VANCOUVER, Canada – The Greek-Canadian community in Vancouver was drawn into controversy over an event featuring Canadian far-right speakers Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern which was scheduled for March 15 at the Hellenic Community of Vancouver (HCV) hall and subsequently cancelled, VICE reported.
The cancellation was announced on March 12 following an outpouring of opposition from the Greek-Canadian community and others against the anti-immigrant speakers, Molyneux, a far-right podcaster and Southern, a former Rebel Media personality “best known for trying to sabotage a ship transporting migrants across the Mediterranean,” VICE reported.
Angry protesters even threatened violence if the event took place. Since many Greek-Canadians are immigrants or the children of immigrants, the protests were understandable. Glyn Lewis, former board member of the Hellenic Canadian Congress, said “This doesn’t represent us. Either we or our parents came here as immigrants, and the Greek-Canadian community is one of celebration and hopefully one of respect. I don’t think inviting two speakers who are so clearly motivated by hatred helps us advance those goals,” VICE reported.
HCV President Demetri Zambus said “he wasn’t aware of the far-right views of the speakers” and added that “the venue doesn’t typically vet speakers and doesn’t endorse their political positions,” VICE reported.
He said of the Greek community being pulled into the controversy between “free speech” advocates who urged them to hold the event and protestors urging them to cancel, “It’s a nightmare. We’ve been flooded by phone calls, by emails, people just trying to disrupt our services,” VICE reported.
Among the many city councillors who voiced their opinion and urged the cancellation of the event was Pete Fry who told VICE, “It cultivates a culture of alt-right intolerance and hate, and I just don’t think there’s any space for that in our city.”
Zambus noted that “he had rented to the Free Speech Club previously ‘without incident,’ and “historically, we have hosted Greens, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Libertarians, Trotskyites: everyone. We are politically agnostic,” VICE reported.
Following threats and flyers posted on cars parked near the community’s hall, Zambus still planned to follow through with the event. He told VICE on March 11, “When King Xerxes wanted Leonidas to surrender, he said ‘I have so many archers that if we shoot our arrows at you, we will block out the sun!’ And King Leonidas said “fantastic, we fight better in the shade,’ this is the character that’s in our blood.”
By March 12, however, HCV released a statement cancelling the event due to “threats of violence against our members by various political fringe groups and one domestic terrorist organization,” VICE reported, adding that HCV “did not name groups or say if anyone has been charged, but Vancouver police confirmed they are investigating.”
“While we fully embrace freedom of speech, the safety and well-being of our members is paramount,” HCV’s statement read, VICE reported.
Low ticket sales at the Chan Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver led The Free Speech Club to cancel the event once before, VICE reported. Free Speech Club director and Greek-Canadian Angelo Isidorou told VICE that “he regrets the community was ‘pulled into this,’” and added that “it’s gonna be really ironic that the free speech guy is saying this, but people need to watch their words and be aware of the laws… because there’s a lot of crazy people out there.”