GUELPH — When the original Maxime Bernier event booking was cancelled, the activists who organized a rally to counter it called it a “huge win for the Guelph working class”, but it also came at a cost for one of the organizers.
Kate, a recent high school graduate in Guelph, asked that her full name not be included in this story out of concern for her own safety. She is one of the organizers behind the effort to counter People’s Party of Canada leader Bernier’s visit.
In the aftermath of the cancellation, she said that she was targeted by far-right followers of the PPC movement, prompting her to speak with this reporter on the condition that only her first name was to be used.
“They researched me, found out the school I graduated from,” Kate said, explaining that “[they] told me I was brainwashed” and that “they would personally ‘handle’ the high school student”.
Because of this experience, Kate wanted to leave her last name off the record.
On July 9, a town hall-style event was announced that would feature the local People’s Party of Canada candidate Mark Paralovos interviewing his party leader Bernier, the former senior Conservative lawmaker who quit the caucus in dramatic fashion and started his own national party.
Three days later controversy sparked when a Facebook page going by the name “Revolutionary Communist Party of Guelph” announced a counter-protest to the town hall with a graphic advertisement that depicted a knife stabbing a swastika and blood spurts, with text implying Bernier and “his racist goons” were equal to Nazis.
Paralovos found the intent of the poster alarming and violent. In response, he reached out to the police, then journalists.
In a statement released on Saturday, Paralovos said the Guelph Youth Music Centre, where the event originally was to be held, had cancelled the booking due to “safety concerns and the potential for property damage.”
In response, Maxime Bernier in a Facebook post wrote “communist thugs manage to get a PPC event in Guelph cancelled after threatening violence”, criticizing what he calls the “far left”.
Despite claims from Paralovos and his party, Kate said that “no violence was ever spoken of, just a plan to have educated students handing out pamphlets and engaging in a real and meaningful discussion.”
“You see the swastika with a knife through it as a threat because it is extremely symbolic of who you are,” Kate added in comments to the Mercury. “You come in our city and speak against members of our community.”
Speaking on the allegations of racism and discrimination against Bernier and his party, Kate added that “our community is stronger than your hate” and that “the people will always conquer against the biggest threat to humanity which is the alt-right”.
The Bernier event is still taking place on Friday, it will just now be in a location only disclosed to those that bought tickets and invited journalists.
Despite this, the anti-facsist rally will still be moving ahead, now at city hall. A new advertisement for the event also dropped all mention of the People’s Party.