European anti-Islam group PEGIDA plans debut in Montreal
Organization with neo-Nazi, National Front sympathizers moves into Quebec
A Europe-based anti-Islam, anti-immigration group called PEGIDA is making its Quebec debut this weekend — and local politicians and community members want to tell the group its views aren't welcome in Montreal.
PEGIDA Québec members are planning an anti-Islam gathering on the outskirts of Montreal’s Little Maghreb neighbourhood, a largely North African Muslim community in the Montreal borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Thursday he condemns any instance of Islamophobia in the city.
Other politicians have spoken on the subject as well.
"Move along, Montreal is certainly not a place for you, and I ask Montrealers not to join and not to be fooled by PEGIDA's speech," said Guillaume Lavoie of Projet Montréal.
Québec Solidaire MP Françoise David has also come out against the group.
An anti-PEGIDA protest is set to take place at the same time and place as the PEGIDA demonstration, on Saturday at 4 p.m.
PEGIDA is a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. The relatively new group began in Dresden, Germany, in October and uses Facebook as a main organizing tool.
The organization is popular with neo-Nazis and other nationalists and is often spoken about favourably on white supremacist online forums such as Stormfront and National Front.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denounced PEGIDA.
The Quebec chapter has already amassed more than 1,000 supporters on Facebook.
Bilal Tartraf from the FATH Community Centre said PEGIDA's choice of location is no coincidence.
"This is all about provocation, of course," Tartraf said. "I'm pretty sure this movement is pretty limited, in Montreal, Quebec, and Canada in general, and the only way for them to make an impact is to provoke.
"This is a country of law and order, if these people want to demonstrate, they can demonstrate, this is a free country. All we hope for is that everybody stays calm and respects the law."