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Edmonton, St. Albert mayors concerned by local MP's presence at 'freedom convoy' rally in Ottawa

Edmonton and St. Albert's mayors released a joint statement calling on an area Member of Parliament to apologize for attending the "freedom convoy" rally protest opposed to COVID-19 mandates.

Thousands of truckers and others opposing cross-border vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions rolled into Ottawa on Saturday for a rally on Parliament Hill. While police said there were no reported incidents of violence or injuries, some protesters carried signs and flags containing symbols of hate.

Michael Cooper, representing the constituency of St Albert-Edmonton, attended the event and gave coffee to some of the attendees.

"Joined my colleague MP Damien Kurek to pour coffee and show appreciation for hardworking, patriotic truckers who have kept our supply chains healthy and grocery shelves stocked for the past two years," Cooper said in a tweet.

Mayors Amarjeet Sohi and Cathy Heron said they were "troubled" by an image of Cooper giving an interview to a reporter where protesters behind him carried a defaced Canadian flag featuring a swastika.

"This type of symbolism is never okay, but it is even more troubling as we just marked the anniversary of the Holocaust and today we remember the victims who lost their lives in the hate-based Quebec City Mosque attack five years ago," the joint statement read.

"We want the rest of the country to know that MP Cooper's presence at this rally in no way reflects the values of Edmontonians and St. Albertans," the mayors said. "Our communities are diverse, inclusive and welcoming, and hate has absolutely no place here."

Cooper released a statement Saturday evening saying he attended the protest supporting truckers and other Canadians "defending their freedom and jobs."

"I did an impromptu interview," he added. "Moments later, I learned from social media that unbeknown to me, someone with whom I'm not associated had been standing some distance behind my back holding a flag with an evil symbol on it.

The MP said that the person who flew the flag is "personally responsible" and that the hate symbol does not represent the other protesters at the rally.

"Had I seen the symbol, I would have condemned it, as I do now," Cooper said. "Naziism is the purest form of evil, and I have always condemned it completely."

Michael Janz, Ward papastew councillor in Edmonton, called on Twitter for Cooper to resign.

Edmonton Ward Nakota Isga councillor Andrew Knack echoed the calls for Cooper's resignation in an interview with CTV News Edmonton.

Knack said that he has never asked another elected official to resign during his time as a city councillor.

"I think that's a very serious thing to ask for, but I think it's completely justified at this point," he said. "People make mistakes all the time.

"But it's how you respond and the actions you take beforehand that really have to determine the type of person you are going to be."

The three-term city councillor said that before he attends an event, he researches the organizers and some of their public messaging or beliefs. Knack said Cooper should have known the type of audience it would attract — especially after looking at the rhetoric of organizers.

"An elected representative knows better," Knack said. "They would've known who has been involved in organizing this.

"I think someone who is a sitting elective representative would be able to do their due diligence," he added. "Had there been one person who happened to walk by with a flag with a swastika on it, you could say that's a fluke. But that's not what happened."

"The responsibility of elected representatives is to call out the actions of and the words — like some of the ones who are organizers (of that rally) who've called for bullets to be used — it's not to get into the same crowd with them."

With files from CTV Top Stories

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