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New Greek National Party Puts Montreal Community On Edge

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GOLDEN DAWN
Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos speaks during a news conference in front of a banner with the twisting Maeander, an ancient Greek decorative motif that the party has adopted as its symbol in Athens, Sunday, May 6, 2012. The far-right Golden Dawn party is set to win as much as 8 percent of the vote, according to exit polls, as Greeks punished traditionally dominant parties that backed harsh austerity measures tied to debt relief agreements. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) | AP

The presence of a new Montreal chapter of a right-wing nationalist Greek party is polarizing members of Montreal's Greek community.

Golden Dawn won 18 seats in Greece's recent election.

The party's anti-immigrant stance is considered racist, anti-immigration and anti-Semitic by many in the international community.

The party seeks to maintain "the Greek race" and wants Christian Greeks to reclaim the country, which they say has been taken over by illegal immigrants.

"We are Greek nationalists," said Golden Dawn's deputy leader in Montreal, Spiros Macrozonaris. "We love our country. We are not fascists. We are not anti-immigrants. We are not neo-Nazis. We are Greeks, and we love our country. That's all."

But some members of Montreal's Greek community say Macriozonaris' words don't allay their concerns. They point to the group's logo, which bears a resemblance to the Nazi swastika, and to the party's salute, which is similar to the Hitler army's infamous arm gesture.

Louis Hondronicolas, a member of Golden Dawn, said the concerns are misplaced.

"Maybe you've seen pictures, and there are a lot of them being photoshopped – although… that salute is an ancient salute, and it was used by [Ioannis] Metaxas when he fought the Nazi," said Hondronicolas. "Our party has nothing to do with Nazis or neo-Nazis."

Montreal's Greek community reacts

When CBC News asked members of the local Greek community how they felt about the party, many of them said although they don't condone Golden Dawn's violent actions, they understand the sentiment that there are too many illegal immigrants in their homeland.

A woman said "I feel very bad because we had enough problems witht he fascists when they invaded Greece in 1941 with Hitler and Mussolini. I don't want to see another Hitler in Mussolini in my country because now it's not the Germans or the Italians, they are the Greeks."

B'nai Brith calls for vigilance

Steven Slimovitch, spokesperson for the B'nai Brith Canada, which advocates against racism and anti-Semitism, said he wants the city's Hellenic community to take a stand.

"We trust the Hellenic community will come forward and do much like the Greek government has done and say that Golden Dawn party is not welcome, that they're a racist party, and they espouse racist views," said Slimovitch.

He added that groups that spew hate against other groups have no place on Canadian soil.

Golden Dawn made international headlines in June when a spokesman for the party slapped a member of the opposition in the face on live television.

Ken Matziorinis, an economics professor at McGill University, said the party's popularity has picked up in the last two years because of the country's precarious financial situation.

He said that situation is similar to the socio-economic turmoil faced in Germany in the 1920s, which led to the rise of fascism and Nazism.

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