An Edmonton LGBTQ gym has temporarily closed after it was the target of a series of blog posts, prompting an investigation from the Edmonton Police Hate Crimes Unit.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, Queerflex board members said their team had been maliciously identified in posts by Patriot Pride Canada Wide.
“QUEERFLEX takes any threats — direct or implied — to our members, contractors, volunteers, and anyone affiliated with our gym seriously,” the statement said.
“During this time, we will be working to increase the security measures of our building.”
Queerflex was founded in 2016 as Canada’s first gym dedicated to serving LGBTQ people. The non-profit provides fitness training in a safe and inclusive environment for trans, queer and non-binary people.
Queerflex did not say when the gym is expected to reopen. The group’s website directs visitors to a brief statement with links to a contact and donation page.
READ: Queerflex issues statement on temporary closure
An Edmonton Police spokesperson said the Hate Crimes Unit was aware of Patriot Pride Canada Wide, but the group was not the subject of any other investigations.
“Although we have been assured by multiple channels that this small group has not been known to show themselves in person, we do not want to take any chances,” Queerflex said in Thursday’s statement.
“Incidents like these highlight not only the need for safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community but the need to band together and support one another.”
‘It’s a way to be able to target and harass people and to marginalize them’
Patriot Pride Canada Wide published two posts targeting Queerflex to its site on Tuesday. The posts claim Queerflex is a breeding ground for domestic terrorism, while saying people who use the gym are “gender confused unicorns.”
The blog has also repeatedly targeted human rights groups and advocates in Edmonton, including HateFreeYEG, which enlists businesses to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for hate groups, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
“I would describe them as a hate group,” said HateFreeYeg co-founder Bridget Stirling, who previously had her personal information and photo posted to the blog.
“I think we’ve seen some escalation from this group with targeting the LGBTQ community in particular for some time. So, I think it was a matter of time before they went after an organization of that nature.”
So, the same hate group that has been harassing me and <a href=”https://twitter.com/HateFreeYeg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@HateFreeYeg</a> for months, the same men who invaded Al Rashid and who target kids at GSA rallies, has now threatened <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/lgbtq?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#lgbtq</a> gym Queerflex and forced temporary closure. <a href=”https://t.co/3f9cVD90DC”>https://t.co/3f9cVD90DC</a>
Stirling said the group disrupted a rally at the Alberta Legislature in July in support of gay-straight alliances. The group later posted about the rally, calling it a form of child abuse.
Patriot Pride Canada Wide affiliates itself with The Clann, a group that made headlines for staking out the Al-Rashid mosque in Edmonton earlier this year. The incident prompted calls for the better education and community awareness to combat the rise of hate groups in the city.
The posts targeting Queerflex are part of a strategy adopted by local hate groups to paint all anti-hate and LGBTQ organizing efforts as an example of dangerous, radical activity, Stirling said.
“It’s a way to be able to target and harass people and to marginalize them,” she said.
“Many of the people, when you look through the blog, that are targeted by this organization are people who are simply doing human rights work in the community. The reason that they’re targeted is not because they’re dangerous terrorist, but because they oppose the work that hate groups like this try to do.”
Queerflex declined an interview with CBC News on Thursday in an email from the board of directors.
“At this time, we would like to take the day to ourselves and regroup,” the email said.