Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre denounced a German politician Friday after several Tory MPs were criticized for meeting with her while she was in Canada earlier in the week.
Conservative MPs Dean Allison, Colin Carrie and Leslyn Lewis were photographed at a restaurant with Christine Anderson, a member of the European Parliament.
She represents the Alternative for Germany party, a right-wing populist party that since 2021 has been under surveillance by Germany’s intelligence agency as a suspected extremist group.
The party opposes immigration, pushes anti-Muslim ideology and has been accused by Jewish leaders of downplaying the crimes of the Nazis.
The party also denies that climate change is a human-made problem and has a cosy relationship with Russia.
The chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and at least two Canadian Jewish organizations expressed concern about the MPs meeting with Anderson after photos were shared online.
“To be clear Christine Anderson is a member of a racist, anti-LGBTQ+, and antisemitic far right party,” Anti-Hate Network chair Bernie Farber tweeted Thursday.
He said the Conservative party leadership “should be calling her out loudly.”
In a written statement responding to the concerns Friday, Poilievre said Anderson’s views are “vile” and that her “racist, hateful views are not welcome here.”
“The MPs were not aware of this visiting member of the European Parliament’s opinions, and they regret meeting with her. Frankly, it would be better if Anderson never visited Canada in the first place,” the statement said.
The three MPs said in their own statement that it is not uncommon to meet with visiting elected officials from other countries.
“We were not aware of the views or associations of her and her political party. We do not share or endorse her views and strongly condemn any views that are racist or hateful,” said the statement attributed to Carrie, Allison and Lewis.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which said it had raised its concerns about the MPs visit with Anderson directly with the party, said Friday it appreciates Poilievre’s clear rejection of Anderson’s views. But it also said MPs must do their “due diligence” before agreeing to such meetings.
Anderson has not responded to emailed requests for comment from The Canadian Press.
In a video interview with right-leaning digital platform True North, posted on Twitter, Anderson responded to Poilievre’s statement and said she is “very sorry” Poilievre feels this way.
“All I can say, I had a lovely time meeting with the members of his party,” she said. “At no point do I see where I expressed hateful and racist views, as he puts it.”
Asked about the meeting at a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he thinks the Conservatives owe Canadians an explanation for what he called a pattern of conduct.
“Canadians need to stop being treated like fools and the Conservatives need to own up and really dissociate themselves from hateful, vile, intolerant rhetoric, or tell the truth and explain that they actually have room for (that rhetoric) and intolerance within their party,” he said.
Anderson’s tour in Canada included stops in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, and a visit to a Family Day barbecue event near Cambridge, Ont.
During the visit, Anderson appeared in a photo with members of the far-right group “Diagolon,” posing with the group’s flag. The group, described by Ontario Provincial Police as an “extremist group,” is associated with the “Freedom Convoy” movement and opposed to government-mandated public health restrictions.
Anderson’s party also opposed COVID-19 restrictions and was a vocal supporter of the convoy protests that shut down border crossings and blockaded downtown Ottawa streets last year.
Poilievre was criticized last summer after he was photographed shaking hands with the Diagolon’s founder, Jeremy MacKenzie, at a Conservative leadership campaign event in Nova Scotia. He later denounced Diagolon as “losers” and “dirtbags” after MacKenzie and another group member talked on a livestream about sexually assaulting his wife, Anaida Poilievre.
In a tweet Thursday, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier called Anderson “legendary” and praised her opposition to pandemic restrictions. On Friday, he called Poilievre’s statement about Anderson disgusting and a “baseless attack on a courageous woman.”