Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cultural event called illegal

Protesters decry Eritrean 'mini-festival'

  • Print

Organizers billed it as a Folklorama-style cultural event, but protesters called it something very different -- an illegal fundraiser for one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

About 20 protesters greeted cars and vans as they inched their way into the parking lot of the St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church hall on College Avenue Saturday night. Inside the hall, the Walta Cultural Group, an Eritrean band, was performing as part of a "mini-festival."

Protesters with the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba said the band is a military one and is touring Canada accompanied by Zemhret Yohannes, the minister of research and documentation for Eritrea's ruling party. The tour is a fundraiser for Eritrea's military-backed dictatorship, disguised as a cultural event, they said.

A monitoring group's report to the UN earlier this summer red-flagged such festivals, and local human rights lawyer David Matas says the African country has been involved in financing groups associated with terrorism. Allowing the country's leaders into Canada to pass the hat is unacceptable, he said late last week.

In 2010, Canada adopted a UN Security Council resolution prohibiting anyone from providing money to Eritrea for military activities.

Ottawa also made members of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front inadmissible to Canada. The law says it is an organization "known to have engaged in acts of subversion and terrorism."

Still, dozens of local Eritreans paid $35 to attend the event Saturday night. Protesters said many did not realize where their money was going or were simply homesick for Eritrean culture. Or they feared bucking local agents of the Eritrean regime.

"We escaped from these people and now they're in our backyard," said protester Bereket Yohannes, no relation to the minister.

Protesters questioned whether the RCMP or the Canada Border Services Agency was investigating the event and its organizers, and how the minister and the band gained entry into Canada.

They also questioned why officials with St. Joseph's church allowed the group to rent their hall for the event.

Officials with the church and with the Archdiocese of Winnipeg could not be reached Saturday.

Four security guards, local members of the Eritrean community, kept the protesters at bay and ushered cars into the parking lot.

They would not allow a reporter into the event, even with a ticket. Security guards said no one from the event would speak to the media, and would not say where money raised from the event was going.

"It's a cultural event," said one security guard. "You need to leave us alone."

The guard denied the minister was attending, though protesters said the minister attended similar events in recent days in other cities, including Edmonton and Toronto.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2012 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gary Lawless & Tim Campbell on the Jets' inconsistency - Jets This Week Oct. 16

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who will you vote for in Wednesday's mayoral race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google