Controversial Greek nationalist party opens Montreal chapter
Canadian branch defends party's hardline anti-immigration stance
A Greek right-wing nationalist party, which won 18 seats in the country's recent election, has opened a branch in Montreal.
The party's anti-immigrant stance is considered racist by many in the international community, a hardline position that is also supported by the Montreal chapter.
But Canadian members say all they're doing is raising food donations to be distributed to people in Greece, however those donations are reserved to those described as "real Greeks."
"Based on what we see everyday and based that we saw Greek people starving, we decided to contact them to see if we can help them," said Spiros Macrozonaris, Golden Dawn's deputy leader in Montreal.
Golden Dawn made international headlines in June when a spokesman for the party slapped a member of the opposition in the face on live television.
The party was quick to defend the actions on its website, saying the spokesman had been provoked.
The Montreal chapter also defended images of violence linked to Golden Dawn, saying members are only targeting illegal immigrants.
"What are we supposed to do to show our humanitarian feelings? Invite them all in Greece?" said Macrozonaris.
"We do have a solution though. Greece, everybody knows, we have a very strong shipping industry. ... We're going to bring them all to Canada. Canada needs immigrants here. Mr. Harper will be happy to have them here."
The movement has human rights groups worried.
Kyle Matthews, deputy director of Concordia University's Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies said the party's identification of the "other" is troubling and it's all taking place during a tumultuous time in the country's history.
"There's something very ironic that a political party which is criticizing immigrants, illegal or legal, in their country are coming out to Greeks that migrated three or four decades ago and trying to actually tell them that migrants are a threat to their homeland, while here Greeks are part of society, part of the important fabric of Montreal and Canada," he said.
Support rises while economy slides
The party's emergence isn't surprising to some of those who have been following Greece's economic decline.
Ken Matziorinis, an economics professor at McGill University, said the party's popularity has picked up in the past two years, in large part due to the influence of the country's financial situation.
"Greece is undergoing a depression — output has contracted 20 per cent since the start of the crisis," he said, adding that youth unemployment is now the highest in Europe.
"The conditions are reminiscent of those in Germany in the 1920 and Europe in the '30s with the rise of fascism and Nazism. People are desperate, they don't know where to turn to take out their anger and unfortunately, as is the case, they turn it out against the weakest segments of the population."
There are an estimated 200 Golden Dawn members in Montreal, the only North American chapter, other than one located in New York.
Macrozonaris insists the party is not racist — but supportive of the idea of giving Greece back to the Greeks.
"As a Greek we have a right to defend our religion and our national rights," he said.