Protesters call for Reclaiming Canada Conference to be moved from city-owned Conference Centre

Protesters call for Reclaiming Canada Conference to be moved from city-owned Conference Centre

Dozens of people gathered outside the Victoria Conference Centre Saturday, protesting an ongoing conference and denouncing some of its speakers.

The Reclaiming Canada Conference, organized by We Unify Canada, is taking place at the conference centre over the weekend.

Protesters with 1 Million Voices for Inclusion told CHEK News some of the speakers lined up to present at the conference spread hate towards the LGBTQ+ community.

“They have quite the line up of notorious transphobes. Like there’s John Carpay and Aetur Pawlawski for example, they’re for conversion therapy even though it’s criminal and counts as hate speech according to the B.C. Prosecution Service,” Martin Girard, with 1 Million Voices for Inclusion, said.

“Hate speech causes harm and trans rights are human rights.”

READ MORE: Victoria Pride Society denounces ‘transphobic’ speakers scheduled at city-owned Conference Centre

But one conference speaker said that’s not what the conference is about.

Steve Kirsch, a conference speaker, said the event is about everything revolving the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Educate people, let them know what’s going on, why did we have these interventions and did the interventions work,” Kirsch explained.

More than 400 people attended Saturday’s presentations.

On the We Unify Canada website, the group says they will “confront disinformation, censorship” and the alleged “erosion of rights and liberties in Canada,” in an an event that promises to “reclaim Canada.”

Kirsch added the the goal is to also unify the country moving forward.

“Let’s have open discussions,” he said. “You guys want to end misinformation, all of us ‘misinformation spreaders’ want to end misinformation too. The only difference between you and us is who we think is spreading the misinformation.”

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The controversy between both the conference and the protest had a few at the protest wondering if there should be restrictions in place for who rents out space at the conference centre.

Grace Lore, minister of children and family development, was at the protest and said, “It’s important that we stand for the safety, joy and connection of everyone and that includes trans and gender diverse people.”

Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) is contracted with the sales and marketing for the the centre.

In a statement to CHEK News, it said, “We understand there are concerns about We Unify’s booking of the Reclaiming Canada Conference at the Victoria Conference Centre.”

DGV added “We have sought a thorough legal review of this situation. Unlike private venues, the Victoria Conference Centre is a public facility, and open to everyone. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as noted by the City, there is a right to freedom of expression in public spaces.”

The statement continued to say the DGV CEO has met with the president of the Victoria Pride Society, adding it values the relationship with the Victoria Pride Society and looks forward to working together in a meaningful way.

The City of Victoria reiterated it’s statement to CHEK News from earlier in the month.

“The city’s actions are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and there is a right to freedom of expression in public places. Any government decision to restrict or limit the opportunity for such expression is subject to compliance with the charter,” said city spokesperson Colleen Mycroft.

The conference is expected to continue through Sunday and protesters said they will be back to spread their message.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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