Right-wing groups take root in Quebec

In January, with little fanfare, a branch of the farright organization PEGIDA - or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West - landed in Quebec.

Since its formation in Germany last year, PEGIDA has drawn thousands into the streets across Europe with what many perceive as a divisive and racist message.

One ugly confrontation, involving an apparent PEGIDA offshoot, unfolded in Newcastle, England, last weekend. On one side were 2,000 people of all colours and creeds assembled under the banner of "Newcastle Unites." On the other, a group of about 400 were protesting what they perceive as the Islamization of the western world.

In Quebec, a Facebook page set up by the branch of the group there had attracted nearly 600 "likes" as of Wednesday night. The group's first official rally is set to take place March 28 in Montreal.

While small, PEGIDA Quebec is not alone. Its appearance came two months after members of another group, dubbed Quebec Identitaire, appeared to take credit for vandalizing four mosques in the Quebec City region. A Facebook group bearing the Quebec Identitaire name had 502 members as of Wednesday, with the group's description making it clear "we are not a radical extremist group," but "we firmly believe a native Quebecer has the right to refuse to have cultures and religious rituals imposed by 'adopted Quebecers' without being demonized."

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In February, the Jewish Defense League - a group the FBI has branded "a violent extremist organization" - also resurfaced in Montreal and attempted to form an chapter, claiming someone needed to monitor the city's Muslim extremism "problem." They were quickly rebuffed by Jewish community leaders and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who tweeted the JDL was "not welcome" in his city.

Even if they are not drawing thousands into the streets, the government is apparently watching right-wing groups. The Canadian Press reported Tuesday the Canadian Security Intelligence Service advised the office of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney of its concerns during a September briefing.

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