Sometimes the best way to counter hate is with love.
Judging from the response of the community, a white supremacist who decided to organize an “anti-immigration” rally in Peterborough on Saturday (September 30) has picked the wrong location to spread his message of racism and intolerance.
Various local groups have come together to announce a “Solidarity Weekend” to peacefully celebrate diversity and inclusivity.
The event, with the tagline “Love Lives Here! End White Supremacy”, proposes “creative and peaceful action to acknowledge, address and respond to white supremacist ideologies in our community.”
The weekend begins on Friday (September 29) with “Chalk Out”, from 4 to 7 p.m. beginning in Peterborough Square. The idea is to bring sidewalk chalk (some will be available) to write positive messages of resistance to racism and white supremacy. The event may be shifted to Saturday if it rains on Friday.
On Saturday (September 30), the weekend continues with “Turn Out” from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the lawn of Emmanuel Church (534 George St., Peterborough).
This will be a “day of creative resistance” according to organizers, and will feature “Art Out!” at 11 a.m. (collective art-making with positive messages of resistance that continues all day), “Speak Out!” from 12 to 2 p.m. which includes guest speakers Desmond Cole from Black Lives Matter Toronto and Dawn Lavell-Harvard from the Native Women’s Association and the First Peoples House of Learning, and “Dance Out!” from 2 to 3 p.m. to “dance out hate” on the church’s lawn.
On Sunday (October 1), “Chill Out” takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. in Confederation Square, a celebration featuring more art-making and music. Organizers encourage people to bring songs, poems, thoughts, along with food and snacks to share.
For updated information, visit the Facebook event page.
Organizers are also encouraging organizations, businesses, and individuals to sign an online Statement of Unity, which begins “We come together to respond to racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism with a resistance that is grounded in love, justice, hope, care and creativity.” As of the date and time of this story, almost 150 organizations, groups, and businesses have signed along with more than 1,200 individual people. You can view the list of names here.
It’s worth noting that Solidarity Weekend organizers have labelled the event as taking place in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong, the latter being the original name of the traditional territory of the Mississauga Anishinaabe (Ojibway) in the territory covered by the Williams Treaty.
The irony is likely to be lost on the organizer of the “anti-immigration” rally, Kevin Goudreau, who was granted a permit to hold the rally at the public square across from Peterborough City Hall from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday (September 30).
On September 29, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef — who emigrated to Canada from Afghanistan as a child — issued a statement in response to the “anti-immigration rally” and the Solidarity Weekend events.
“Canada’s story is one of immigration, with so many of us arriving here in this land from elsewhere,” she writes in part of the statement. “Anti-immigration actions and statements that target specific religious communities, like the action planned in Peterborough for Saturday, divide Canadians, create more harm and conflict in our communities, and ultimately have no place in a strong and prosperous Canadian society.
“This is why I am so proud of the events and initiatives that have emerged in response to the planned nationalist rally. That the rally is planned to take place on Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred days in the Jewish community, is all the more reason for us to stand united against hate. I believe that my city is an example of how diversity gives strength to a community. We are strong and resilient in the face of those who try to divide us. In Peterborough, and across Canada, we choose love and acceptance.”
You can read the full statement on Facebook.
On September 28, the Peterborough Police Service issued a statement on the anti-immigration rally and the Solidarity Weekend, encouraging peaceful protest.
“We celebrate the many creative events taking place across the City this weekend that uphold the values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion,” says Peterborough Police Chief Murray Rodd. “We do not endorse or support confrontation. We will continue to work with our community and local partners to foster communities of safety and wellbeing.”
On September 27, Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett issued a statement yesterday on the city’s controversial decision to issue a permit to Goudreau.
“The City is unable to deny an applicant the opportunity to hold a non-violent rally against immigration policies and the Trudeau government,” Bennett writes. “However, the City has notified the police of the event and they have informed the City that they will monitor the situation.”
“We must stand together against racism and hate,” the statement adds. “While our Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of expression, it also seeks to preserve and enhance our multicultural heritage. I trust that our law enforcement agencies will monitor and take action if any situations cross over to the promotion of hate or the advocacy of violence. The freedom of expression is not absolute.
