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Canada Far-right and anti-racist groups prepare to face off at Lacolle border crossing

01:06  20 may  2018
01:06  20 may  2018 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Anti - racist and far - right protesters faced off near a temporary camp set up to house asylum seekers near the Saint-Bernard-de- Lacolle , Que., border crossing Saturday surrounded by a heavy police presence, but the protest didn't escalate into violence.

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100317-no_object-1004_city_far_right-W.jpg© Graham Hughes

Members of the far-right group Storm Alliance hit the road Saturday morning, en route from Quebec City to the Lacolle border crossing to attend a rally against what they call illegal immigration.

“We are preparing for the big rally today,” said Eric Trudel of Storm Alliance (province of Quebec) told his followers on a Facebook video early Saturday morning before getting into his car to lead a convoy from Quebec City. “I hope to see you in great numbers…It seemed to be going well up to yesterday so I hope people won’t cancel at the last minute because they see some clouds in the (forecast).”

Meanwhile, counter-protesters from the pro-refugee group Solidarity Across Borders boarded three buses in Montreal and headed for the border for a rally of their own. They are planning a counter protest at the Lacolle border, as well as a kind of welcome party for asylum seekers crossing the boarder irregularly at Roxham Road, about eight kilometers west of the official border crossing, where increasing numbers of asylum seekers have been entering Canada. They will be joined by members of a group called Bridges not Borders, based in Hemmingford.

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Quebec border crossing protests: Anti - racist and ultranationalist groups faced off near the Saint-Bernard-de- Lacolle , Que., border , prompting heavy police presence and a temporary border closure 1:38.

Police separated pro- and anti -immigration demonstrators at the St-Bernard-de- Lacolle border crossing Saturday afternoon, after the two groups chanted slogans and hurled insults at each other. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Aaron Lakoff, a member of Solidarity Across Borders, said spirits were high on the buses on Saturday morning.

“It’s a challenge to get people to get up early on a Saturday morning and come down to the border to confront the far right,” Lakoff said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette from the bus. “But spirits are high. People feel this is a really important thing to do.”

The Storm Alliance rally, dubbed “United to Protect our Borders” was originally planned to take place at Roxham Rd., but organizers decided to change the location to the official border crossing at Lacolle late this week.

Solidarity Across Borders responded by claiming a victory, and vowing to be present at both spots Saturday to stand up for the rights of asylum seekers to claim refugee status in Canada.

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Police separated pro- and anti -immigration demonstrators at the St-Bernard-de- Lacolle border crossing Saturday afternoon, after the two groups chanted slogans and hurled insults at each other. About 100 right -wing protesters and a similar number of counter-demonstrators

A standoff between far - right groups and anti -fascist protesters along the Canadian side of the U.S. border forced police to temporarily shut down the crossing near St-Bernard-de- Lacolle , Que., on Saturday. Quebec border crossing protests: Anti - racist and ultranationalist groups face off 1:38.

Storm Alliance leader Eric Trudel has said his group is not anti-immigration, but rejects the Trudeau government’s tolerance of what he deemed “illegal immigration” into Quebec at the Roxham Rd. site.

Lakoff said asylum seekers are crossing at Roxham Rd. because of the Safe Third Country agreement, which requires them to claim refugee status in the first safe country they arrive in. If they cross at a regular border, they will be sent back to the U.S., whereas if they manage to get into Canada some other way, they will get a hearing. He said that agreement should be cancelled, since the U.S. is not a safe country for many refugee claimants.

“People don’t cross at Roxham Road because they want to. It’s because they have no choice,” he said. “That’s why one of our key demands is that the Safe Third Country agreement be cancelled. With the Trump administration cancelling the protected status of hundreds of thousands of people, they have no choice but to come up here irregularly at the Roxham Road crossing. We think these people should be welcomed. We have the resources. They exist or they can be found. It’s about political will.“

This story will be updated.

Mlalonde@postmedia.com

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Source: http://ca.pressfrom.com/news/canada/-75271-far-right-and-anti-racist-groups-prepare-to-face-off-at-lacolle-border-crossing/

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