This project was in collaboration with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
This story has been updated with comment from the T-shirt design company Teespring.
The Atomwaffen Division—a violent neo-Nazi terrorist organization linked to several hate crimes, an attempted bombing, and racially motivated killings in the US—has at least one prominent Canadian member.
The emergence of the group in Canada is a stark reminder that extremist groups, the likes of Atomwaffen—known for its underground organization, violent tactics, and near paramilitary features—have arrived in this country.
VICE is tracking other Canadians suspected to be members of Atomwaffen. To date, no member has been identified publicly as Canadian.
The shadowy figure known as “Dark Foreigner”—one of Atomwaffen’s chief propagandists, once described as its “graphic designer”—is a 21-year-old Canadian man based somewhere in Ontario, and his extensive online footprint shows he is supporting far-right groups within Canada and elsewhere.
Ryan Scrivens, one of Canada’s leading scholars on the far-right, told VICE that an influential member of Atomwaffen operating from Canada hints at a bigger movement.
“It is very likely that Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi terrorist organization of sorts, is operating in Canada,” Scrivens said. “Most of these types of groups tend to have some level of local or national support, and I suspect that he too has support from other adherents in Canada and is not operating alone. At the very least, I suspect that he’s in the process of or attempting to mobilize an Atomwaffen cell in Canada.”
A recent and extensive ProPublica investigation into the American terror group, which venerates white supremacist ideologies and celebrates homegrown American extremists like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, says its members are “scattered across 23 states and Canada.” Some of those members are active servicemen in the US military.
Tahera Mufti, the Chief of Public Affairs at Canada’s national intelligence agency, CSIS, told VICE Atomwaffen is on its radar.
“Over the past year there has been significant media coverage of Atomwaffen in the United States and their claim of opening a new cell in Germany,” she said.
“CSIS analysts, regardless of their area of responsibility, are constantly required to understand and assess the evolving threat landscape worldwide and its potential implications for serious acts of ideologically-motivated violence against Canada and Canadians.”
Internal CSIS documents debated the significance of the threat from far right extremist groups, questioning the reporting of VICE in the process.
VICE connected with Dark Foreigner for comment on this story. He simply answered, “send me the questions and we'll see if I answer them,” but has yet to reply further.
One of Atomwaffen’s members is currently awaiting trial in California for the alleged murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein. In hidden chat networks viewed by ProPublica, Atomwaffen celebrated the killing of Bernstein who was gay and Jewish. In 2017, another member murdered his two roommates by shooting them in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle and when police searched his home they found bomb making materials.
The name “Atomwaffen” is German for “nuclear weapons.” According to their own propaganda, the covert group is intent on the creation of the “Fourth Reich” an allusion to Nazi Germany’s Third Reich. Even within the alt-right political ecosystem, Atomwaffen is considered extreme.
Atomwaffen is known for its graphic propaganda featuring everything from videos of members clad in skull masks firing assault rifles to alarming images produced by Dark Foreigner.
Dark Foreigner isn’t simply a passive operator within Atomwaffen’s network of cells; some of the group’s most disturbing and popular propaganda is allegedly the work of the avowed Canadian. The prolific artist, who sometimes releases upwards of three images a day, is also attempting to hawk his images on t-shirts and mugs online using internet retailer Teespring. When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Teespring told VICE that the company utilizes "software to filter the 100K+ designs submitted daily, specifically to ensure that this type of content is not published on our site."
"In addition to violating our terms of services, we do not promote user-generated content of this nature and find it unacceptable," reads the statement. "The company invests heavily in both human review and machine vision technology and the content was removed as soon as we were made aware of the situation."
VICE obtained the internal chat logs of another secretive white supremacist chat room discussing online operations referring to Dark Foreigner doing “prop”—shorthand for propaganda—for a Canadian white power group known as Northern Order. The group is known by Antifasciste Montreal, a Quebec-based watchdog exposing emergent and established far-right groups in Montreal, which has characterized the Northern Order as a “phantom” fascist group based in Canada.
Dark Foreigner’s art and references to the Northern Order unmistakably turned up in Ottawa earlier this year when anonymous posters with Nazi and white power imagery were spread across a mosque. The poster is unquestionably the work of the Atomwaffen graphic artist and its focal point, written below one of the images, reads “Northern Order.” Eerily, the timing of the incident coincided with the anniversary of the Quebec mosque shooting, where a far-right terrorist opened fire on worshippers, killing six men.
On a series of art sites, fringe white power forums, and social media apps, VICE has traced Dark Foreigner as he populates the internet with art heavy in Nazi imagery and fascist sentiment.
There is evidence showing other online fascists publicly ask permission from Dark Foreigner to use his images in their postings. Online, in boards such as 4chan, discussions relating to Atomwaffen rarely are held without images created by Dark Foreigner being shown.
In specific chat posts, gleaned from the now defunct IronMarch website—an online forum boasting itself as a fascist social network, key in the development and birth of Atomwaffen Division—Dark Foreigner spoke of his reasoning for turning to extremist ideologies:
“I’m (a) 20 year old from Canada in Ontario,” he wrote in a June 2017 posting. “I guess I’ll start with some personal political history, I started liberal when I was young but found it eventually void of any spirit, which made me gravitate towards religious count(er) jihadism/crusader shit, which eventually made me feel as though it was just (national socialist) racialism lite for people who want to be like them but not ‘Racist’.”
Soon after that, Dark Foreigner said he dropped that ideology and adopted extreme national socialism, akin to the norms of the Third Reich, looking to undertake real “fascist activism” in Canada.
Early on, he identified his skills using photo and video editing software to produce propaganda for the movement. It is unclear whether or not Dark Foreigner has produced any of Atomwaffen’s infamous videos—he started a YouTube channel in January but, as of yet, has not published any videos.
“I’m joining now to perhaps contribute more, learn about how to do proper activism, and to develop proper skills that would assist in fascist activism in Canada and what not,” he wrote in the same post. “I’m currently working my fellow fascist on making good propaganda and what not that could be useful for Canadian National Socialism.”
On the same forum, Dark Foreigner expressed distaste for former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (and father of current PM Justin Trudeau) who he blamed for promoting a multicultural Canada and engages in vicious anti-Semitism. However, he reserved his greatest hatred for homosexuals saying in one posting, “I’d rather gas queers than anyone else!”
He is also openly the illustrator for a hate-filled manifesto by Alexander Slavros, the arrested founder of IronMarch. Dark Foreigner’s Twitter account is filled with images of his work, while his follows range from other members of the white supremacist movement, to a Norwegian dark folk band, to Jordan B. Peterson, the controversial University of Toronto professor.
Public Safety Canada said it takes right-wing extremism seriously, but would not “disclose what entities are being considered for listing under the Criminal Code terrorist listing regime,” in reference to Atomwaffen, nor would it address “allegations, specific threats, or operations related to national security.”