EDMONTON (CITYNEWS) – A Canadian organization dedicated to exposing and stopping extremism says hate groups in Alberta are feeling emboldened by recent events at home and abroad.
Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says hate groups in Alberta are encouraged when their actions go largely unpunished.
This comes a day after nearly 100 people, many with connections to hate groups, clashed with anti-racist protesters in an Edmonton parking lot on Tuesday.
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“This is why they’re emboldened in Alberta right now, and why hate groups put together a parking lot brawl,” said Balgord. “Because they think they can get away with it, because they think they have the tacit support of law enforcement. They think they are untouchable.
“That’s the issue right now in Alberta.”
Last week, an anti-racism rally in Red Deer, Alta. turned violent when counter-protesters arrived on scene.
Earlier this month, anti-racism protesters in Ponoka, Alta. told authorities a truck drove into their group and hit one of the people attending the gathering.
“In Alberta in the last couple of weeks, members and supporters of hate groups have first disrupted, and then violently broke up, two anti-racist rallies while the RCMP stood by and watched it happen,” said Balgord.
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While the situation in Canada and the U.S. is different, Balgord believes hate groups in north of the border would also have been pleased with comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
During a live televised presidential debate, Trump refused to condemn armed militias, telling the American far-right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
“What happened in Edmonton last night [the parking lot brawl] was not actually related to Trump’s comments, but that can actually be traced back a bit differently,” said Balgord.
“Here in Canada, our Proud Boys are more explicitly fascist – their word, not mine – and neo-Nazi than their counterparts in the United States. They also saw this happen, they also were celebrating and sharing those images among themselves and going on a little bit of a recruitment drive.”
President Trump ultimately walked back his comments on Wednesday: “I don’t know who Proud Boys are. But whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
–with files from The Associated Press.