Holocaust denier leads meeting in Sidney

Last Friday’s event not publicized to avoid protesters

Controversial far-right figures Paul Fromm and Monika Schaefer were in Sidney on Friday, Jan. 25, for a fundraising and speaking engagement, as part of a discrete 11-stop, cross-country tour.

Schaefer is a former Green Party candidate from Alberta, who recently served a 10-month sentence in Germany for Holocaust denial, which is classed as a hate crime there.

Fromm is one of Canada’s most prominent far-right figures and the executive director of the group who organized the tour – the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE).

Fromm describes himself as a conservative, but his ideology has been labelled ‘neo-Nazi’ by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors extremists in North America.

The main topics of the lecture in Sidney regarded Schaefer’s experiences in prison, freedom of speech and her political beliefs. Wary of disruption by potential protesters and to maintain discretion, the talk was not advertised and attendees were invited through CAFE’s subscription newsletter and email service. It is believed between six and 12 people attended.

Schaefer has visited the Saanich Peninsula before for her political activities and a meeting with supporters was cancelled with short notice on June 18, 2016.

Gordon Watson, a local supporter, said the venue cancelled that talk the day before, once it discovered who would be speaking. When attendees turned up on the day of the talk, they were turned away by officers from the Central Saanich Police Department and RCMP.

Since then, Schaefer has made three trips to Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula to meet with supporters. Schaefer, who has talked openly of her admiration for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, now styles herself as a free-speech activist who believes no topic should be off-limits in public discourse, no matter if it can be interpreted as hateful.

Germany is not alone in placing restrictions on speech. Canada’s Human Rights Act and Criminal Code designate hate speech as a prosecutable crime and individuals have been convicted, going back as far as the James Keegstra trial in 1990.

Regarding ‘hatred’, former Supreme Court Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote in 2013 that, “In my view, ‘detestation’ and ‘vilification’ aptly describe the harmful effect that the Code seeks to eliminate.”

Fromm and Schaefer dispute that their ideas are hateful and are convinced Canadian society is in an “existential struggle” that is “at war without the bombs.” They claim they are peaceful activists and do not seek physical confrontation. However, Fromm warns that if groups like CAFE are restricted in expressing their views, more extreme elements might take their place.

“When you silence the man with the pen, you make way for the man with the sword,” he said.

Schaefer agreed, “they force you to, in the end, not me personally, but in the end that is what’s going to happen.”

Schaefer said she received 1,250 letters from supporters around the world while in jail and that her anti-Semitic beliefs in hidden global conspiracies have “hardened” since her release, and she now considers her current and future activism as her life’s work.

Central Saanich Police Deputy Chief Derren Lench said if officers received information that a talk that breached the Civil Code was happening they would, “investigate it like any criminal offence and whether it was a potential hate crime.”

He added, they would then work together with different agencies and decide how to proceed.

nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

UPDATED: Protesters leaving Swartz Bay ferry terminal

Movement in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Downtown Victoria businesses band together to hire private security company following rise in thefts

Lower Johnson Street businesses have had little to no response from VicPD

Oak Bay driver hits cyclist, police consider blaming snow boots

Break and enter, thefts also seen in mid-January

Number of U-Hauls entering Victoria plummeted in 2019

Data compiled from two million one-way U-Haul transactions

Esquimalt explores creating portage beach for choppy Gorge waters

The portage beach would add safety to the Victoria Waterways Loop

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to give refund to B.C. buyer due to puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Man dies in backcountry near Nelson’s Whitewater Ski Resort

The victim was found unresponsive in a tree well Friday

Cariboo Memorial Hospital back to normal after cold weather wreaks havoc

Burst pipes and water leaks cause three different incidents

Site of planned Jumbo Valley ski resort to be protected, managed by First Nations

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Huawei exec’s extradition hearing begins in Canada

China’s foreign ministry complained the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights

Prince Harry: ‘Powerful media’ is why he’s stepping away

Prince Harry and Megan have stepped away from their royal commitments

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

Most Read