Race-related protests spill over to Canada, Indian-origin activist arrested

Close on the heels of the violence in Charlottesville, race-related protests spilled over from the United State to Canada over the weekend.

world Updated: Aug 22, 2017 00:25 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Race-related protests,Charlottesville,counter-protests
Counter-protesters stand amid orange smoke during a march by supporters of Quebec group La Meute to demand stronger border controls in Canada on August 20, 2017. (Reuters)

Race-related agitation spilled over into Canada from the United States on Sunday and led to the arrest of an Indian-origin activist who was at a counter-demonstration.

A week after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the contagion of race-related protests and counter-protests hit Canada’s Quebec City, where a group called Le Meute, or the Wolf Pack, had planned a vigil outside the provincial National Assembly against what they described as “illegal immigration”.

But they remained holed up in a parking garage for more than four hours, while counter-protestors laid siege to the building they were gathered in. Among those groups was Antifa and its demonstration was deemed illegal by the local police.

The counter-protests turned violent at one stage. One person, Montreal-based activist Jaggi Singh, was arrested by police.

Singh, a prominent social justice activist, told Canada’s CTV News earlier that Le Meute’s message was one “that needs to be confronted”.

However, the anti-immigrant group claimed “success”, as its members finally emerged from hiding to peacefully march down the streets of Quebec City.

Patrick Beaudry, founder and leader of La Meute, whose members were marching to demand stronger border controls in Canada, waits in a parking garage in Quebec City due to the presence of counter-protesters outside on August 20, 2017. (Reuters)

The protest by Le Meute was condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During the course of a news conference in Montreal, held jointly with Ireland’s Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Trudeau described anti-immigrant marches like the one planned by Le Meute as “intolerant, racist demonstrations”.

“The small minority, angry, frustrated group of racists don’t get to define who we are as a country, don’t get to tell others who we are and don’t get to change the nature of the open, accepting values that make us who we are,” he said.

Trudeau added he was “proud to stand with millions of Canadians who reject the hateful, harmful, heinous ideologies that we’ve seen in dark corners of both the internet and our communities from time to time”.

Counter-protesters assemble during a march by supporters of La Meute in Quebec City to demand stronger border controls in Canada on August 20, 2017. (Reuters)

A similar protest in Vancouver on Saturday had been overwhelmed by peaceful counter-protestors. However, those opposing Le Meute turned violent at times, tossing flares, fireworks, and even chairs at police and setting a dumpster on fire.

CBC News reported at least two members of Le Meute had been seen at the rally in Charlottesville.

More anti-immigration demonstrations are being planned in other Canadian cities, including Toronto. This increase in opposition to immigration has partly resulted from the recent surge in people crossing the border from the US into Canada and into Quebec.

However, Trudeau attempted to reassure Canadians the system had not broken down, as he said, “Canadians can be confident in the integrity of our borders, in the strength and rigour of our immigration system.”

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 18:38 IST