Exposed: the web of fake IDs behind Canada's anti-immigration groups

Fake identities push anti-immigration groups’ agenda online and in the real world – and try to ‘befriend’ the SCMP’s reporter on social media

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 October, 2014, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 May, 2015, 9:54am

An investigation by the South China Morning Post has uncovered a web of fake identities, bogus social media accounts and misleading email addresses pushing the agenda of two Canadian anti-immigration groups.

The fake identities have conducted a range of public activities to support Immigration Watch Canada (IWC) and Putting Canada First (PCF), both of which say multiculturalism is a failure.

Much of it was seemingly absurd and carried out online: "Mark Champ", a fake identity associated with IWC founder Dan Murray, would engage in social media discussions with Murray and "like" his comments on Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's Facebook page.

But some activity had a real-world impact on others. Recent complaints against an ethnic Chinese realtor in Vancouver, lodged by "S. Torrington", another fake identity, resulted in the realtor being censured by his employer this month. A 2013 letter to a Vancouver newspaper written by "Palawan (sic: Palaan) Tewsmith" - a non-existent IWC supporter who shared an email address with "Torrington" - referred to the "demonising [of] people … born with white pigmentation". The letter is now required reading for the University of British Columbia's history course on Asian migration.

Much of the activity appears designed to create the impression of widespread support for both groups as well as to spread their views. But the purpose of other activity is unclear.

The "Mark Champ" Facebook persona - who was discovered to share an email address with Murray - tried to befriend this Post reporter on September 19, a day after the first details of the investigation were published.

Murray, a retired Vancouver teacher, initially agreed to an interview on the subject of fake identities, but refused to speak after learning the Post had discovered his link to the "Champ" persona. In an email this week, Murray said: "If you are implying that Mark Champ and I are the same person, you need some technical as well as logical help."

Murray, who is also a co-director of PCF, failed to respond to questions about why "Champ" had access to Murray's email address and password. He also would not explain who "Champ" was, if he was not Murray.

The likes of "Champ" on Facebook include groups such as "Defend White Women", "The White Voice Network" and "The White Genocide Project".

When a Facebook friend request by "Champ" to this reporter went ignored, requests from two other fake identities, "Selah Armstrong" and "Konnor Hernandez", quickly followed. Both purported to be pretty teenage girls from Gympie, a small Australian community publicly listed as the reporter's hometown.

Neither girl exists. But "Armstrong" had an elaborate persona including an interest in clubs and more than 30 friends, all of whom listed Gympie in their profiles. All these "likes" and friends - mostly businesses and semi-public figures - were newly added.

The "Armstrong" and "Hernandez" requests were retracted after a few days. Both girls' profiles have been deleted. The Post is not suggesting Murray had anything to do with either girl.

Murray's link with the fake "Champ" persona was discovered when it was employed in the most brazen of fashions: to log on to the Post's website to criticise a September 18 report that revealed the use of fake identities by Bradley Saltzberg, PCF's now-fired BC regional director.

"Champ" registered with the Post using the email address [email protected]****** (the Post has chosen not to publish the full address). That address was used by Murray to send a letter to the council of the British Columbia township of View Royal in June 2013. Murray also revealed knowledge of an email the Post sent to the Canada-1 address this week.

Another supposed PCF supporter, "Peter J. Baxter" of Toronto, also logged on to to criticise the investigation into Saltzberg. "Baxter" has only three friends, including Murray and Saltzberg, who was his first friend. His Facebook profile photo was first uploaded to the internet by a restaurant in Spain in 1999. Challenged on the P ost's comments section, "Baxter" said: "FYI, I am not Brad Salzberg (sic)", and asserted his real name was "Peter Baxter".

The story that angered "Champ" and "Baxter" was published on the Post's Hongcouver blog. It revealed Saltzberg had used two fake identities, "Paul Bradley" and "Pascal Brody", to attack Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong, a Hong Kong emigrant. As a result of the story, Saltzberg was fired by PCF on September 26.

The fake identity "Palaan Tewsmith" shared an email address with "Torrington", [email protected]******, and a cached version of a Google+ account for "Sebastien Torrington" shows it was once held in the name of "Tewsmith". A letter to "Torrington" from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, responding to his complaint against a local realtor for using Chinese-language signage, was posted online by the anonymous administrator of the "Hero or Traitor" Facebook page, which shares content with a section of PCF's website of the same name.

"Tewsmith" has five Facebook friends, including "Champ", Murray and Saltzberg, who was his first friend.

The Post does not believe "Torrington", "Baxter" or "Tewsmith" are either Saltzberg or Murray. Nor does the Post believe that Saltzberg is "Armstrong" or "Hernandez".

Saltzberg defended the use of false identities. "You show me someone who is involved in these kinds of issues, and 99 per cent of them will have used some kind of false identity at some point," he said last week.

He added that Facebook approaches made to this reporter by the likes of "Champ" and "Armstrong" were a foreseeable result of the Post's reporting. "You put an article like that up and strange things can happen."

The Post sent emails to "Baxter", "Champ", "Torrington", "Tewsmith", "Brody" and "Bradley" asking them to refute the assertion that their identities were false. None responded.

Immigration Watch decries Canadian diversity as 'colonisation'

Advocacy group Immigration Watch Canada wants a dramatic reduction in immigration to Canada, and recognition of "cultural limits" to immigration. It derides those who "celebrate diversity". Doing so condemns "long-term residents" and "mainstream" Canadians to "marginalisation and colonisation", it says.

"What would the people of Beijing, Calcutta or Manila (to name a few) think if large numbers of Canada's mainstream population were to arrive there and proclaim 'We're here to make you diverse'," IWC says in an outline of its beliefs. "We suspect that such Canadians would be dispatched very quickly to another destination, probably six feet under."

In April, IWC distributed leaflets in Brampton, a heavily South Asian city in Greater Toronto, that carried an old photo of a group of all-white men and women, along with a modern photo of a group of Sikh men. It was captioned: "From this … To this … Is this really what you want?"

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell told the Globe and Mail the flyers were "disgraceful".

Group spokesman Dan Murray, who refused to speak to the Post, told Yahoo News "mainstream" Canadians who opposed the message were "cowards and quislings". He is a director of IWC ally Putting Canada First (PCF).

PCF chairman, Paul Bentley, said he would be surprised if Murray had employed fake identities since "he has never shied away from the public before". Bentley said using a fake Facebook identity to conduct political activity would be "fraudulent … maybe not in a legal sense, but in a personal sense".

Bentley said he did not oppose the Post's investigation into the activities of Bradley Saltzberg, who was fired as a PCF director last week for using fake identities. "With the thing about Brad, if you think about it, you [the Post] probably did us a favour."