The MP candidate for Green Party in North Vancouver is decrying a decision to bar his party from a Canada Day event organised by the North Vancouver Rotary Club of Lions Gate.
George Orr, the MP candidate for Green Party, says the club has ‘decreed’ that the Green Party will not be permitted at the event. He had planned to set up a tent to meet locals and inform them about his candidacy and the party’s platform, but was shocked when he found he won’t be able do so.
Orr said club members told him he won’t be allowed to pitch his tent because Heritage Canada, one of the sponsors of the event, doesn’t allow such political partisanship at the event. They told him that the exclusion of political parties was a stipulation of Heritage Canada, who fund the event.
That policy, Orr charges, isn’t stopping the Rotary from inviting the present MP as a ‘beloved dignitary’ to distribute muffins and cupcakes to families who attend. The exclusion is unfair and discriminatory, especially considering there is a federal election just months away, he says.
“It is discrimination, plain and simple. Some public voices are kept out, while the politicians in power who fund Heritage Canada are embraced. All we ask is a level playing field,” he said.
Orr said Heritage Canada policy is holding the Rotary Club hostage. “They are being held hostage by the funders. I can’t think of any other sponsor who will tell you who can and can’t participate. It’s unfair and we should all be able to find our voice and tell our stories at such events,” he said.
Shirley Robertson, a member of the Rotary Club of Lions Gate North Vancouver and co-chair of the Canada Day at Waterfront Park event, said the club has organised the event for 31 years. Orr is more than welcome to attend as a citizen, she says, but not as a candidate for a political party.
“It is pretty straightforward. There is no political partisan activities of any kind allowed at Canada Day. It is the activity that is prohibited, not the person. Canada Day is a completely non-partisan event as required by Heritage Canada who support the celebrations all across Canada,” she said.
The club invited all elected officials as well as RCMP Inspector and President of Rotary Club for official ceremonies and to speak for very briefly, after which they hand out Canada Day cupcakes to the public.
“This is purely ceremonial activity and not at all partisan. We also invite the Elected Members of Parliament to have a Government of Canada Booth (not a party booth) as Canada Day is a National Celebration,” she said.
Robertson said this has been a long standing policy, and only once before has this been an issue and once explained, it was understood. Orr, meanwhile, says a government sponsor of a supposedly public event should not dictate who cannot participate.
“There should be no policy in regards to funding public events. Open it up. Or don’t fund it. But don’t put event folks in a corner where their existence is dependent on any form of exclusion from groups recognized to be in the mainstream of the Canadian conversation,” he said.
Orr said he has been attending the event for several years with his family. He plans to attend again this year. “I am a Canadian and it’s a fun event and I am not going to go there and disrupt the event, but I am quite disappointed they are acting the way they are,” Orr said.