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People’s Party of Canada supporters disrupt all-candidates forum

People’s Party of Canada supporter disrupts an all candidates forum at Trinity United Church Thursday. Bill Phillips photo

People’s Party of Canada supporters disrupted an all-candidates forum in Prince George Thursday, loudly cheering their candidate’s responses while interrupting other candidate’s replies.

It all came to head during a question about freedom of speech and whether candidates would designate ANTIFA, a movement composed of left-wing, militant anti-fascist groups and individuals, as a terrorist organization.

NDP candidate Heather Sapergia said she “believes in free speech, I don’t believe in hate speech,” and added that if a group meets the definition of a hate group, then it would be designated as such.

“ANTIFA won’t let you walk the street,” shouted the People’s Party of Canada supporter.

Conservative Party candidate Todd Doherty had enough.

 “I’m going to put a stop to this right now,” Dohety said. “All five (of the candidates) have been respectful.”

He asked the moderator to ask the crowd to be respectful of the candidates.

“I understand that everyone has an opinion, but we have to be respectful,” he said. “We’ve been asked to be respectful … I don’t believe that we should be allowing any types of social engineering to enforce on us political morality … freedom of speech, freedom of you love, who you pray to, government should not be telling you any of that.”

He said he doesn’t even know who ANTIFA is as he has been focused on people in the riding who are losing their jobs.

“When the world is trying to pull us apart and be divisive, sometimes God just wants us pray,” he said. “The stuff that we’re hearing, it’s divisive and it’s wrong … That’s what’s wrong right now, we have this type of B.S. rhetoric that wants to divide Canadians … You have the right to ask that question, but we have the right to demand that you be respectful.”

That prompted the People’s Party of Canada supporter continue to disrupt the forum, shouting: “How is that disrespectful?”

When the moderator asked the woman to sit down, she said wanted to hear the answer to her question. After a few moments, calm was restored.

However, People’s Party of Canada candidate Jing Lan Yang later was critical of Doherty’s comments saying he was infringing on the freedom of speech of the woman who was disrupting the forum. In addition, she was also critical of ANTIFA.

“What some people find politically incorrect, offensive, or even hateful cannot serve as the legal base for this great nation and also for censorship,” said People’s Party of Canada candidate Jing Lan Yang, reading from the party’s platform.

She criticized a recent incident of a Rebel reporter being removed from a Conservative Party event after he disrupted proceedings and claimed she saw a news report of an elderly lady being “bullied” by an ANTIFA members who is “a new immigrant refugee” from Syria.

Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr also said she didn’t know what ANTIFA is, saying she has been focused on her campaign, but added she didn’t like the tone of political conversation.

“I also believe that the divisive rhetoric that we’re getting from south of the border is not healthy for our democracy,” she said. “I’m upset at the question. I think we need to be talking more about issues that are relevant to our community.”

Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros said free speech is the foundation of Canadian democracy and “I don’t feel it’s under attack. Far too often, hate speech is defended as free speech and I don’t think that’s helpful.”

Later in the forum, when asked what she thought one of the biggest issues in the campaign is, Calogheros pointed to the divisive and heated rhetoric.

“I really think the hyper-partisanship and tribalism that is taking over the world is the single most important issue because it gets in the way of everything else,” said Calogheros. “If we’re too busy worrying about what button someone has in their lapel, or what god they pray to, or what colour their skin is, we can’t actually hear what’s going on in the mind of the individual.”

She said it’s more important to build relationships.

About 150 people jammed into Trinity United Church in Prince George for the forum.

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