Two demonstrations are scheduled to converge on Vancouver city hall this Saturday (August 19).
The first is organized by the World Coalition Against Islam, a Canadian anti-Muslim group, and the Cultural Action Party, a registered B.C. political party that describes itself as supporting anti-immigration policies to preserve “Canada’s traditional identity”.
The second protest is planned as a reaction to the first. It’s called “Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver” and describes itself on Facebook as “a peaceful counter protest to say no to Islamophobia and no to racism”.
Ahead of the two events and in the aftermath of an August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, some people have called for Vancouver’s local government to step in and prevent the anti-immigration rally from taking place.
This afternoon (August 17), Don Davies, the NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway, issued a statement that calls on the City of Vancouver to “cancel permission” for the event.
“It is clear that this event’s organizers are motivated by what just happened in Charlottesville,” Davies wrote. “They intend on spreading hatred and inciting violence, and we must send a strong and clear message that this will not be tolerated in our community.
“We need to call these people and their ideas what they are: racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and misogynist,” Davies continued. “There is no place in our society for them, and we need to back up that sentiment with action.”
Earlier in the day, Imtiaz Popat, a long-time immigration activist based in Vancouver, accused Mayor Gregor Robertson of “encouraging violent confrontation”.
“The Vancouver police have again announced that they will allow the white supremacists to promote hate and watch them to see what happens,” Popat wrote on Facebook. “This is a setup for this violence.”
Shortly before 5 p.m., the mayor’s office released a statement explaining that a local government cannot legally impede lawful assembly.
“In accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the city cannot prevent people from assembling on public property for the purpose of exercising their right of freedom of expression,” it reads. “The city recognizes that there are limitations on free speech and that it is an offence under the Criminal Code to make statements in public which incite hatred against any identifiable group. It is not possible to know in advance whether any speech that may occur at Saturday’s protests will violate laws which relate to hate speech but the situation will be closely monitored. The city has no jurisdiction or authority to enforce the Criminal Code.”
The statement adds that the city remains in contact with the Vancouver Police Department and that the two will be working together to “to monitor the situation and minimize any risk to the public”.
In Charlottesville, beginning Friday night (August 11), alt-right demonstrators held a march that invoked Nazi imagery and saw hundreds of participants chant slogans against Jewish people and African-Americans. The following afternoon (August 12), one member of their group drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19. A small contingent of left-wing protesters also used violence, wielding clubs to confront people participating in the gathering of white nationalists.
On August 16, Robertson reacted to those events and news that a far-right rally was planned for Vancouver with a statement in support of people who protest against racism.
"Canada is a free country and people have the right to demonstrate and protest," Robertson said. "They have a right to demonstrate, but hatred and racism have no place in this city and I expect people to confront that and make sure there's a peaceful and direct push-back on racism and hatred."More