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Criminologist weighs in ahead of dueling City Hall rallies

Last Updated Aug 17, 2017 at 5:06 pm PST

Vancouver City Hall (Photo credit: Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Expert says there are misconceptions about extremist groups in the Lower Mainland

Dueling protests planned for Vancouver City Hall this weekend

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – On Saturday, there will be a lot of attention on the dueling protests planned for City Hall in Vancouver.

One expert says there are some misconceptions about extremist groups in the Lower Mainland.

One of the myths is that these groups are coming from rural areas, according to Ryan Scrivens with SFU’s School of Criminology.

“Some of the most well-organized hate groups are residing within Vancouver right now.”

He says these groups often draw upon local experiences to draw radical conclusions.

“These people who perhaps grew up in Vancouver or the Vancouver area, but can no longer afford to live in that area because of the housing market,” says Scrivens. “I think they are people who are generally just frustrated with their situation. And I think they are generally people who are misinformed about complex issues.”

He says these extremists often cherry-pick information and oversimplify complex problems.

Scrivens mentions the Syrian refugee crisis as another common talking point with far-right groups.

“Members of the Alt-Right are squarely blaming Trudeau for what they perceive as Sharia Law taking over the country because Trudeau allowed or enabled a large portion of immigrants and refugees to come into the country.”

Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver has issued a statement saying though it does not issue permits for rallies or protests, such events frequently take place at City Hall.

“In accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the City cannot prevent people from assembling on public property for the purpose of exercising their right of freedom of expression. The City recognizes that there are limitations on free speech and that it is an offence under the Criminal Code to make statements in public which incite hatred against any identifiable group. It is not possible to know in advance whether any speech that may occur at Saturday’s protests will violate laws which relate to hate speech but the situation will be closely monitored. The City has no jurisdiction or authority to enforce the Criminal Code.”

The city says it will continue to work with the VPD to monitor the rally and minimize any risk to the public.