A debate that will see Steve Bannon, the controversial former strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump, defend the issue of populism in Toronto this week is facing growing backlash, with critics calling for the event to be cancelled.
Community groups and some federal and provincial politicians have raised concerns about the Friday event, at which Mr. Bannon will argue against conservative commentator David Frum about the role of populism in the future of politics.
Several organizations banded together on Tuesday to call for the event, part of the Munk Debates, to be called off in light of last weekend’s deadly attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
They said giving Mr. Bannon a platform to express extreme views contributes to a climate of hatred that can encourage violence against marginalized or racialized groups.
“We’re at an important and terrifying moment as we watch right-wing governments come into power all over the world. The hate we are witnessing is serious – in fact, it is deadly,” said Rachel Epstein of the United Jewish People’s Order.
“Opposing this kind of hate and violence and the violence it fosters is not up for debate. And that is why we are asking that Mr. Bannon’s talk be cancelled, and if it is not … there would be large numbers of people there to let him know he is not welcome.”
New Democrats at the federal and provincial level have also voiced concerns about Mr. Bannon’s planned appearance at the debate.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen has said that efforts must be made to ensure people aren’t given platforms to spread hate.
“I trust Canadians to be able to reject that but we’ve seen so tragically the effects of those in politics, in public discourse when they spread hate, that others pick up that language and turn it into actions,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by the leader of Ontario’s NDP.
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