Alberta politicians distance themselves from right-wing extremist German politicians’ event
Alberta MPs and MLAs distance themselves from a German MEP who attended an event in Calgary this month at one of the city’s most prominent downtown venues.
Christine Anderson, a member of Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, undertook a tour of Canada that ended in Montreal last Friday. She made a stop in Calgary and performed at a dinner event at the Calgary Petroleum Club on February 18th.
Anderson rose to prominence among anti-vaccination groups after she accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of civil rights abuses during the trucker convoy protests while he was outside the European Parliament in Brussels.
At the Petroleum Club event, Anderson was presented with a white cowboy hat by Artur Pawlowski, a Calgary-based preacher whose clashes with authorities over pandemic health regulations have made headlines in recent years.
Anderson’s tour of Canada has made waves, particularly within the Conservative faction.
When photos surfaced last week of Anderson posing with three Conservative MPs — Niagara West MP Dean Allison, Oshawa MP Colin Carrie and Haldimand Norfolk MP Leslyn Lewis — Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s office issued a statement in which he called Anderson’s policies despicable, racist and hateful.
The statement added, “It would be better if Anderson never visited Canada at all.”
In Calgary, Mayor Jyoti Gondek also asked questions about the visit.
“Please allow me [to clarify] not that either [Tourism Calgary] still [Calgary Stampede] gave Christine Anderson a white hat. And I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t support their views in any way,” Gondek wrote.
“It will be interesting to see what [the Calgary Petroleum Club] has to say about the organization of the event.”
The Calgary Petroleum Club did not respond to CBC News requests for comment.
The Calgary Petroleum Club is a private downtown social club that often hosts hundreds of events and meetings. The club originally offered membership primarily to members of the local oil and gas industry, although it has since expanded its membership base.
A spokesman for the ruling United Conservative Party says its caucus members did not attend the event and that Alberta Premier Danielle Smith never spoke to Anderson. A spokesman for Alberta’s NDP said its members were also absent from the event, and Alberta party leader Barry Morishita confirmed to CBC News that no candidates from his party were present.
CBC News also reached out to all nine incumbent Calgary-area MPs for comment (one seat currently vacant).
Three Conservative Party MPs – Jasraj Hallan, John Barlow and Ron Liepert – responded to confirm they too had not attended the event, although others did not respond to a request for comment as of the time of publication.
Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said it’s important that Alberta politicians distance themselves from Anderson for the same reasons that federal politicians did.
“I just find it appalling that any Canadian politician doesn’t know who the AfD is and supports something like this,” Bratt said.
Alternative for Germany has long been controversial
Anderson is a member of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
The group has been accused of downplaying the crimes of the Holocaust and sometimes using rhetoric “tinged with Nazi undertones”.
In widely publicized comments from 2018, AfD founder Alexander Gauland said Hitler and the Nazis were just “a bird droppings in more than 1000 years of successful German history”. The group was also monitored by German intelligence as a suspected extremist group.
Anderson was photographed during her time in Canada posing with members of the far-right Diagolon organization, which Ontario provincial police have described as an extremist group.
“I had a lot of fun doing it. I was told they were comedians and literally made fun of this whole government agenda,” she told right-wing media group Rebel News last week.
James Turk, director of the Center for Free Speech at Toronto Metropolitan University, said the Calgary Petroleum Club, as a private organization, has every right to invite a speaker like Anderson in a democratic society, even though it would mean enduring criticism.
“The Calgary Petroleum Club is welcome in our democratic society whoever it chooses to admit. I think it’s a terrible idea for them to do this,” Turk said in an interview.
“That’s the other part of freedom of expression. You can do things, but then you have to deal with the consequences of your choices.”