'Acts of racist violence' at festival blasted by P.E.I. immigrant support group

·3 min read
The incident took place in the parking lot of the Évangéline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC - image credit)
The incident took place in the parking lot of the Évangéline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC - image credit)

An altercation that sent two men to hospital after an event in P.E.I.'s Évangéline region over the weekend is being condemned as racially motivated and not a reflection of the values and attitudes of the area.

On Saturday at about 1:30 a.m., police responded to a call about an attack in the parking lot of the Évangéline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village in western P.E.I.

It happened after a dance held as part of the four-day Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival.

The two men who were sent to hospital are from other countries and now call the Évangéline region home. They were released from hospital after being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

On Tuesday, the Coopérative d'intégration francophone de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard, which provides assistance to French-speaking immigrants to P.E.I., issued a news release saying it "condemns in the strongest terms the acts of racist violence."

These acts of violence do not reflect the heart of the community, and it is the entire community that rejects them. — Yvonne Gallant

CIF president Yvonne Gallant was quoted as saying: "The people of the Évangéline area do not accept this kind of violence and racism. These acts of violence do not reflect the heart of the community, and it is the entire community that rejects them."

East Prince RCMP said in a news release Tuesday that at least five people were involved in the altercation. The release did not say whether the incident was thought to be racially motivated.

Submitted to Radio-Canada
Submitted to Radio-Canada

Police are asking any witnesses or other people who might have information about what happened to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or RCMP in Summerside at 902-436-9300.

'We can't understand'

For the volunteers who organize the annual festival — an event that is supposed to bring joy and celebration to the Acadian community — the past few days have been filled with phone calls and sadness.

"We can't understand. We are a welcoming region," said Jeanne Gallant, president of the Évangéline Area Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival. "We just want the public to know that this is one incident. It's not what our region is about, and we're doing everything we can to help with the investigation, to help the RCMP."

One of the people who needed treatment was an employee of Coopérative d'intégration francophone. The other worked at the French Daycare Association of P.E.I., which relies heavily on immigrants to fill positions within its system.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Patrick Buswell, vice president of the association's board of directors, said the newcomers are "amazing people" and valued in the community.

"We want them to stay. We want other newcomers to join us. It just makes our lives and the lives of our children much more rich and we welcome that."

We had a special meeting and people on the board were crying and were heartbroken. — Patrick Buswell

The daycare employee who was injured has been given time off with pay to recover, Buswell said.

"We had a special meeting and people on the board were crying and were heartbroken," he said.

"Physical aggression, racial or not, is absolutely unacceptable and it does not reflect the type of community Évangéline is for any newcomers — or any long-time comers."

Buswell said the daycare where the staff member worked will stay closed this week to give staff time to process what happened.

A meeting is planned for Wednesday evening to assure anyone affected by the incident that the community stands united against racism and aggression.