Members of the anti-Fascist group Pegida Watch Canada held protests at events in Montreal and Toronto – the latter sponsored by the Jewish Defence League – that featured a far-right British politician who Pegida Watch says promotes the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant movement that’s taking hold in the Western world.
On March 9, Act for Canada, a group that speaks out about the “clear and present dangers emerging from those who do not embrace Canada’s values along with the threat of homegrown terrorism,” organized a lecture at Ruby Foos restaurant in Montreal by Paul Weston, the leader of Pegida UK, an acronym in German for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.
On March 10, the Jewish Defence League (JDL) sponsored a lecture at the Toronto Zionist Centre by Weston and Lars Hedegaard, president of the Danish Free Press Society. It was titled “The threat of radical Islamic immigration and the erosion of our freedoms.”
Scott Weinstein, a member of the anti-Zionist group Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)-Montreal’s steering committee, said news about the Montreal protest, which attracted about 60 to 70 people, resulted in the event’s cancellation.
JDL Canada’s national director Meir Weinstein (no relation) confirmed the restaurant “pulled out last minute” due to security issues.
“They moved the venue to a private location. People pre-registered, so they had information to contact them” to inform them of a new location, Meir Weinstein said.
Scott Weinstein said there were no confrontations at the protest in Montreal.
“Only two or three people showed up for the talk, and they were turned away when they were informed the event had been cancelled.”
According to a press release, IJV-Montreal denounced “the hypocritical silence of our municipal and provincial leaders and major Jewish organizations regarding such openly Islamophobic events.”
Scott Weinstein said that last year in Montreal, about 2,000 people came out for an anti-Pegida demonstration.
“Young people are really kind of inspired in Quebec and Montreal to do something about this anti-Muslim racism,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, about 30 people protested outside the venue on Marlee Avenue.
Meir Weinstein said “BDS people, on the far left… tried to block the entrance to the parking lot. There was some pushing and shoving.”
According to a Facebook post by a protester named Syed Hussan, “Chants of ‘No Hate,’ No Fear,’ ‘Racists are not welcome here’ rang through the night. There were many moments of push and pull till the cops broke us apart but we held our ground, kept a steady chant and the racists were fuming, frustrated and frightened.”
Meir Weinstein said about 150 people attended the lecture.
“There seems to be some confusion in the Jewish community about what is the so-called right wing in Europe. Maybe some of them are bad people, but I’ve met some good people as well,” he said.
“These are people speaking about what is happening in Europe and that it is not safe to be Jewish in Europe. They are very vocal about that. The message is that radical Islam is spreading, and political correctness is allowing it to spread, and we have to be vocal about these problems.”
IJV called out the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) for being “silent about this event as well as the JDL’s persistent incitement to hatred towards Arabs, Muslims and Syrian refugees.”
“Jews were once refugees to this country and were themselves the scapegoats of racists, so we should be the first people to challenge incitement to hatred against refugee communities,” said IJV spokesperson Tyler Levitan in a statement.
CIJA spokesperson Jordan Kerbel said CIJA was not aware of the events and wouldn’t comment further.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the protests were organized by IJV. The CJN apologizes for the error.