What was supposed to be the most controversial political of the season has been cancelled out of “safety concerns.” The local Electoral District Association of the People’s Party of Canada has called off a town hall with party leader Maxime Bernier due to supposed fears of violence stemming from planned protests by local groups.
“We have recently learned through social media channels that an ‘anti-fascist rally’ is being organized by a local group, in conjunction with a group from Hamilton, to protest at the event,” said a People’s Party press release. “The language and imagery used in the social media posts is concerning for the safety of the members of our community who are planning to attend this event, and for the GYMC.”
The press release likely references to this post that’s been shared on Facebook.
The “Hamilton group” that the press release mentions is Hamilton Against Fascism, who shared the posted from the Guelph Revolutionary Communist Party on Facebook. Both groups have been very active in confronting Yellow Vest protestors, who are widely scene as racist and anti-immigrant. Bernier has previously lent support to Yellow Vests, and was interviewed by members of the group back in May who had ties to a man arrested for yelling threats at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Mississauga fundraiser.
Bernier has also been caught up in fresh allegations this week of sharing allegiance with white nationalist after having his picture taken with what looks like members of the Northern Guard. The Northern Guard is an off-shoot of the Soldiers of Odin, who were banned from Facebook earlier this year along with several other groups and individuals that the social media company identified as hateful. In the picture, one of the people that Bernier is posing with is flashing the “OK” hand sign, which has been co-opted by white supremacists as a coded signal to other like-minded people.
Back in Guelph, the venue for Bernier’s town hall was forced to make a statement about their own politics.
“It has come to our attention that social media posts are claiming the GYMC has invited Maxime Bernier to speak at a July 19 event. This claim is false and defamatory as we have not invited the PPC. The PPC is simply renting GYMC space,” the Guelph Youth Music Centre posted on Twitter. The GYMC is a non-profit run by a board of directors, and is available to rent for a number of different purposes and events.
Guelph resident Jamie Gibson posted a Change.org petition on Friday asking GYMC and its board to nullify their rental agreement with the People’s Party EDA.
“Clearly, the rhetoric and actions of Bernier and those who surround him are not aligned with the GYMC’s mission statement, which claims the organization ‘educates, enriches and fosters the development of our youth through music and the arts,’” the petition reads. “The Guelph community has come to recognize the GYMC as a place to enable and encourage human flourishing, friendship, and community. It is simply not enough for the GYMC’s Board of Directors to plead ignorance with regard to the bigotry of Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada.”
According to the PPC press release, GYMC cancelled their booking “Due to these safety concerns and the potential for property damage.”
“In light of recent violent protests in Hamilton and Toronto involving these same ‘antifa’ groups, we are taking the organization of the Guelph protest very seriously. We do not want to see this violence in Guelph,” it added.
The “violence” reference above is the June 29 clash between anti-fascist demonstrators and people who identify as Yellow Vests at Hamilton City Hall. This came just a couple of weeks after violence broke out at Hamilton’s Pride celebrations when people identified as Christian evangelicals crashed the festivities at Gage Park, and were joined by Yellow Vesters said to be dressed in “combat gear.” Hamilton City Council has been pressed for weeks to take action on extremists groups protesting in front of City Hall.
In Toronto, the annual Dyke March was overshadowed by a violent outburst in the Eaton Centre when counter-protestors crashed a rally of “Patriots of Canada against the Islamization of the West” at the University Ave courthouse, and both groups moved into the mall where the physical fight occurred. The entire incident was caught on video.
As for the Guelph event, ticket holders who paid to hear from Bernier will be sent updates via email about the potential future of the event. There’s no word if the protest will continue now that the Bernier event is cancelled.
UPDATE: July 16 – The People’s Party EDA of Guelph has told the Guelph Mercury-Tribune that they will still be holding an event with Bernier on Friday, but the location will only be shared with ticket buyers and select media.
UPDATE: July 18 – A group called United Against Oppression Guelph will be holding an “Anti-fascist and Unity Rally” at City Hall at 7 pm on Friday.