The Montreal chapter of a controversial right-wing anti-immigrant Greek nationalist party, Golden Dawn, is holding a food drive for Christmas — but the food is to be distributed only to Christian Greeks.
It's the latest move by the organization that many Greeks, political observers and human rights advocates accuse of being racist.
"This is racial discrimination in its worst form," said Montreal city councillor Mary Deros of the Christmas food drive.
"If you see children in schools of different races, will you only feed one community group and allow the other children to go hungry?"
Members of Golden Dawn's Montreal chapter spoke to CBC News last October, defending the chapter's drive to collect food donations at that time to send to Greece, for those described as "real Greeks."
"Based on what we see everyday and based that we saw Greek people starving, we decided to contact them to see if we can help them," said Spiros Macrozonaris, Golden Dawn's deputy leader in Montreal, in October.
Golden Dawn supporters slam CBC reporter
Now Macrozonaris and other members of Golden Dawn Montreal are refusing to grant interviews to CBC News, and Joanne Vrakas, the CBC journalist who filed earlier reports, has been confronted in person.
"One person went as far as telling me I should be ashamed of myself," Vrakas said.
She's also been derided on Youtube, where her reports have been posted. Some of the posted comments have included offensive remarks towards Greece's Jewish and Muslim communities.
B'nai Brith meets with Greek community
"To them, a Jew is not a Greek," said Quebec's regional director for B'nai Brith, Anna Ahronheim. "Jews have a very long history in Greece, so how can you say they're not Greeks?"
B'nai B'rith recently met with representatives of Montreal's Greek community to ask for their position on the party's presence in Montreal.
"I think it's a black mark on the community in Montreal, that we have such an organization in our ranks," said Nicholas Pagonis, the president of the Montreal Hellenic Community.
The son of Golden Dawn Montreal's deputy leader, Nicolas Macrozonaris — a champion Canadian sprinter — found himself tarred as the "son of a neo-Nazi" by someone who changed his Wikipedia page.
He issued a statement in the wake of the controversy around his father's membership in Golden Dawn.
"I personally do not approve my father's political beliefs," said Macrozonaris, "however, I am 100 per cent certain my father is not a racist."
'False pretense of patriotism'
Golden Dawn members in the United States have told CBC News they plan to open chapters shortly in Chicago, in Connecticut and in Toronto.
Some Greek Montrealers who have immigrated to Canada in the past decade say they believe the movement is growing among Greeks long-established in North America because many haven't followed closely Golden Dawn's actions in Greece, and the party is appealing to what George Gkockas calls "the false pretense of patriotism."
"I don't think people in Montreal grasp this exactly," said Gkockas, who left Greece in 2009. "They're Canadian, and they don't know exactly what the Golden Dawn has been involved in back in Greece."
"On average, the Greek Canadian household is slightly more conservative than the average Greek household," said Theo Zanos, who came to Canada in 2004. "It's not bad, but it does provide the fertile ground for the rhetoric that Golden Dawn has been spinning."
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