and National Research Director was Derek Fildebrandt, a thoroughly discredited Alberta Wildrose MLA who was convicted of a hit and run and illegal hunting.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation runs a university-focused advocacy program called Generation Screwed. The organization’s purpose is stated as follows:
Young Canadians see this country heading for a fiscal cliff and want to set off alarm bells. Of course, raising awareness about Canada’s impending debt crisis is not enough. That is why Generation Screwed also helps organize young Canadians so they can take political action. That means holding events, visiting universities and running online campaigns.
They do this by generating media coverage, hosting events with rightwing speakers, and touring campuses, with recent events at, Acadia University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Toronto. They claim to have 27 clubs across different Canadian universities.
Generation Screwed and America’s Far-Right Movement
The connections between Generation Screwed, the Atlas Network, and far-right groups in the United States are troubling.
The Atlas Network frequently shares stories from their partners about their impact in different countries. The connection between the Atlas Network and Generation Screwed are strong – they featured Generation Screwed on a blog post in 2015 highlighting the group’s work. Here’s the opening paragraph from the Atlas Network’s site:
Governments tend to spend money hand over fist, eager to satisfy all the voices clamoring for handouts at taxpayer expense. In the long run, though, future generations are doomed to pay the bill for today’s unchecked government largesse. That’s why Atlas Network partner the Canadian Taxpayers Federation started its Generation Screwed project, which educates young people in easy-to-understand terms about the rising debt in Canada.
Generation Screwed features an ‘interesting’ array of speakers. One of these is Clement Liberty.
His Twitter bio says he’s the External Relations Director at the Students for Liberty, another Atlas Network partner. Between 2009-2015, they received $204,235 from different Koch brother orgnaizations.
Another speaker at an event on November 9th, 2017 was Jordan Williams. He is the Co-Founder of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, who also happens to be an Atlas Network partner based out of New Zealand. They also claim to target “government waste”, which is the same language used by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Promoting Canadian Atlas Network Organizations on Campuses
Generation Screwed not only draws on international members connected to the Atlas Network, they feature speakers connected to other Canadian Atlas Network partners.
Generation Screwed amplifies messaging from the Fraser Institute, a well-known Atlas Network partner who in the past received money from the Koch brothers. Here is an example of this strategy:
We have highlighted the dangers of the Fraser Institute in previous stories, including their connections to big oil, their attacks on workers, and their promotion of private health care in Canada.
Generation Screwed also retweeted Sean Speer, a member of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a Canadian think tank, and another Atlas Network partner.
Another far-right speaker connected to events hosted by Generation Screwed is Janice Fiamengo. In her Twitter bio, she calls herself a “Contrarian, anti-feminist, defender of free speech and the right to dissent”.
She was a guest speaker at Toronto Action Forum 2017: Free Speech & Fiscal Responsibility on February 4th, 2017. Other speakers included Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant, Derek Fildebrandt, Colin Craig from the Manning Centre (another Atlas Network partner), Anthoney Furey from Sun News, and Ben Eisen from the Fraser Institute.
Janice has a history of making racist comments and supporting far-right causes. In May 30th, 2016 she was interviewed on Radio 3Fourteen, a white nationalist program. She’s also connected to s0-called “men’s rights” activist groups like the Canadian Association for Equality.
Another member who spoke at the Toronto Action Forum was Matt Bufton, from the Institute for Liberal Studies, which – you guessed it – is another Atlas Network partner in Canada.
More recently, Generation Screwed hosted an Action Forum in Calgary on March 25th, 2017. They hosted speakers like then-MP Jason Kenney, rightwing professor Jordan Peterson, far-right True North founder Candice Malcolm, and Derek James from the Canadian Constitution Foundation (yet another Atlas Network partner).
The Atlas Network influence on Canadian Universities is troubling. Investing in groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has paid dividends, helping increase the far-right presence on Canadian campuses.
But we’ve only scraped the surface. Stay tuned for part two of this story where we dig deeper into the connections between other Canadian partners of the Atlas Network.
Unlike the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Atlas Network, we are a volunteer-run organization. We receive zero outside funding. Our funding comes from our supporters, just like you.
We want to hire a full-time researcher. But to do that, we need 50 new members by March 1st. We’re working on some big stories, including connections between the Conservative Party of Canada and Canada’s anti-abortion movement, more stories about Atlas Network partners and a deep investigation into right-wing think tanks – this is a big one that we can’t wait to share.