While political leaders in Alberta were quick to denounce the racism leading to this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, a hate-crimes expert says leaders need to be more firm in their condemnation.
A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others injured when a man, now charged with second-degree murder, plowed into a crowd of demonstrators protesting a white-nationalist rally.
The rally is believed to be the biggest gathering of white supremacists in recent American history.
Premier Rachel Notley, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and three candidates vying to lead the United Conservative Party took to social media to denounce the violence.
White supremacists have no place in our society. I echo my colleague @doug_schweitzer in condemning what is happening in Charlottesville.
Irfan Chaudhry, a lead researcher with the Alberta Hate Crime Committee and a criminology Instructor at MacEwan University, said leaders need to be more consistent with their messages condemning racism.
“My question back [to them] is where were they when things are happening in their own backyard?” Chaudhry said.
“We had a lot of large … racist incidents over the past number of years here and some [politicians] have been more outspoken than others.”
A recent incident, he said, was during Taste of Edmonton, when a group of 10 people calling themselves “Three Percenters,” a far-right antigovernment group based in the U.S., made themselves visible at the event.
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman agreed.
“I think it’s important … that politicians model the kind of society they want to live in,” Hoffman said “For me that’s one that addresses hate, discrimination head on, that we don’t tolerate it,” she said Sunday afternoon.
“Whether it’s racism, whether it’s sexism, whether it’s homophobia, I think it’s important that we find ways to address it.”
Chaudhry said people should be able to rely on politicians to send a stronger message.
“The response from the anti-racism groups both at the location but also just globally … I think often needs to be echoed and amplified even further to make sure that that voice of reason and anti-hate is the one that we remember.”
So sad to see vile, racist spectacle in Virginia. Hatred has now turned to violence. Those responsible attack all that is best about America
Both Republican and Democrats criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for not pointing the finger at the white supremacists group who gathered to protest the city of Charlottesville, Va., removing a Confederate statue.
On Saturday, Trump blamed “many sides” for the violence, though in a speech Monday he called racism “evil” and “has no place in America.”
Chaudhry said it’s important to start having strong conversations locally.
“If we just allow this to fester on the Facebook groups and Facebook pages, this is where that sentiment will get even deeper,” he said.
“Speak out louder when it’s local, you do have these hate groups in your province.”
In Feburary, Chaudhry was part of the initiative to launch a website, stophateab.ca, which seeks feedback from the Alberta community and watches trends.