Peterborough police say they’ve added their name to a list of organizations and individuals that support diversity, inclusion and peace for all.
It comes as a white nationalist group called the Canadian Nationalist Front plans an “anti-illegal immigration and anti-Trudeau” rally Saturday at Confederation Square in Peterborough. Local chairman Kevin Goudreau says it’s among a number of similar rallies taking place across the country questioning Canada’s immigration process.
Goudreau’s rally has spurred several counter-rallies as part of a “Solidarity Weekend,” starting on Friday with a “Chalk Out Hate” event.
Peterborough police issued a statement on Thursday stating it works with local organizations to make the city a “safe, welcoming, accepting and inclusive community.”
“There are moments when we can leverage those relationships to uphold values of safety and inclusion,” the police stated.
Police did not indicate whether they will have an increased presence at the weekend rallies. It has added its name to an online statement of unity.
“We celebrate the many creative events taking place across the city this weekend that uphold the values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion,” stated 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 well-being.”
The city has also come under scrutiny for permitting the Canadian Nationalist Front to rally on city property. Coun. Dianne Therrien and some groups, including the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, want the city to pull the CNF’s permit.
“There is nothing peaceful about white nationalists marching in public spewing messages of hate and intolerance,” stated FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo. “The mayor and city councillors must intervene to reverse this decision immediately.”
However, Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett says the city is unable to deny an applicant the opportunity to stage a “non-violent rally.”
“However, the city has notified the police of the event and they have informed the city that they will monitor the situation,” Bennett stated. “I would assume that these individuals want to create controversy and get media attention. The last time one of these individuals was part of a rally in Peterborough it involved four people standing on a corner. We don’t want to raise the profile of these individuals.
“The Peterborough community has responded appropriately to this latest action by showing compassion and support for diversity through creative events such as the Chalk Out Hate initiative that will be held on Friday.”
Bennett says residents must stand together against “racism and hate.”
The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board also supports the online statement of unity, noting the school has welcomed new students from across the world, most recently from Syria, Rwanda and the Philippines. The board recently heard from five St. Stephen Catholic Secondary School students who shared their experiences after visiting concentration camps in Germany and Poland as part of the board’s joint Historical Educational Holocaust Program with York Catholic District School Board.
“Those students explained how bearing witness to the stories of victims and survivors has changed their lives profoundly,” said Director of Education Michael Nasello, who led the students on the incursion.
“They spoke about walking in the footsteps of those voices and carrying forward a responsibility to condemn racism, hate, and intolerance. It is a lesson that appears as important today as it ever was.”
“We support the values reflected in the unity statement circulating throughout Peterborough and the statement of inclusivity posted by the New Canadians Centre, joining a list of organizations that support peace and inclusion in our community,” added Nasello.