A far-right group that believes radical Islamists are endangering Quebec culture says it has filed a human rights complaint against the city of Rimouski over what it contends is discrimination based on the group's political beliefs.
Sylvain Brouillette, a spokesperson for La Meute — or Wolf Pack — told CBC News that the group wants financial compensation and an apology, after the municipality's last-minute cancellation of the group's reservation at a local community centre earlier this week.
"Whether it's based on political convictions or race, it's no different," said Brouillette.
"It's discrimination, and we think our rights were violated."
Brouillette said La Meute's aims are to promote state neutrality, freedom of speech and democracy.
He said the non-binding motion passed in the House of Commons last March condemning Islamophobia is proof there are radical Islamists at work in Canada.
La Meute has sponsored a series of talks this summer by André Pitre, a self-styled "socio-political commentator" whose themes focus on immigration and freedom of speech.
Pitre's talk in Rimouski was scheduled to take place at the Nazareth Community Centre on Aug. 1.
At the last minute, Mayor Marc Parent stepped in to cancel the group's reservation at the municipally owned centre.
"We're proud and open to immigration and diversity," Parent told CBC's Quebec AM earlier this week, and he said the centre would not be used to disseminate values that were not in line with those of the city.
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He also said the event posed a security issue.
"Renting a room like this in an event where you actually need physical protection, you can understand that it's a community centre and as far as I'm concerned, the two of them don't match," he said.
The event went ahead anyway — about 20 people showed up at a municipal park in the evening to hear Pitre speak, with members of La Meute providing security.
Parent said since the conference did proceed on municipal property, no rights were violated.
Saint-Colomban also says no
The Laurentians town of Saint-Colomban, just west of Saint-Jérôme, also cancelled a reservation at its local community centre after discovering a link to La Meute.
The town's communications officer, Maxime Dorais, said the event, planned for today, was booked by someone who said they belonged to the Association in Support of Victims of Terrorist Acts — or Le Club AVAT.
Under Quebec's business registry, La Meute and the Le Club AVAT du Québec are both run by Patrick Beaudry, a former soldier who lives in Stoneham-Tewkesbury, north of Quebec City.
Dorais told CBC News that employees with the town found an advertisement for the event online, which displayed the wolf paw imprint which La Meute has adopted.
"Political activities are not authorized" at the recreation centre, Dorais said, so the town cancelled the reservation.
Brouillette said it's too early to say if the group with make a complaint to the human rights commission about Saint-Colomban's refusal to rent space.
Case is valid: Charter rights veteran lawyer
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey said the role of human rights legislation is to "defend the unpopular" — and Brouillette's complaint to Quebec's human rights commission is well-founded.
"A group opposed to our most cherished values has a right to be defended unless they stray into the area of hate," said Grey.
A spokesperson for the commission said because complaints are confidential, she couldn't confirm whether anyone from La Meute did indeed file one.
Four out of 743 complaints filed in 2016-1017 were due to alleged discrimination based on political affiliation.