Two members of the National Citizens Alliance were separated from about two dozen protesters by members of the Saint John Police Force Friday as they attempted to hold a rally outside of Saint John city hall.
The far-right, anti-immigration group, which is a federally registered party, had originally planned to hold an event at Branch 69 of the Royal Canadian Legion on Friday which was later cancelled.
The executive director of the New Brunswick Command of the Legion says the decision was made after they found out who the group was and what they represent.
“Well, the main reason was that on June the third a hate policy was enacted by Dominion Command of the Legion, stating that we would not be associated with these kinds of groups because they don’t meet the values of the Royal Canadian Legion,” said Jack Clayton.
“It doesn’t coincide with what the Legion stands for.”
NCA calls for ‘Canada first’ approach
Without a venue the group decided to set up outside of city hall where they were met with chants and whistles from counter-protesters while leader Stephen Garvey tried to dispute the characterizations of the group as anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ.
The group’s platform calls for a “Canada first” approach and a “ban on political Islam,” advocating for the reduction of legal immigration to 50,000 people or less within one year of forming government and enforcing an immigration regime based on national and cultural security.
The group also says it would stop schools and other institutions from exposing children to “indoctrination to sexual identity theory in particular tolerance,” and suggests that political correctness poses a threat to Canadian cultural identity.
On the group’s website, there are links to videos exploring the “Attack on our children and families” and the so-called “Replacement of Canadian People.”
WATCH: A Halifax brewery says it has learned a lesson after serving drinks to members of a far-right political party led to serious social media backlash. Elizabeth McSheffrey has more.
These ideas were not well met in Saint John.
“Our town does not condone intolerance, that we welcome immigrants, and we don’t welcome the likes of this group who claim to be so open and speaking for all these people. There’s nobody here today to support them, we’re all here because we’re really concerned about them getting any kind of a foothold in our area,” said counter protester Dawn Robichaud.
“Canada needs more immigrants,” said Christianne Vachon, another counter protester.
“I work with newcomers here in Saint John when I can and we’re really really lucky to get them, they’re wonderful people, we have a rapidly aging population here and we need new people and they enrich us.”
The NCA has been trying to gain a foothold in the Maritimes for the last two years to limited success. In May of 2018, the group was banned from the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival in Nova Scotia after they were allowed to march in the festival’s parade.
‘There are far more people here standing up’
Last summer they also rallied in Dartmouth where about four members were met by dozens of counter protesters, facing a similar response just last weekend when a few members tried to hold a rally outside of Halifax’s city hall.
Saint John’s mayor Don Darling took to social media to condemn the group and stood with the counter protesters Friday.
“I’m relieved that there’s only two people here,” Darling said of the rally.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are far more people here standing up for what we would see as Saint John values, views, what we would see as Canadian views, and there’s one guy with a bullhorn spewing a lot of information.”
Darling said the group did not book the space in front of city hall and that permits are not required to gather there, but it may be something the city will consider looking at in the future.
“By the time I checked into it they had not applied for any permit, I looked into it to see if any permit was required,” he said.
“Certainly would believe that in the future we should require permits from all gatherings from a public safety perspective so we know what’s going on.”
Darling also spoke about the added police presence necessary to protect the group and mused that he would like to send a bill to the organization to recoup some of the costs incurred by the rally.
“We have about 12 plus police officers here today. The people of Saint John will pay for that. I think a bill should go to this group because clearly they’re inciting the need to have this many police officers here.”
The mayor’s presence at the rally was noted by many of the protesters, expressing their pleasure that Darling would so visibly stand against a group like the NCA.
“It means everything to have the mayor here today because it means that welcome to newcomers starts at the very top,” said Vachon.
“If the mayor of the place that you want to go an live says I’m sorry, but I have to let people stand up and say you’re not good enough for Canada on the steps of city hall, that would be horrible. So Don Darling I really admire for stepping up to this.”
Stephen Garvey did approach Global News to see if we would be interested in an interview, but that request was declined, and after some discussion Garvey criticized Global’s ongoing coverage of the group as heavily biased.