‘Good PR’: Why anti-hate experts are urging politicians to step up vetting practices – National


Before politicians attend an event, it is common practice for them to check who is going to be there – although the techniques used for this selection process can vary, according to some political strategists.

Mistakes can lead to embarrassing gaffes at best, they say, and widespread condemnation at worst.

« We’ve seen this on all sides of the political spectrum, » said Garry Keller, a Conservative strategist with StrategyCorp who worked as an adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

« We’ve seen stories where all parties have had questions raised in the media about attending certain events and being photographed with certain people. »

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New questions are being raised about these vetting processes after Global News learned that a march several politicians attended earlier this summer was organized by a person who has a habit of posting Islamophobic comments online. , who spoke at a rally attended by a self-proclaimed white nationalist. , and who has expressed support for extremist groups in the past.

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Hate and extremism researchers – who say they have been monitoring the individual for years – say political parties and staff need to step up their vetting practices.

“(Politicians) absolutely have a responsibility to research and figure out who is the person organizing this (event),” said Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

“I mean, it’s just good public relations. Why wouldn’t (their) team look at who the organizer is? And if they looked at who the organizer is, were they okay with that? »

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Stephanie McEvoy, who has described herself on social media as the organizer in Ottawa of a march against COVID-19 mandates that took place on June 30, was named on the City’s permit application. Ottawa as the « primary contact person for the event ».

Global News obtained a copy of the permit application.

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In 2018, McEvoy spoke at a small protest, which local media at the time called anti-immigration and anti-Justin Trudeau. Dan Dubois, National President of the Canadian Combat Coalition, or C3, organized the event. According to its YouTube page, C3 describes itself as a « non-profit, multicultural group of Canadian patriots who care about Canada’s future in every way. »

« We oppose mass immigration, open borders, the New World Order and Sharia, » he said.

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On the YouTube channel on the eve of the 2018 protest, Dubois can be seen chatting by the fireside with a self-proclaimed white nationalist, Kevin Goudreau, who has a swastika tattooed on his chest. Goudreau attended the demonstration.

McEvoy, who was one of the official speakers at the event, can be seen in a YouTube video telling a cheering crowd that Canada was founded on « Judeo-Christian principles ».

Global News also obtained a number of social media screenshots from McEvoy.

In a post, she says it was « just weird » that a Muslim woman rang her items at a Victoria’s Secret store. In another, she proclaims that she is « pro-ProudBoy ».

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'Good PR': Why anti-hate experts are urging politicians to step up vetting practices - image


The Proud Boys, a far-right group whose members participated in the Jan. 6 mob at the Capitol, was designated a terrorist group in Canada last year.

Global News reached out to McEvoy on Facebook asking for his comment on the decision to speak at the C3 rally, as well as his social media posts about Muslims. She did not respond to one request or multiple follow-up requests.

The march McEvoy helped organize centered on a man named James Topp – a Canadian soldier who spoke out against federal government demands for COVID-19 vaccines and now faces a court martial – who had traveled across the country to draw attention to his opposition to vaccination mandates.

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Although the permit application itself was denied — the City says it was not submitted on time, among other reasons — the march went ahead as planned. Four people were arrested after Topp arrived at the National War Memorial, in what Ottawa police characterized as an « interaction » in which they said an officer was « strangled ».

Before the march arrived at the National War Memorial, a handful of politicians, including Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, walked briefly alongside the group.

It’s unclear if they were aware of McEvoy’s role in organizing the event, as multiple requests for comment and attempted follow-up went unanswered for more than two weeks.

Questions about political control

The June 30 march is by far the first time politicians have been criticized for people associated with events they attended.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a storm of criticism in 2018 when a convicted killer was invited to a reception he attended. That same year, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was forced to disavow Sikh separatists after extreme elements showed up at the same rally he was attending.

Earlier this year, after attending a so-called ‘freedom convoy’ demonstration, Tory MP Michael Cooper issued a statement condemning Nazism because a flag bearing a swastika flew behind him during a interview with CBC News.

“If you were attending a rally, you should know who is organizing it,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, an assistant professor at Queen’s University and an expert on extremism.

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If politicians do not do their due diligence before attending a rally, he added, it could send a message to those in attendance.

« It either says you’re okay with (their) larger agenda or you don’t pay close attention to the rallies you attend, » Amarasingam said.

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According to Keller, politicians have different capacities for political control. If you’re in government — like the Liberals are right now — he said, you can consult the RCMP about events you plan to attend.

Other politicians often have to rely on their own filtering efforts, he said, through tools like Google.

“There is obviously a very big difference between the tools available to members of government in Canada and the tools available to everyone,” Keller explained.

According to Susan Smith, liberal strategist and co-founder of the Bluesky Strategy Group, it would be “impossible” for political staff to screen every participant in a big event like a protest – or a march.

Still, she said, « any good management team checks who’s hosting a particular event before deciding your candidate is in attendance. »

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Politicians are responsible for deciding who attends the events they plan, Keller said, and when they go out to attend an event with the public, there « are always inherently risky. »

“You may never know who shows up at one of your events,” he said.

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« But at the end of the day, the politician is the public figure, and he’s the one who’s responsible and accountable…to the general public, » Keller said.

It is unclear whether politicians who attended the June 30 march were aware of McEvoy’s role in organizing the event.

Several requests for comment sent to Poilievre’s team over the course of two weeks, including four follow-ups, went unanswered. McEvoy also did not respond to Global News’ request for comment during the same period.

Bernier’s team also did not respond to a request for comment.

Smith said if Global News had been able to obtain details about the organizer of the march, political staff likely could have done the same.

« It’s highly unlikely that the chef himself would be making those phone calls to find out, » she added.

« But they should ask those questions and they should make the decision. »

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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