The controversial leader of a Quebec nationalist militia has pleaded not guilty to a charge of uttering death threats against an anglophone-rights activist.
Serge Provost, the leader of the Patriotic Militia of Quebec, is accused of making the threats against Hugo Shebbeare, an organizer of an anti-Bill 101 protest which was held on April 17 in Montreal.
Shebbeare was promoting the event in late March when he received a message on Facebook.
"I strongly advise you to tell your daughter you love her, and that you're doing this on her behalf, because you may not make it back home alive the night of April 17," said the message, which Shebbeare provided to CBC.
An arrest warrant was issued for Provost by Montreal police on April 14, he was charged, and pleaded not guilty in municipal court on April 29.
In an interview with CBC, Provost didn't deny that he sent the message, but denied it was meant as a threat.
Shebbeare's organizing efforts caught the attention of some more radical anglophones who in turn posted controversial statements and images supporting the protest on a website.
The statements included comparing Quebec's language charter to fascism, and calling for the hanging of Quebec nationalist politicians.
Provost said he found many of the statements, slogans, and ideas associated with Shebbeare's protest highly offensive, and said the activist bears some responsibility.
"At a certain point, I felt I had to put Mr. Shebbeare in his place," said Provost told CBC.
He said his message was a warning to Shebbeare that violence begets violence.
"If you incite genocidal actions in Montreal, there's a good chance you won't come out alive," said Provost.
Provost's next court date is in August.
Last November, the Patriotic Militia of Quebec made headlines after it began paramilitary training exercises and set up a storefront in Montreal.
Shebbeare held his protest in April anyway, but only a handful of people showed up.
He says he is lobbying for better representation of anglophones in the civil service, and thinks these days, it's anglophones who need protection from discrimination.
"Now we just want to get a balance," said Shebbeare.
"Bill 101 represents something from the seventies and the sixties, and we don't want to live in the sixties anymore."
He says he's sorry for the more radical elements that joined his cause.
"Sometimes there's a few people that get involved in these movements for change that are a little on the extreme," he said.