Following online backlash, the University of Toronto has denied the booking of a Canadian Nationalist Party rally on the St. George campus on September 14.
The CNP describes itself as a “federally registered political party in Canada occupying a center-right position on the political spectrum. Advocating for a strong national identity, the CNP espouses social traditionalism and fiscal conservatism.”
University president Meric Gertler released a statement against the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“As we prepare to welcome students, faculty and staff to our campuses for the start of another academic year, it is important that we reaffirm our collective and unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” read Gertler’s statement.
“These are among the University of Toronto’s core values. They are cornerstones of outstanding scholarship, teaching, and learning, which can thrive only by embracing the broadest range of people and encouraging the free expression of diverse perspectives in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Bigotry, hate, intolerance and violence have no place on our campuses.”
The university detailed in a news release that the nationalist group had made no official booking with the campus.
“The university learned the organization had indicated in a Facebook post that it would hold the rally on U of T’s downtown Toronto campus in September. The organization did not have permission to hold the event at U of T,” the news release read.
According to the U of T news page, the University of Toronto has ordered a cease and desist letter to the nationalist group in order to prevent any perceived affiliation with the school and the CNP.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union was on alert after the university’s response to the rally.
“One of the concerns that we have is that the initial response of ‘we don’t have a booking’ so we can’t make an assessment,” Matthias Memmel, UTSU’s president, said in an interview with The Medium. “You don’t need a booking to come to a determination on whether or not an organization on their website is talking about returning to a high population of Eurocentric values. You don’t really need a booking to come to that conclusion.”
In an email to The Medium, UTMSU president Salma Fakhry outlined her team’s stance on the rally and the University’s official statement.
“The fact that a white nationalist rally was “cancelled” doesn’t take away the fact that white supremacy is ever present at the University of Toronto. It is embedded within its framework, structure, administration and in some particular student unions,” said Fakhry.
Fakhry stated that the current UTMSU executives are working with multiple organizations, including the Coalition Against White Supremacy, in order to combat systematic racism within the university. The UTMSU stated that the next few months will be an opportunity to educate students and the university community.
“There’s nothing that physically prevents people from walking on to the campus, the campus itself is quite porous. It’s integrated with the city that in part is why people like to study at St. George,” Memmel continued.
Memmel stated that he and his team of executive directors are currently working with the administration to “encourage them to have a policy specifically on external partners attending on-campus events.”
“One of the things there has been a lot of talk about is if there’s going to be a counter rally,” said Memmel, “One of the things that we don’t want to do and be responsible for us would be to encourage people to attend a counter-action where potentially their safety would be compromised.”
Memmel added that his team is still talking with the U of T administration and media relations in order to figure out how to proceed in the event the rally takes place.
The UTSU has no current plans to counteract the rally until it becomes clear that the CNP will proceed with their plans on September 14.