By Richard Bell
Pastor Scott Anderson of the Marine Drive Pentecostal Church in Head of Jeddore does not mince words about his failure to check out the positions of the white Christian nationalist hate group, Action4Canada, who appeared at his church on the evening of August 2, 2023.
Anderson phoned the Cooperator on the morning after this event to talk about how upset he was by Action4Canada founder Tanya Gaw’s talk the night before. “I dropped the ball,” Anderson said, explaining his failure to do a more careful review of the group before agreeing to have the group speak at the church. “I’m not going to pass the buck now. There were multiple things that bothered me about her talk,” including her rejection of Muslims, Sikhs, and people from other non-Christian faiths, her whitewashing of Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples, and her virulent hostility to people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
If Anderson had checked, he would quickly have discovered that the Canadian Anti-Hate Network characterized Action4Canada as "a broad Christian nationalist organization with chapters across the country, [that] lends its voice to a variety of social issues, often using overtly racist and homophobic rhetoric in the process while endorsing a number of conspiracy theories." (The Government of Canada’s Anti-Racism Action Program funded the 2022 launch of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s toolkit, “Confronting and Preventing Hate in Canadian Schools.”)
The organization has been growing rapidly since its incorporation on August 15, 2019. According to its annual reports filed with Corporations Canada, in August 2020, the organization reported current year earnings of $18,334.34. In August 2021, total income had soared to $227,881.93. And in August 2022, they reported total income of $790,446.34. The Action4Canada website reports the group now has almost 100 chapters, with 31 in BC, 12 in Alberta, 34 in Ontario, and 6 in Nova Scotia. Gaw’s talk was on a tour that included 7 talks in Ontario, 3 talks in New Brunswick, and 5 in Nova Scotia.
Anderson was not the first official in Atlantic Canada to be unpleasantly surprised by the content of Tanya Gaw’s presentation. Gaw spoke in New Maryland, New Brunswick on July 31. New Maryland Mayor Judy Wilson-Shee told the CBC News afterwards that the town tried to cancel the event once they learned about Action4Canada’s agenda: "There's too much going on in this world today. We don't need people coming into our beautiful community and spreading that word of hate. We want to make sure that our people are safe in our community."
When Eastern Shore Pride learned of Action4Canada’s planned August 2 appearance at the Marine Drive Pentecostal Church, chair Brenda Hattie put out a call for people to gather to express their concerns about the appearance of this hate group. “We know that Action4Canada does not represent our community,” Hattie said in a press statement. “We are looking forward to sending a strong message that their views are not welcome in Nova Scotia.” Hattie said that the event would be celebrating “love, inclusion, and diversity.” Several dozen people lined both sides of the highway in front of the church carrying pride flags and signs.
Gaw spoke for the better part of three hours, throwing out one right-wing conspiracy theory after another. She repeatedly cited the United Nations and the World Economic Forum as the lead organizations in a global conspiracy to take away the rights of all the world’s citizens and reduce us all to slaves. Gays, trans people, and drag queens were engaged in massive plots to “groom” the country’s children through sex education in schools.
Covid was “a fraud.” In fact, she claimed that all vaccines were useless or worse: “When they introduced childhood vaccines, there was measles, mumps, but it had already leveled off way down, it was almost at zero. And it was because sanitation, clean drinking water, healthy food. Everything had changed. So really, it wasn't even necessary back then. But some very wise parents decided that natural immunity, what God gave us, was best. I think that if God wanted us with needles in our arms, he would have maybe planned that when the earth began, but it didn’t.” (Gaw’s entire 2 hour and 36 minute August 2, 2023 talk; is online here.)
Anderson told the Cooperator that he was especially disturbed by the harshness of Gaw’s treatment of people she disagreed with, for the “lack of grace” with which she treated sensitive topics like trans people.
“Basically I just felt the perspective wasn't that right. It was harsh, and it wasn't the perspective that Jesus models. We need to move away from the polarized, no-dialogue situation to one where people say, ‘All right, I don’t have to agree with you, but I’m going to listen to you, and you’re going to listen to me.’ That doesn’t mean we’ll end up agreeing 100%. But we need to know that we can’t do this thing where we’re demonizing people that we don’t talk to. Not talking to each other is dangerous.”
Anderson said that he participated in periodic meetings with other local pastors and ministers, and that he planned to talk with them about how they might work this fall through their respective congregations to address the spiritual and community concerns coming out of the Action4Canada presentation.