White supremacists, anti-racism protesters clash in Calgary over veiled voting
Two people face assault charges after members of a white supremacist group protesting a decision to allow veiled voting faced off against anti-racism demonstrators outside Calgary City Hall on Sunday.
About a dozen members of the white supremacist group Aryan Guard were demonstrating against a decision that lets Muslim women wear niqabs or burkas while voting in Monday's municipal elections in Calgary, Edmontonand other Alberta communities.
It's the first time that veiled voting has been permitted inthe province's municipal elections. Elections Canada also recently decided to allow veiled voting ifMuslim women prefer to keep their faces covered for religious reasons. They are toprove their identification in other ways.
The Aryan Guard group covered their faces with ski masks and waved flags and banners.
About 50 anti-racism demonstrators were there to confront the group.
"I think free speech is cool, but if you're promoting hatred, it's not. I think most Calgarians aren't listening to this," said protester Lindsey Ross.
Police stepped in when a protester tried to remove a ski mask worn by a member of the other group and a fight broke out.
In the end, police charged two people — one from each group — with assault.
Ross said the white supremacists are a tiny minority, but shouldn't be totally ignored.
"I think that if you have groups like this that preach hatred, I think that shows fundamental problem at a lower level that we should be addressing."
The question of veiled voting has spurred controversy across Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the people who criticized the recent decision by Elections Canada. The country's chief electoral officer defended the decision and said politicians would have tochange theElectionsActifthey wanted more stringent identification requirements on election day.