McMaster student union suspends club over possible 'white supremacist' connections

After the Dominion Society was ratified by MSU, several people came forward with concerns about club's external affiliations.

An emergency vote will be held to decide the club's future

Josh Marando is the president of McMaster University's student union (Submitted by Josh Marando)

The president of McMaster University's students union has revoked a recently ratified club's privileges, citing information that points to possible connections with outside groups or people who promote "white supremacist and xenophobic attitudes and activities."

For its part, a representative of the Dominion Society says it has no links to other organizations, especially extremist groups.

McMaster Students Union (MSU) president Josh Marando released a statement on Wednesday saying the union has suspended the rights of the society. He wrote that when applying to become a club, members of the Dominion Society said they were not affiliated with any outside organizations.

But, he explained, "Information has since come to light that raises questions about whether one of those groups, and/or the people within it, have a connection to other external groups or people who espouse and promote white supremacist and xenophobic attitudes and activities."

The statement does not provide any details about the information that led to Marando's decision.

In an email CBC News, club coordinator Richard Carmichael maintained the Dominion Society is not affiliated with any other group.

"Being conflated with 'hatred' or 'white supremacy' illustrates the widespread and problematic ignorance of Canadian history on campus, and indeed proves the need to have an apolitical cultural organization like ours not just on McMaster campus, but on every campus in Canada," he wrote.

Club claims it has no 'extremist' connections

The Dominion Society originally pitched itself to the university's student representative assembly using the name the Macdonald Society.

In a cover letter requesting club status at the university, it described the club as a group dedicated to celebrating and advocating for Canadian culture.

"There exists no clubs aimed to address the promotion of Canadian culture, traditions and heritage," the letter reads, adding the society will allow people to "enrich themselves in the virtues of Canadian culture, and sow kinship and a shared identity between one another."

But a report dated June 16 shows the assembly's clubs coordinator requested they change their title as Sir John A. Macdonald, the country's first Prime Minister, "held values that supported the idea of an Aryan race."

The group agreed to change its name to the Dominion Society and, in response to questions about links to clubs at other universities, the applicants denied having any outside connections, "especially extremist groups."

Union says it needs to work on approval process

Marando says that the student union has suspended the Dominion Society's privileges, and is working with McMaster's Equity and Inclusion office to look into the claims that have been brought forward.

Marando wrote in his statement that he advised the student union's governing body to revoke the society's club status until an emergency meeting could be scheduled to vote on the issue.

He added he will work to make sure the claims about the society's affiliations are sound, and that the society they are said to be associated with is a white supremacist group.

Marando also wrote in his statement that this situation is shedding light on the need to improve the student union's process to approve prospective clubs.