Belgian Club apologizes after hosting event put on by Canadian Nationalist Party
Winnipeg club says board member resigned after expressing views contrary to its values
A board member of the Belgian Club of Winnipeg resigned after the club was the site of a planned nationalist rally on Saturday.
In a statement posted on its website, the club apologized for hosting the event, organized by the Canadian Nationalist Party, and said it doesn't reflect its values.
"In early July a junior member of our staff took a booking from an outside organization without fully realizing who or what the Canadian Nationalist Party represents. We realized too late that this group did not represent the views of this club," the statement says.
"Regrettably, during the ensuing protest [Saturday], one of our board members expressed her personal views that do not represent the history, heritage or values of the Belgium Club," the statement went on to say, and the club asked the member to resign, which she did.
The event was a part of a cross-country tour organized by the party, which protesters at the event in Winnipeg said is white supremacist and anti-immigrant. The policies published on the group's website include calling for reduced immigration levels and the deportation of asylum seekers who cross the border.
On Saturday, a group of local activists confronted the handful of people who attended the event. In a video posted on social media, a woman identified as a board member of the club says she doesn't know what white nationalism is and doesn't care, because she isn't involved.
She goes on to say: "I recently lost my job after 15 years, and any job that you apply for, guess what, you have to be a visible minority, or this and this and this."
Brielle Beardy-Linklater, one of the protesters at the event on Saturday, said the club member told the protesters to leave because it was a private event and called police.
A Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson said officers were called to the club on Saturday, but no arrests were made.
Beardy-Linklater, who's Indigenous, said people who attended the event made disparaging remarks about immigrants and Indigenous people. The confrontation was "heated," she said, but she felt it was important for her to be there.
"It's more than just about a difference of opinion. They have an opinion that has a potential to embolden other people who may have similar views, who may actively try to organize, and encourage more people who have racist politics to come forward," she said.
Protesters say the Canadian Nationalist Party opposes multiculturalism and advocates for a monoculture defined by "Eurocentricity."
The nationalist group's 21-point platform says the founding peoples of Canada — which it describes as being of European descent — are being suppressed. It also calls for an end to multiculturalism and for "citizenship requirements be returned to founding criteria, resulting in the immediate deportation of citizenship-holding convicted terrorists."
However, founder Travis Patron has said the Canadian Nationalist Party is not a white nationalist party.
Omar Kinnarath, an organizer with the group Fascist Free Treaty 1, said he was disappointed that the club, which is also home to a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and a venue for Folklorama, would host such an event, noting that Canadians fought and died to expel Nazis from Belgium in the Second World War.
"It's very disappointing for the people that built that legion and the people that have served to go all the way there and some lose their lives just to have it here, less than 100 years later, trying to start movements of white nationalism."
The club says it is reviewing its booking policies in light of the incident.
"The Belgium Club is filled with members whose fathers and grandfathers fought and died in both the First and Second World Wars fighting against fascism and the Nazis to defend democracy and human rights both abroad and here in our own country," the club's statement says.
Folklorama issued a statement saying it is an "apolitical organization" and that it has no hand in the daily operations of its venues.
With files from Cameron MacLean, Austin Grabish, and Gavin Boutroy
- A previous version of this article stated that members of the Canadian Nationalist Party were not available for comment when in fact they were. Additionally, in response to this incident, the party leader released a video stating: "We are not a white nationalist party, we are not a white supremacist organization. Our membership ranks are open to Canadians of all ethnicities."Aug 16, 2018 12:12 PM CT