CALGARY – A march billed as an anti-mask rally is raising concerns as several scheduled speakers all have agendas that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
Experts say some of the people who have been prominent at a series of anti-mask rallies in Alberta have been known to share right-wing and extremist viewpoints.
“There’s one public case where one of the speakers went after a prominent Muslim restaurant owner and there was a libel case being out there. There are a couple of folks that are being asked to speak that have created really divisive commentary around immigration and refugees,” said Irfan Chaudhry, director of the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity at MacEwan University.
Among the speakers is an infamous street preacher who you will often find on a street corner in downtown Calgary. Artur Pawlowski runs the Street Church and has openly voiced strong anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Islam sentiments.
He’s also run into several notable legal challenges.
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“I don’t think that Artur and Street Church and some of his initiatives are representative of mainstream Christianity in Calgary or even mainstream Evangelicalism,” said Pastor Tim Callaway.
Thomspon is the current leader of the Christian Heritage Party of B.C. She ran for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada in Red Deer-Lacombe in the last federal election. She is a fervent opponent of the LGBTQ+ community.
Carrigan, who is a self-proclaimed humanitarian with a focus on social causes and national environmental concerns, is listed as the interim leader of the New Federation Party, which calls for a new sovereign nation to be created.
Downing is the former leader of the Wexit movement and has openly spoken about Alberta becoming a part of the U.S.
Johnson is one of Calgary’s 2021 mayoral candidates and has called Black Lives Matter a terror group.
Hinman is a former MLA and leader of the Wildrose Party. He endorsed Jason Kenney for UCP leadership but is now the interim leader of the Wildrose Independence Party.
“There are images online of some of them being pictured with confederate flags,” said Chaudhry.
“Based on past rallies it’s easy to suspect that they appeal to alt-right, white nationalists because that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen Proud Boys in attendance at events where these individuals are,” said Chad Haggerty with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.
That’s why the concern about the so-called anti-mask rallies remains for many.
CityNews reached out to Pawlowski, one of the organizers, who maintains the rally is a peaceful one with no hidden agenda. He says anyone promoting violence is not welcome at the rally.
“Hate groups are not welcome. I am not a white supremacist,” he said.
He also says the poster that appears to show pictures from the 2017 torch marches in Charlottesville didn’t come from him and was created by a different “freedom group” planning to attend the event next month.
As for religious symbolism and references to the battle of Jericho, Pawlowski says religion plays a big role in his life and his events.
“We know we have a history of hate,” said Chaudhry.