By: Saije Rusimovici, Staff Writer
Content warning: mentions of racism and white supremacy.
On September 23, partially removed signs advertising a “whites-only” playgroup for “proud parents of European children” looking to “escape forced ‘diversity’” were found at Coquitlam Centre mall and in Port Coquitlam. The City of Port Coquitlam released a statement in response to the “hate-motivated incident” on September 25. They “condemn this in the strongest terms and promote an environment without hate.” The City urges anyone to report incidents like these to local law enforcement.
Upon learning about these signs, Port Coquitlam mayor, Brad West, declared that bylaw officers immediately began to search the area for the racist signs, which had apparently already been taken down by another party. West said in a media statement, “this vile garbage isn’t welcome in our community, or anywhere else.”
The flyer for the “whites-only” playgroup alarmed Syreeta Moore, Black mother and long-time resident of Port Coquitlam. She had been deeply angered by the signs posted so close to her home. “I was really upset because my daughter is 20-years-old. This is her community that she was raised in, and that sign was a block away from my house,” Moore said in an interview with Vancouver Sun.
The group had promoted themselves on Telegram, a messaging app. According to a report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), there are thousands of members linked to white supremacist groups on Telegram. “Our mission is to support privacy, free speech, and peaceful exchange of ideas. Calls to violence are not welcome on our platform,” a Telegram spokesperson told CNN. Yet, the ISD refers to the platform as “a safe space to hate” in their report, mobilizing white supremacist movements.
Tara Preece, a friend of Moore’s, joined the group and screenshotted several of the members’ conversations. Moore told the Vancouver Sun her initial suspicion was that the group chat was “just one jerk out there” trying to “stir the pot.” After seeing what Preece had found in the group, Moore concluded it was well-organized and “took some time and effort” to put together. Before the group was shut down, it had attracted over 200 users.
Since the extensive media coverage and public outrage regarding the signs, the group has been shut down. Moore commented that she knew this extent of racism existed, but said, “to see it like this, is different.”
Coquitlam RCMP urges residents to report hate-motivated incidents “whether experienced or witnessed” to report.RCMP.ca. They are working in an effort to support a “culture of inclusivity and belonging” and maintaining public safety. You may also anonymously report an incident by calling 1-800-222–TIPS (8477) or online at solvecrime.ca.