The Canadian chapter of the Soldiers of Odin are going through a little bit of an identity crisis.
Several chapters of Soldiers of Odin Canada have officially denounced the movement that birthed them. The decision was made by Bill Daniels, the group's national president, according to an April 25 Facebook post.
"From this day forth we the Soldiers of Odin Canada are completely and absolutely running independent from the founding chapter and SOO international," reads the post. "We are here to help and protect the people of our great country, not to adhere to some racist, unorganized, reckless wanna be thug collaboration."
The Soldiers of Odin are a group that were formed in Finland by a self avowed white supremacist named Mika Ranta. At the heart of the group has always existed a burning anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiment, although Ranta has said in the past that you do not have to share in his belief to join the group. The group gained notoriety for their street patrols in which they would walk through the community, which some have described as an effort to intimidate minorities.
The Soldiers caught on in Canada in early 2016 and quickly spread across the country. Some of the chapters in Canada have emphasized community volunteerism, Daniels claimed in the Facebook post. The complaint that Daniels highlights in the post is being unhappy with the racist ideology that come with belonging to a group founded by a white supremacist. In the post, Daniels put an ultimatum to his followers.
"Either stand with Finland, the racist founder… or stand united with us and fight on our side and be independent with the ability to run your own countries without being micromanaged by another country."
Lately, members of the Soldiers of Odin—always visible thanks to their motorcycle gang-like jackets—have been attending protests across the country working as pseudo-security for far-right groups.
Only the thing is, while the post came from the main Canadian page, many cells across the country don't agree with the national leadership. Quebec in particular has publically stated that they are sticking with the Finnish group. Yannick Veilleux-Lepage, a researcher at the University of St Andrews' Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence who has been studying the group, told VICE that this isn't necessarily surprising.
"Quebec seemed to be much more ideologically aligned [to the Finnish group], there is much more of a focus on this anti-immigrant or anti-islamic narrative, much less interested in the community service trope or narrative," said Veilleux-Lepage.
"There has always been a tension in the Canadian group between ethno-nationalism agenda and this kind of anti-immigrant, european focus."
The Finnish Soldiers of Odin group responded a post of their own, stating that "Bill Daniels is no more leader of Canada and no more [a] member of Soldiers Of Odin." They added that it's "OK" with them if people go with Daniels but he "can't use the name of Soldiers Of Odin." The Quebec group's leader, Katy Latulippe, in speaking to the National Post, said that Daniels' group can no longer wear SOO colours and that he has lost a lot of support in Canada.
Veilleux-Lepage has been studying the social media coming and goings of members of the group. Working with Emil Archambault of the University of Durham the two have analyzed and tracked the social media comings and goings of the group. They have written a study, which has yet to be published, based on their research.
Through their research, they duo found that there was strong overlap between the Canadian Soldiers of Odin group and their European counterparts. Based on the close connection, Archambault and Veilleux-Lepage challenge the Canadian group's denial of racism. However, Archambault did say that breaks do exist between the two groups, one of them being the Canadian crews focus upon volunteerism.
The two said that breakups or offshoots of these types of groups aren't out of the ordinary.
"The Soldiers of Odin in Canada are about 13 months old now and this is the fifth or sixth breakup they've seen," Archambault told VICE. "I have a feeling from [researching] their Facebook is that people get into it for very different reasons. One to pick up needles or whatever, and the other because they are anti-immigrant or Islamophobic.
"When one message wins over the other, half the group gets disappointed and leaves."
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