British Columbia

Federal Conservatives and B.C. Liberals oust Kelowna party executive member for inflammatory Nazi remark

The B.C. Liberals and the federal Conservatives have ousted a prominent party executive in Kelowna after he said a raised fist in support of racial justice was "no different than a Nazi salute."

Justin Neufeld out of both party roles after comment on local news website

Justin Neufeld, a prominent executive in both the B.C. Liberal and federal Conservative parties has been removed from both posts after an inflammatory Facebook post comparing a Black Lives Matter fist in the air to a Nazi salute. (Justin Neufeld/Facebook)

The B.C. Liberals and the federal Conservatives both ousted a prominent party executive in Kelowna after he said a raised fist in support of racial justice was "no different than a Nazi salute."

Justin Neufeld made the comments to a Kelowna news website's Facebook page.

When the B.C. Liberal Party was informed of them, it promptly fired Neufeld, saying the comments were "at odds with our commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in all forms." 

Until Monday, Neufeld was a committee chair and board member with the electoral district association in Kelowna-Lake Country, a riding held by MLA Norm Letnick, who said he didn't share Neufeld's views.

Justin Neufeld left this comment on the Facebook post of a Kelowna news website. (Castanet/Facebook)

Neufeld is also the policy chair for the federal Conservative party in the riding held by MP Tracy Gray.

"Racism is real, it is painful, and it is wrong," Gray wrote in a short statement. "Today, I asked for and accepted the resignation of Mr. Neufeld from our executive board for his insensitive comments."

In an emailed statement, Neufeld said he stands by his views and said, "I don't have a single racist bone in my body."

Letnick and Gray declined CBC News' requests for interviews.

Police investigating Nazi salute

The controversy comes on the same day as Kelowna RCMP opened a criminal investigation into a man who appeared to taunt Black Lives Matter protesters Friday afternoon by raising his hand in a Nazi salute.

Photo taken during Friday afternoon's Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna allegedly shows a man in a pickup truck making the Nazi salute. (Adam Newton-Blows)

About 200 people rallying at Kelowna's Stuart Park had just taken a knee and put a fist in the air in tribute to George Floyd, when a man in a slowly moving white Ford pickup truck made the straight arm gesture out the window.

Eyewitness Damien Gagnon said it was unmistakably the Sieg Heil or Nazi salute.

"It was pretty appalling and sickening," said Gagnon. "People started yelling at him ... and his arm stayed extended in the air in the salute."

Rally co-organizer Paige Harrison also witnessed the gesture. She said photographer Adam Newton-Blows, who was taking pictures of the man, had a can of beer thrown at him from the truck. 

"We were standing in solidarity with those who have experienced police brutality," said Harrison. "To have someone take that moment away from something that is so tragic is very disheartening."

Worldwide protests

Over the last two weeks, people around the globe have gathered en masse to protest the May 25 police-involved murder of George Floyd that was captured on video.

Floyd died pleading for his life as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Demonstrators have been getting down on one knee and holding up a closed fist in a show of solidarity to the Black community.

RCMP said no arrests have yet been made, but the investigation remains active.

"I do hope there is some kind of justice that comes out of it," said Harrison. "They knew what they were doing was not out of love but out of hate."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300.