A MacEwan University professor has questioned the Alberta government’s response to an anti-racism rally in Red Deer on Sunday that turned violent.
Irfan Chaudhry, director of the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity at the university, said it is important for the government to speak out when it sees acts of racial discrimination.
“What occurred in Red Deer can only be classified as racially motivated attacks that go beyond freedom of speech laws,” Chaudhry said.
“When you look at the video footage, this could only be looked at as white supremacy in action.
“That, to me, is what’s very concerning — when it’s being downplayed as just freedom of expression and the right to protest.”
Video showed heated moments and shoving as counter-protestors clashed with demonstrators at the Black and Indigenous Alliance AB rally. RCMP confirmed it is investigating.
Both Premier Jason Kenney and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu denounced the violent actions at the Red Deer event.
Madu stated: “All Canadians have the right to peaceful protest and to freedom of expression.”
During a Tuesday news conference, Madu was asked why the premier himself did not condemn hate groups in Alberta.
Madu responded he is sure the premier “condemns this event.”
“The premier at various times has made it clear that violence or racism or discriminatory practices against citizens are not to be accepted under any circumstances.”
Chaudhry said Alberta’s political leaders didn’t go far enough.
“In contrast to the strong statement the premier made when a statue of John A. MacDonald was toppled over, his response to racially motivated attack in his own province has been very tame in comparison.”
Christine Myatt, press secretary for the premier, said they reject the premise of the accusation.
Myatt said the premier has repeatedly condemned racism in all its forms, including Tuesday on his Facebook account.
Kenny wrote: “Any instance of violence, threat of violence, racism, or bigotry is unacceptable.”
His office also provided a link to Kenney’s address in the legislature on June 18, 2020. Kenney condemned racism and spoke about the death of George Floyd in the United States.
“Racism has touched too many Albertans,” said Kenney. “Too many Albertans continue to experience racial prejudice in their lives.”
Chaudhry said by not speaking directly to those who incited violence at the Red Deer rally, communities of colour have been led to feel a lack of representation by their elected officials.
“Not enough was said.”
Kisha Daniels, one of the co-founders of Black and Indigenous Alliance AB, said she was angered and saddened by the lack of response by most political leaders in the province.
She said Kenney had a more “visceral response” to the destruction of the MacDonald statue.
“Property is not more valuable than the lives and bodies of the racialized people and their allies,” she said.
Daniels also pointed to a comment made by the premier that stated: “Disagreeing does not entitle one to use violence.”
“Mr. Kenney, racism is not about having a disagreement,” Daniels said.
“Mr. Kenney, if there are two sides to an anti-racism conversation and one side is anti-racist it makes the other side racist.”
Daniels said the group is planning a news conference for Thursday.
Ponoka RCMP is also continuing to investigate after a 38-year old man was struck by a vehicle during an anti-racism protest in the Ponoka area on Sept. 10. He suffered minor injuries.
RCMP said members from the Black and Indigenous Alliance AB and counter-protestors were in attendance when the man was hit in the area of Highway 2A and Highway 53.
Anyone with dash cam footage or video footage of the incident between 3:45 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. is being asked to contact Ponoka RCMP at 403-783-4472 or Crimestoppers.