SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — The premier of Prince Edward Island is condemning what he says were acts of "racism and hate" over the weekend at an Acadian festival west of the city of Summerside.
Dennis King issued a statement Wednesday in reaction to reports that an employee and a client of a group that helps French-speaking newcomers settle in the province were allegedly physically and verbally attacked at a recreation centre in the Evangeline Region.
"A weekend that was intended to be full of celebrating our Island's diversity and vibrancy of the Acadian and francophone community has now been tarnished after an act of racism and hate," King said.
"No matter how you identify, who you love, who you worship, what colour your skin is, where you are born, or what language you speak — everyone in this province has the right to celebrate who they are and who they desire to be."
Summerside RCMP said in a news release they responded to a report of a disturbance outside the Evangeline Recreation Centre in the early hours of Saturday. They said they found five men involved in an alleged altercation in a parking lot and that two of them were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Both have since been released from hospital, RCMP said.
P.E.I.'s francophone integration co-operative issued a statement saying that one of its employees and an "immigrant client" were attacked over the weekend.
It's unclear, however, whether they were the two people sent to hospital.
Co-operative president Yvonne Gallant said the people of the region don't accept violence and racism. "These acts of violence do not reflect the heart of the community, and it is the entire community that rejects them," she said.
Representatives from the Acadian Festival of the Evangeline Region and the recreation centre did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. It is still unclear what precipitated the alleged fight between the five individuals.
King said what happened is not acceptable and won't be tolerated. "I’m calling on all Islanders to condemn any acts of violence and hate and speak out when these acts occur."
"Intolerance and discrimination have no place in our province," King added. "As a government, we will continue to find ways to ensure such incidents are mitigated and people who continue to perpetuate hate are held accountable."
In December, the premier intervened after a 16-year-old Black minor league hockey player — Mark Connors — was allegedly called the N-word at a tournament in Charlottetown. King wrote Connors a letter saying he was sickened by the abuse directed toward the player.
The “vast majority'' of Islanders are known for their friendship and hospitality, King said in the letter. “But we also have to fully admit that we aren't perfect .… We still have much more work to do, that much more education and conversation is needed to rid our society fully from the pain — and stupidity — of racism.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2022.
— By Hina Alam in Fredericton.
The Canadian Press