White pride group expected to hold event in Ontario

Jared Gilkes and his wife Stefania Goulden stand in the driveway of their home east of London,...

Jared Gilkes and his wife Stefania Goulden stand in the driveway of their home east of London, Ontario, Friday May 9, 2014. (CRAIG GLOVER/QMI Agency)

Jennifer O'Brien, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Yes, they have the right to free speech.

But the birth of a new "white pride" group in Southern Ontario is reason for concern and needs to be kept firmly on the public radar, a national human rights activist says.

"I think it's important we be cognizant of this always and police keep a close eye on this," said Bernie Farber of Toronto, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

"Any group that has a purpose to hate -- which white pride groups do, whether they say so or not -- eventually spiral or can spiral into other issues," said Farber, who now works with First Nations communities.

Members of the Southern Ontario Skinheads (SOS) are expected to attend a London-area bash this weekend, billed online as a White Pride World Wide celebration.

"It's not about hatred," the man holding the party in Dorchester, Ont., has told QMI Agency.

"It's about pride in your heritage, not hate," said Jared Gilkes, who extended an invitation to QMI Agency to attend Saturday's event.

Police have had SOS members on their radar for some time now and say they plan to monitor the bash on Gilkes' property which is adorned by a white pride flag.

Gilkes' public Facebook page is filled with white pride slogans and postings. Past images, no longer available publicly but captured and saved by watchdog organization Anti-Racism Canada, include home video of skinheads marching at night, shouting "White pride, world ... wide."

Police say SOS is entitled to free speech and assembly as long as no crimes are committed. No group members have been charged with any hate-motivated crimes, police say.

One London observer, lawyer Lakin Afolabi, said while he finds racism offensive, it would be "more offensive" if police clamped down on people simply for expressing their views.

"The charter (of rights and freedoms) is not about legislating hurt feelings at this point and I pray it never gets there," said Afolabi, a member of the African Canadian Federation of London and Area. "In a democratic society, ideas should be debated."

But Anti-Racism Canada, an online group devoted to outing white pride groups and first warned about the rise of SOS, said free speech goes both ways.

"Just as they are free to offend, others have the right to be critical of that speech," a spokesperson said by e-mail. "There is a lot to criticize when one examines the views of the SOS and like-minded groups."

jennifer.obrien@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/obrienatlfpress


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