The anti-Islamic militia Three Percent (or III%), which formed in Canada almost three years ago, has new leadership and is looking to significantly increase their para-military style training.
Two weeks ago, a BC man named Kazimir (Kazz) Nowlin took over the reins of the far-right group from Robert (Beau) Welling, the only real leader the Canadian iteration of the group has known. The first order of business for the log driver from British Columbia: putting out a nationwide order for his followers to buy airsoft rifles—realistic weapons, which have been used by law enforcement for training, that use air to fire small BBs.
“All active III% members are required to buy one airsoft rifle and one airsoft sidearm for training purposes, this is a national order from the top and is being implemented countrywide to standardize training among our ranks,” read the order posted in the organization’s private Facebook group.
The reason for this directive, he explained in a further post, is so they can ramp up and nationalize their military-esque training; with airsoft they can “legally and safely” train “team fire, CQB [close quarters combat], or any other simulated cover and conceal training.” This was something they just couldn’t do beforehand as, even the threepers realized, shooting live firearms at each other under the guise of training is typically not the best idea.
“In the summer months, I will be introducing new national training on CQB, live fire cover & conceal recce patrols, and counter strike tactics,” reads Nowlin's post. “These training modules will require the use of airsoft, as it requires members to take opposition rolls to learn tactical advantages with ambushing, opposing strike teams dressed as innocents, and the skills to track down and attack opposing patrols, and camps.”
The Canadian III%—which has been described as a “wholesale lift” of an American militia by experts—was created on Facebook in 2016 following Justin Trudeau’s election win. The group adopted the ethos and way of being of the American III%, who took their name from the popular American myth that three percent of the population fought the War of Independence. Much like in the States—where they gained popularity during Barack Obama’s presidency—the Canadian threepers, stoked by conspiracies and far-right media, quickly gained a following among those who consider Trudeau’s government tyrannical. They now have provincial chapters with a biker-esque hierarchical organization structure that counts hundreds of members across the country, and regularly hold meetups and attend rallies (typically as security). At one point they were staking out mosques, and are now attempting to hold standardized pseudo-military training.
Thanks to a myriad of factors and the proliferation of social media, the far-right is burgeoning worldwide. The eco-system containing these groups is large and unyielding, encompassing many under its fold—some have been involved in murders, others in hate crimes, with others even seemingly taking inspiration from Islamist terror cells like ISIS or Al Qaeda. Like many far-right groups, the III%, both the American and Canadian version, attracts people of a certain ilk, including some prone to violence. In 2017, a man attempted to detonate a 1,000 pound bomb in Oklahoma City, when he was spoke with authorities he said he adhered to the “Three Percenter” ideology. In Canada however, the group has been urged by its leaders to be non-violent in public and only take up arms when the time comes to defend the country.
The group’s new “commanding officer” differs from former leader Beau Welling in several ways. Nowlin seems calmer and more collected than his predecessor, and appears to have a plan for where he wants to take this group. Welling was effective at bringing people together, but he also tended to shoot from the hip and spoke a big game—both to reporters and media—that he regularly couldn’t follow up. One of the biggest examples of this would be his ambitious but ill-thought out III% recovery home system. Welling, who is still in the group, handed over the reigns to Nowlin on November 28, saying he was “honoured” to give control to the British Columbia man. Welling added that he thinks Nowlin is a man of action, saying “there may come a time where the III%ers will need to step in… and we feel Kazz holds true to that.”
In an interview with VICE over Facebook Messenger, Nowlin described the threepers as a “prepping and survivalist organization” and claimed he’s attempting to reform the group. The switch to airsoft was to weed out some of the “radicals in the group,” he said. When asked why he took over the leadership role from Welling he offered “no comment.
“We only want to learn to protect and survive in any situation either it be a natural disaster or hostile attack on our country,” said Nowlin. “The organization is not what it was back then. I am taking the biker stigma and the hot-headed radicals out of here.”
AJ Somerset, a former soldier and author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, told VICE that the training with airsoft isn’t that far off from how most militaries train. Somerset said that while the idea of a group who are as jumpy and hold a distorted view of the world as the threepers do training is scary enough, what is really alarming is the organization being brought in.
"More alarming than the fact of them moving forward with this kind of training is the fact they're talking about having a formal national training program that people would be theoretically be required to participate in,” said Somerset. “The fact there may be ex-military people putting together a national training program where they're going to train people to ambush and counter-ambush, recce patrolling and all that stuff is, to me more worrisome than if they use airsoft to do it. "Even if they were running around with sticks and yelling bang at each other it would still be worrisome that they have that program in place. It brings it to another level of seriousness when they actually have a curriculum out there," he added.
In our conversation, Nowlin attempted to describe the training as just a group of people who just really wanted to get good at the game of airsoft, but eventually essentially admitted it’s in case of a “hostile attack on our country.” Nowlin stopped answering questions shortly thereafter. He did say that the training involved includes a six-week course existing alongside a seven-month winter survival course and a four-month botany/hunting/search course. During our conversation Nowlin referenced previous stories that I’ve written regarding the III%ers paramilitary-style training, saying he thought I would be glad about the direction he was taking the group.
