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Ousted political party 'saddened and disappointed' by Apple Blossom ban

National Citizens Alliance leader Stephen Garvey
National Citizens Alliance leader Stephen Garvey - Submitted

KENTVILLE - The leader of a federal political party banned from all future Apple Blossom events does not believe the policies he backs around immigration fit in the far-right category.

Founding National Citizens Alliance member Stephen Garvey admits his party’s policies reflect a strong stance on immigration but said the party does not condone any form of radical extremism.

“As a party, we condemn all forms of hate speech and also supremacy,” said Garvey, defending the party he formed in Alberta four years ago in a phone interview May 29.

The organization became the subject of criticism following the NCA’s participation in the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival’s Grand Street Parade in Kentville May 26.

“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,” reads a prepared statement released by the Apple Blossom Festival’s board of directors May 26.

The board also announced that the party is prohibited from participating in future festival-related activities.

Garvey said there were other political parties represented in the parade and he does not feel any lines were crossed by NCA participants.

“We were very saddened and disappointed. We think it’s a beautiful parade and we thought the criticism of hate speech, malicious speech and something about people not feeling safe, we thought that didn’t make sense,” he said.

Party members did not knowingly leave any information out of the application form or intentionally set out to stir the pot during the course of the parade, Garvey said.

“No one said anything to us through the whole parade, so we just kept doing what we believed we could do.”

The party paid the entrance fee and used the event as a forum to discuss such topics as taxes, families, democracy, small government, culture and heritage, Garvey said.

“Every group there was promoting what they do in one shape or form. We’re not going to go up there and muzzle ourselves, and not have any banner,” he said.

“What’s the point of being in it?”

He described the festival board’s decision to ban the party from future events as a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“I don’t think it’s fair. We weren’t trying to break rules… we’re going to let it sit for now but we will approach them and hopefully, we can talk,” said Garvey.

“This was our first parade. If we were doing something wrong, why didn’t someone tell us? It was five kilometres.”

Garvey felt the passion displayed by the NCA added a “nice spice” to the parade.

“There was a complete misunderstanding. I’m a very passionate person and I feel strongly about some of these issues, so I guess my passion came out, but I don’t feel I did anything wrong.”

Video footage from the event shows Garvey addressing parade-goers lining Main Street with a megaphone.

“We need to protect Canada’s identity, culture and heritage, otherwise we will lose who we are as a people,” said Garvey.

Immigration issue

Garvey said he does not consider the comments he made to be malicious or hateful.

“I didn’t mention the word immigration once in that parade… all I said was, 'Let’s protect our identity.' The people who founded this country are being replaced.”

He said he can see how the comments about culture and identity can be connected to the party’s concerns regarding mass immigration.

“We want responsible, balanced immigration. We do not support the mass immigration.”

Garvey acknowledges that the party’s stance on immigration has led to a platform that can be viewed as espousing right-leaning policies on the subject.

“We don’t agree with the direction of the country and, I’ll be very honest, we think it’s heading towards a globalist village where we’re all going to be divided,” he said.

“We have strong views on immigration, there’s no doubt about it… we want a temporary pause.”

Garvey stressed that he believes political groups are often classified as for, or against, immigration in the media, but he believes there can be a middle ground.

“Everyone is just focused on immigration. We don’t understand. We don’t view that as hate or anything. We have strong views on Canada’s identity, heritage and culture,” he said.

“We think it needs to be protected.”

A spokesperson for the Apple Blossom Festival did not respond to a request for comment May 29.

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