KENTVILLE - A nationalist group that used the Apple Blossom parade as a forum for promoting a platform featuring right-leaning political views regarding immigration is now banned from returning to the event.
And this ban could create a ripple effect if organizers of similar events heed the advice of the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival’s executive committee.
“The festival wishes to assure the public that based on the actions of this particular political party this year, the board of directors has banned this group from ever participating in any Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival events and encourages other local and national events and festivals to do the same,” reads a press release issued by the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival (AVABF) board of directors May 27.
The release was issued in response to public complaints directed to the AVABF board after a man with a megaphone, flanked by a few more men carrying a banner for the National Citizens Alliance (NCA), raised the ire of some parade goers.
Video footage the NCA shared on its Facebook site shows party leader Stephen Garvey, who formed the political group in Alberta four years ago, telling the crowd what the organization stands for.
“We need to protect Canada’s identity, culture and heritage, otherwise we will lose who we are as a people,” said Garvey, who also called for lower taxes and smaller and more efficient government structures.
Sentiments shared by Garvey prompted some spectators lining Main Street during the parade to lodge complaints.
“It has come to our attention that a group participating in the parade was using the Grand Street Parade, which is a family-friendly event, to spread inappropriate political messages in the realm of what the festival board of directors and many public attendees consider hate speech,” the prepared statement from the AVABF board reads.
Organizers set out to host the largest parade in the festival’s history, ultimately attracting a record number of 165 entries. Entrants were required to complete an application form prior to participating, and political parties are not permitted to use the parade as means to sound off on their political views.
“Nowhere on the application of the aforementioned entry did it mention that this entry was representing or aligned with a group with such malicious viewpoints,” the Apple Blossom Festival’s media release said.
The statement issued by representatives of the festival denounced what it described as “derogatory messaging” relayed by the political party and stressed that steps will be taken to prevent similar incidents from unfolding in the future.
AVABF president Alxys Chamberlain had nothing further to add beyond what was stated in the official release issued by the festival’s board when asked to comment May 28.
The National Citizens Alliance did not respond to an interview request. The party indicated on social media that a statement would be issued sometime May 28.
“An issue has arisen in regard to the Apple Blossom parade (in Kentville, Nova Scotia) and the National Citizens Alliance's participation in the parade. There are a lot of rumours and name calling circulating,” a Facebook post published May 27 reads.
“The National Citizens Alliance will make a live public statement tomorrow to share our perspective and dispel the rumours and name calling.”
The platform outlined on the NCA’s website indicates that the party would “implement strong no nonsense immigration policy that puts the well-being and safety of the Canadian people first.”
The statement goes on to say that this would involve “implementing a temporary pause and substantial reduction in immigration.”