“Canada is a nation that was built on immigration. Our farms, our towns and our cities have grown and have flourished through the contributions of immigrants, their children, and their children’s children. To advocate against immigration is to advocate against what defines us as a country.”
Bennett also points out that Goudreau is seeking controversy and media attention.
“The last time one of these individuals was part of a rally in Peterborough it involved four people standing on a corner,” he writes. “We don’t want to raise the profile of these individuals.”
This reflects the editorial position of kawarthaNOW. We have been reluctant to provide any publicity for the planned “anti-immigration” rally or its organizer because these extreme ideologies do not reflect those of the community, and we have been concerned that counter-protests may result in intentional or unintentional violence similar to Charlottesville — particularly if it draws activists from outside the community.
However, because the community has responded so vigorously with celebratory activities to counter the “anti-immigration” rally, we have decided to promote the Solidarity Weekend. Even if white supremacy remains on the fringe of society, racism and intolerance do not.
It is our hope at kawarthaNOW that the Solidarity Weekend remains a positive and peaceful event, celebrating our community’s acceptance of diversity and inclusivity and placing the “anti-immigration” rally at the margins where it belongs.
It is also important to provide some context for the “anti-immigration” rally being organized by Goudreau, who has said he expects 20 people to attend the rally.
While Goudreau claims the rally is a protest about the Trudeau government’s immigration policies rather than a white supremacist gathering, perhaps in an attempt for legitimacy, his past statements and behaviour pass the duck test.
Goudreau is the leader of the Canadian Nationalist Front, an organization that used to be called the White Nationalist Front, but changed its name in January 2017.
“We have decided after about a decade of being the White Nationalist Front we needed to evolve into the Canadian Nationalist Front,” Goudreau writes on the organization’s website. “Why? More of a focus and emphasis on Canadian based White Nationalist activism, content and symbolism. We are still committed to networking with the global White Nationalist movements but we must put Canadian Nationalist interests first and foremost. Furthermore we will be registering as a political party to run in federal elections in the near future.”
Originally from Sudbury, Goudreau has identified his residence as being both in Oshawa and Peterborough. He was last in the news locally when he held what he called a “White Pride rally” in downtown Peterborough outside Peterborough Square this past March. The rally, attended by Goudreau and three other men carrying flags with the Celtic cross, was not promoted in advance and residents expressed shock and outrage on social media at the time.
In a Youtube video posted after the March 2017 rally, Goudreau claims that he is neither a white supremacist nor a Neo-Nazi, and that those who accuse him of this are “hate-mongerers”, “cultural Marxists” and “communists”. He also says “What bonds us beyond genetics and blood and heritage are ancient religious symbols, and that’s why we use the Christian Celtic cross and the slogan White Pride Worldwide. What’s wrong with that?”.
According to Wikipeda, the Celtic cross is one of the most popular symbols used by individuals and organizations to represent white nationalism, white supremacy, Neo-Nazism, and white pride. This stems from the use of the Celtic cross by Norwegian Nazis during World War II. The use of a stylized version of the Celtic cross when used to promote racism has been banned in both Germany and Italy.
Prior to the March 2017 rally, Goudreau was also in the news after he was arrested following an incident on November 26, 2016 in downtown Peterborough. Witnesses report that Goudreau was yelling racial slurs and, after being asked to leave a George Street bar, later assaulted an employee. He was also asked to leave several other bars on the same day due to similar behaviour, according to posts on social media. He was subsequently convicted of assault and received a 35-day jail sentence to be served on weekends and one year probation.
On his Twitter account, Goudreau says he is planning to run for Peterborough City Council. He also claims he will sue for “libel” anyone who calls him a Neo-Nazi — despite the fact that he has a large tattoo of a swastika on his chest with “SS” lightning bolts (the SS or Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany). He has also posted photos of his tattoo on the internet, as well as photos of himself wrapped in a Nazi flag and with his arm raised in the Nazi salute.
He was profiled in 2011 in an article called “A hater among us” published in the National Post. The website Anti-Racist Canada has also documented Goudreau allegedly making death threats on his social media accounts against various groups and individuals.