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Maxime Bernier's Guelph event changed due to concerns over protest, new venue sought

A planned protest and online petition opposing the visit by Bernier created concerns for organizers, who plan on looking for another venue
new poster
The poster protesting a planned visit by PPC leader Maxime Bernier that has organizers concerned.

An appearance by People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier originally scheduled for this Friday has been cancelled due to what organizers say are concerns over a protest planned outside the event.

Bernier was scheduled to take part in an interview and a question and answer period with local PPC candidate and riding association president Mark Paravolos at the Guelph Youth Music Centre.

But a local group of protesters were planning to protest the event and the Guelph Youth Music Centre cancelled the booking.

Organizers said they will be looking for another venue to hold the event.

“We have recently learned through social media channels that an “anti-fascist rally” is being organized by a local group, in conjunction with a group from Hamilton, to protest at the event,” Paralovos said in a news release Saturday.

“The language and imagery used in the social media posts is concerning for the safety of the members of our community who are planning to attend this event, and for the GYMC. 

“Due to these safety concerns and the potential for property damage, the GYMC has understandably cancelled our event booking. We are receiving a full refund and would like to extend our appreciation to the staff at the GYMC for their time and effort thus far.”

An event could still happen. Paralovos said ticket holders for the event will be “updated on the status of the event via email. Further information to come.”

He did not immediately respond to a question about a more private event taking place.

A group called the Revolutionary Communist Party - Guelph was sharing the poster on social media and celebrated the cancelling of the Friday event.

They describe themselves as a group of “anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist militants.”

“A huge win for the Guelph working class! Maxime Bernier and his fascist goons have been shut out of Guelph! Just the thought of resistance to their fascist rhetoric leaves them running like the cowards they are,” said a post on the group’s Facebook page.

Mayor Cam Guthrie, prompted for a response on Twitter, responded Saturday night with a post saying the democracy compels free speech.

I thought we were to be a society that embraces freedom of speech and respectful discussions in the arena of ideas, no matter how contrary they may be to your own. Our democracy compels us.

— Mayor Cam Guthrie (@CamGuthrie) July 14, 2019

Earlier in the day the GYMC issued a statement saying that they didn’t book Bernier, as some social media posts claimed, but only rented a room to a local organization, something they do regularly.

“It has come to the attention of the Guelph Youth Music Centre that certain social media posts are claiming that the GYMC has invited Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada to speak at a July 19 event. This claim is false and defamatory as we have not invited the PPC. The PPC are simply renting space at the GYMC,” their statement said, hours before cancelling the booking.

“The Guelph Youth Music Centre is a non-profit organization with rental facilities to the community. We have no political associations or leanings. We have no part in the organization of this event.”

An online petition started by Guelph resident and activist Jamie Gibson seeking to get the appearance cancelled had 87 signatures in a day.

“The original motivation for the petition was actually a result of about a dozen other Guelph activists I know thinking that we should write letters of indignation to the GYMC. We eventually decided that writing a collective letter was preferable,” Gibson told GuelphToday.

“We recognize that Mark Paralovos' likely future pleas for freedom of speech (in his upcoming press release) are merely an opportunistic attempt to distract Guelphites from Bernier's bigoted history and past actions,” Gibson added.

Gibson said there was no evidence violence would have happened at the protest.

“The rhetoric of the People's Party of Canada is a much greater threat to public safety than is a barely-circulated online poster, such as the one created by the anti-fascist rally, he said