Vancouver's mayor says there is little the city can do to prevent a rally planned by far-right groups, but he hopes residents confront racist rhetoric peacefully after recent turmoil in the United States.
In the wake of an anti-racist protester dying in Charlottesville last Saturday, Mayor Gregor Robertson condemned a rally planned for City Hall this weekend by a collection of small groups opposed to Islam, the federal government's immigration policies and what they call the loss of Canada's "European heritage."
"Obviously, Vancouver has a troubled history with racism and discrimination," Mr. Robertson told reporters Tuesday. "Zero tolerance of racism and hatred and discrimination is where Vancouver is at."
Local authorities cannot stop the event, he said, but police and City Hall security will make the space as safe as possible for the rally organizers as well as the protesters aiming to disrupt the demonstration.
"Canada is a free country and people have the right to demonstrate and protest," he said. "They have a right to demonstrate, but hatred and racism have no place in this city and I expect people to confront that and make sure there's a peaceful and direct pushback on racism and hatred."
Those behind Saturday's rally and counterprotest both say a turnout of 100 people on each side would be a success.
One of the main organizers of the rally, the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI), held a similar rally in Calgary in June, which saw a handful of its members shouted down by anti-fascist protesters outside City Hall as more than two dozen police officers separated the two sides.
Amid a rise in Islamophobia in recent years, similar rallies have occurred across Canada, though not with the violence or Nazi symbols seen at American events.
Isabelle Rowe-Codner, co-founder of the Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver, said her ad hoc group has been monitoring various organizations in the region for a while and decided to organize a peaceful protest Saturday to voice its opposition.
"It does really shock me to see how out there their organizers can be online," Ms. Rowe-Codner said. "A lot of them say things that are very outspoken, hateful vitriol and we're definitely dealing with people who are passionate about being hateful members of our community.
"So it doesn't surprise me how open they are toward violence."
Joey Deluca, a Calgary man speaking at Saturday's Vancouver rally, said his group, the WCAI, does not advocate violence, and the logo for the event – a prone anti-fascist protester being punched by another man – is a tongue-in-cheek nod to his political opponents, who he said use similar imagery.
Mr. Deluca says his group is not white supremacist, though fellow members reacted to the protests in Charlottesville over the weekend by posting to their Facebook accounts about the need to save "European heritage" and referencing popular white-supremacist slogans.
Mr. Deluca said his group wants Canada to restrict immigration and stop asylum seekers from walking over its border with the United States.
He said the "fake news" media have hidden the many crimes perpetrated by Syrian refugees, but could not provide any evidence of this except for an incident at the West Edmonton Mall last February.