During a show of solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch shooting Monday, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council urged the federal government to designate the Three Percenters militia a terrorist organization.
The Three Percenters are a nationwide anti-Islam, far-right militia that conducts paramilitary style training and prepping in perparation for a (perceived) incoming Islamic invasion of a left-wing government take over. As first reported by VICE, the group became active in Canada after Justin Trudeau became prime minister.
The group’s largest chapter is in Alberta. Across the board, the Threepers have a hyper focus on Islam—in one instance a former leader of the group staked out a Calgary mosque—and their beliefs are rife with paranoia, conspiracy theories, and far-right news and rhetoric. While members of the group take offence at being called racist or far-right they don’t attempt to hide their extremely negative sentiments regarding Islam or their belief that violence, one day, may be necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones.
The Canadian list of terrorist entities currently has a 50 or so organizations listed, these include Al Qaida, Aum Shinrikyo, and Boko Haram but few far-right groups. Adil Hasan, AMPAC’s vice-president of community engagement, told VICE that they believe the Threepers meet the criteria to be included on the list.
"They've shown clear tendencies that they propagate hate, call for violent means to enact on hateful rhetoric. We feel they pass the test to be included in the schedule,” said Hasan. “A lot of people have said, 'they haven't done anything in Canada' but there are groups on the list, like the Tamil Tigers for example, that haven't done anything in Canada but we know their manifesto and what they and for is propagating violence and hate. Similarly we think the Threepers meet that test.
"We've seen with the Three Percenters that they have a long track record in terms of doing this, they are quite organized, and they're extremely active. This is by no means limited to the Three Percenters though, I think it's important that we continue to monitor this."
The Three Percenters started in America with the election of Barack Obama and the Canadian version is essentially a wholesale lift, ethos and American mythology and all. While several far-right organizations have flourished in Alberta, few have been able to grow and organize themselves in the same way as the Three Percent. The group, which has thousands of online members, has a few hundred on the ground members (though this number tends to fluctuate.) As recently as the start of this year, the group employed a regimented training system. Experts have said the biggest thing that sets the Threepers apart from the rest of the far-right in Canada is their obsession with firearms and military style training.
AMPAC made the call to add the Three Percenters to the terror list at a solidarity gathering they held for the victims of the Christchurch massacre in Edmonton city hall on Monday. The group said they held a show of solidarity instead of a vigil because the time for platitudes is over and concrete action is needed. Adil Hasan, the council’s vice-president of community engagement, said he wasn’t really surprised when he heard about Christchurch.
"We need to call on policy makers and society as a whole to finally stand up and say 'what happened isn't acceptable, and we acknowledge that and we need to see concrete action to address what is happening,'” said Hasan. “The ideal world that we're going to live in isn't going to happen overnight so we need to start putting steps in place right now."
During his speech at the gathering, Hasan tore a strip off media and politicians who flirt with white nationalist and white supremacist ideology. Hasan told VICE that it’s important to not normalize the “problems that are leading to this rise of the far-right.”
"So many of these people say, 'we're not racist, we're not racist' and they might not be but by including well-known racists, islamophobes, xenophobes in the conversation you're giving them a platform and that's unacceptable," said Hasan.
Kazz Nowlin, the new nationwide leader of the Three Percenters wrote a lengthy Facebook post disputing the characterization of the group. In it, Nowlin wrote that not “one person in this organization cheered the atrocities that happened” in Christchurch and “we seen the video it is disgusting”— although, as recently as a day ago (one day after he posted the Facebook note) Nowlin was questioning if the Christchurch attack was a false flag attack. The note follows a typical Three Percenters and far-right tactic, stating they’re “only against radical Islam” in public but then painting every Muslim as a radical in their private groups. Nowlin previously told VICE that he was attempting to reorganize the group in order to get rid of “the biker stigma and the hot-headed radicals.”
“Go ahead, label us a terrorist entity, it does not bother me one bit, myself, as well as tens of thousands of Canadians know we are not a threat to anyone, or will we ever be,” wrote Nowlin on Facebook.
The AMPAC also urged the government to fund deradicalization programs for Albertan far-right extremists. Hasan said that AMPAC will be meeting with federal politicians who focus on public safety in the future to discuss the Three Percenters and de-radicalization.
Some steps, while small, have been made recently by the provincial and federal governments.
In February, the federal government announced it would be providing $366,985 over three years to researchers looking into the far-right in Canada. On Friday, the Albertan government announced the Provincial Hate Crimes Unit. In a media release, the province states the unit will “work with police and law enforcement, including Crown prosecutors, to improve the specialized training they receive to fight hate crimes and extremism in Alberta.” The release adds that “a police-reported hate crime happens in Alberta about once every three days.” Alberta Premier Rachel Notely stated in the release that the unit signifies a recommitment by the government to “ to end this hate wherever it is found.”
“Together, we must continue the fight against racism, hate, intolerance and religious persecution in all forms, including Islamophobia,” said Notley.
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