On June 28, a knife-wielding man burst into a philosophy of gender class at the University of Waterloo, stabbing the professor and two students. This clearly hate-motivated attack comes after months of a delirious media campaign in which right-wing politicians and commentators have sought to foment hatred of trans people.
According to witnesses, the attacker, a University of Waterloo student, entered the classroom during the lecture, asked the professor what course it was, and only pulled out his knife after she confirmed that it was a philosophy of gender course. He then raised his knife and lunged at the fleeing professor, stabbing two students and attempting to stab a third in the melee. Fortunately, despite the seriousness of their injuries, they do not seem to be life-threatening.
Friends of the attacker, interviewed by a Global News reporter, said he often spoke out against the LGBT community and against Pride events at the University of Waterloo.
For some time now, the right wing in this country has been engaged in a hate campaign targeting trans people. You can read a barrage of unhinged articles in the newspapers about “gender ideology”, “wokeism”, “hypersexualization of children”, drag queens, and other scarecrows used to sow fear of trans and LGBTQ people in general. Quebec media have even relayed the completely idiotic fake news that some British children “identify” as cats.
Here, the Canadian right is taking its cue from the U.K. and the U.S.A., where a wave of laws discriminating against trans people have been passed.
This is all part of a general offensive by the ruling class against the gains of past struggles by the oppressed. In the U.S., the Supreme Court has made a series of rulings overturning protected rights, including the right to abortion and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation by businesses. In New Brunswick, the Conservative government of Blaine Higgs ended Policy 713, which protected LGBTQ children in public schools.
This political and media offensive has led to an emboldening of the far right who, for example, often hold demonstrations in front of drag events, some of which have had to be cancelled due to threats. An anti-LGBTQ demonstration is planned in Quebec City on July 8, organized by neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists. According to Statistics Canada, the country saw a 64 per cent rise in hate crimes based on sexual orientation between 2020 and 2021.
Two weeks ago, we wrote: “The far-right has propagated a complete and utter myth that trans women and drag queens are largely pedophiles and that the real purpose of these events is to ‘groom’ children for sexual abuse. It’s difficult to overstate just how dangerous such a slanderous lie is. It directly places LGBTQ+ people at risk of violence.” A week later, the attack at the University of Waterloo sadly confirmed what we said.
While some, like Journal de Montréal columnists, didn’t even have the decency to pause their anti-trans campaign for a few days, Canada’s political class reacted with crocodile tears as usual. In reaction to the attack, politicians—with the notable exception of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who understands full well that his base is probably largely sympathetic to the attack—tweeted a few platitudes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “This heinous violence, and the hate that fueled it, have no place in our country.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford claimed that he was “praying for the recovery of the victims”, but did not mention the heinous nature of the attack. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said, “Women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community deserve safety”.
But these words are largely empty coming from people who actively defend the system that encourages and nurtures transphobic and homophobic hatred and violence.
It’s no coincidence that the right wing has launched an offensive against trans people and “gender ideology”. The current context of deep crisis facing capitalism, and the complete collapse of the system, forces the ruling class to find scapegoats.
At a time when working people are suffering from a severe shortage of affordable housing, an explosion in the cost of living, decaying public services, etc., the bogeyman of trans people and drag queens supposedly indoctrinating children to “groom” them serves as a diversion. This is very useful for the bourgeoisie and its politicians, to draw attention away from their complete inability to offer the slightest solution to workers’ real and urgent problems.
Violent fanatics like the one at the University of Waterloo simply push the hateful rhetoric of politicians and commentators to its logical conclusion. Violence against oppressed minorities is not an anomaly, but a feature of capitalism.
And Liberal politicians like Trudeau are just the other side of the coin in this charade. For completely opportunistic purposes, they wave the rainbow flag and present themselves as champions of women, LGBTQ people, and other oppressed minorities—while doing nothing in practice to protect them.
Violence comes from the right
This attack is just the latest example of right-wing violence, at a time when tragedies and horrors are occurring with increasing regularity. In a system in total crisis, the old status quo is increasingly being questioned. Few believe in it anymore. It is on this fertile ground that the far right is gaining in popularity. By offering scapegoats such as women, trans people, immigrants, etc., they redirect anger towards channels that are safe for the system.
Faced with this threat from the far right, some on the left are allowing themselves to be demoralized. We can’t let these feelings get the better of us, because that’s exactly the aim of these attacks. This kind of violence serves to terrorize the left, to disorganize it and force it to shut up and hide.
But the crisis of capitalism is even more fertile ground for far-left sentiments. Particularly among young people, the popularity of socialism and communism is growing. What we’re seeing here is not the rise of the far right, but a polarization towards the right and the left.
Against the violence of the right, we need to organize the social force capable of putting the far right in its place: the working class. By pointing the finger at the real culprits behind the misery and social collapse—the capitalists—we can unite all layers of the working class in a mass movement for the socialist transformation of society. Only such a movement can crush not only the far right, but the rotten system it defends which feeds bigotry.