'The gullible and the dangerous': Anti-hate group says flag seen at Saskatoon 'freedom rally' is concerning
SASKATOON -- The Canadian Anti-Hate Network says it is alarmed that a man was seen holding the Canadian Nationalist Party flag at a Saskatoon "freedom rally."
The rally was taking aim at COVID-related public health measures. According to police, more than 100 people attended and 18 have been ticketed so far.
Evan Balgord, executive Director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said that these rallies that can be found across the country and often see like-minded individuals gathering.
“From day one we have seen kind of every single hate movement and prominent individual that we monitor become involved in the COVID conspiracy movement. At this point they are one in the same,” Balgord told CTV News.
“Several of the key figures in the COVID conspiracy movement are out-and-out racists, or anti-Semites, and the people who still kind of knowingly organize around them know this.”
Balgord said that although the flag belongs to a registered political party in Canada, it is a symbol of hate and has direct ties to neo-Nazism.
“They took the name, the idea, and the designs for several of the things they do from Canadian Nazi parties from the 1930s and 1940s,” Balgord said.
Travis Patron, the leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party, was charged in February with wilfully promoting hatred to an identifiable group for a video he released called “Beware of the Parasitic Tribe.” In addition, Patron is also facing two unrelated charges of assault causing bodily harm.
“They are a neo-Nazi party,” Balgord said.
Balgord said the flag on its own isn’t something that someone can be charged for, but he said similar symbols are being seen more at ‘freedom rallies’ and people should know what it stands for.
“It’s the flag of a neo-Nazi party, ergo, it’s a neo-Nazi flag. That’s how we see it.”
“We have a danger here that’s going to extend past COVID because we’ve brought together the gullible and the dangerous.”
David Katzman, president of Saskatoon B’nai Brith, said the flag represents more than just a political party - it is a message.
“That flag signals that we are not welcome here. In fact, we are hated,” Katzman told CTV.
“It’s so ironic that the photo I saw of the flag was in front of the Vimy Ridge Memorial, where 10,000 Canadians were either killed or wounded defending the rights that you and I enjoy now.”
Katzman said that all the brave people who fought in the world wars, including his father who he said was injured on D-Day in the Second World War, did not fight for flags like this to fly in Saskatoon.
The event was led by federal People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier despite warnings from health officials of breaking the province's public health orders.
Nathan Lynchuk, a former Saskatoon Police Service officer who stepped down after previously resigning for attending a similar rally, was also in attendance in addition to Brent Wintringham, a former Saskatoon school custodian who came under fire for also attending a previous rally.