“You yourself reported illegal drilling in the past,” Nowlin said. “You would think you would appreciate someone coming in and saying airsoft only—guns at the legal ranges.”
Nowlin posted the full conversation on his Facebook page, you can read it here if you like. He was referring to my first story regarding the threepers in which I exposed the inner workings of the group which included paramilitary and survivalist training and scheduling time for “smoke bomb making.”
The III% fall into their own unique place in the Canadian far-right ecosystem—they’re not a white-nationalist group (although they do attract those members)—and Nowlin being a person of colour exemplifies this distinction. Their most distinctive aspect is a hyper-focus on a perceived threat of Islamist terrorism in Canada. Similar to La Meute and the Soldiers of Odin, they’re both publicly facing and secretive—openly attending rallies and feeding lines to media while conducting secretive training and only speaking their minds in closed Facebook groups. Another large distinction of the threepers from their fellow travellers in Canada’s far-right is their fixation on firearms, military-esque training, and their notion they may have to take up arms to protect Canada from either a tyrannical government or an invading horde.
This isn’t to say these groups are separate. In fact, Nowlin’s rise to power within the III% shows how incestuous far-right groups in Canada tend to be. Many of those who are members in groups such as Soldiers of Odin, La Meute, or the North Guard, for example, will also count themselves as threepers and vice versa. Prior to being the BC leader of the III%, Nowlin was the leader of the Thompson Soldiers of Odin chapter.
In his post explaining why he wants to bring in airsoft training, Nowlin references to section 70 of the criminal code, unlawful drilling. Unlawful drilling states the “Governor in Council may, by proclamation, make orders o prohibit assemblies, without lawful authority, of persons for the purpose, of training or drilling themselves, of being trained or drilled to the use of arms, or of practising military exercises”—it brings with it a possible jail term of five years. However, the odds of it ever being used is rather low.
Calgary lawyer Greg Dunn, a gun owner who frequently represents clients charged with firearms crimes, said that section 70 is a rather archaic law, coming over with the British criminal code in the 1800s, and has most likely never been enforced. Furthermore, if it were to be enforced, the way the section is written, it would need a declaration from the governor general before anything occurs.
"There is no carte balance restriction against any sort of firearms and paramilitary-style training,” Dunn told VICE. “In addition to that, there could be some potential criminal liability on the basis of possible contraventions of Canadian firearms regulations if they were to use actual firearms instead of airsoft which are, of course, not defined as firearms."
Like most who exist in the far-right world, Nowlin has an eye for conspiracies and, like the majority of those in Canadian far-right groups in particular, a fixation on Muslims. This comes into focus upon viewing Nowlin’s YouTube account where the only video he’s uploaded is called “Why I am against M103.” The four-minute video, set to the “Sound of Silence” cover by reality TV star Todd Hoffman, focuses on how Islam is invading Canada through refugees. Nowlin isn’t shy about his thoughts of Muslims online and in the video compares followers of Islam to Nazis.
This preparation for “the threat” is something Ryan Scrivens, an expert on the far-right in Canada, said is worrisome.
“Historically, right-wing extremist groups in Canada have not been strategic in their efforts to protect or defend themselves from whatever it is they perceive as “the threat”, so the extent to which groups such as the Three Percenters are taking active steps to protect themselves is shocking, to say the least,” Scrivens told VICE. “This level of organization by a right-wing extremist group in Canada is unheard of.”
Thanks to a healthy dosing of far-right news sites and commentators, the III%ers live in a world in which a Muslim takeover of Canada is seconds away at any time—many within the group legitimately believe this is incoming. They have implemented a FBI terror threat level, which the former leader Beau Welling constantly changes depending on what had spooked him that day. As recently as Dec 12, Welling, writing in all caps, told his crew he had received intel there was going to be a lone wolf attack in Toronto and he was moving to “threat level orange” and the threepers should “protect you and your families at any cost.” Some threepers responded by saying they were ready to go out and fight: “haven't been on social media for a while but just say the word willing and ready,” wrote one.
Nowlin, like his predecessor, is no stranger to using alarming language to rally up his troops. The conspiracy du jour for the III% is the UN agreement which the threepers—spurred by right wing media and surprisingly the Conservative Party—believe is going to force open borders on Canada. In a recent Facebook post, Nowlin expressed the fact the threepers may need to utilize their training sooner than later.
“Extreme violence, rape, murders, missing kids, poverty, grooming gangs and terrorism will soon become a more common problem in our country…” reads a recent Facebook post by him. “We will fall under the globalist (U.N.) authority at this point and lose all of our sovereignty.”
“Dark days are soon to be upon us. Brothers and sisters be at the ready, train harder than ever to protect your loved ones and country. Everyone else, good luck we tried to warn you.”
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