A Saskatchewan man took down and burned a Nazi flag flying in a small village this weekend.
This is the second time someone has flown a Nazi flag in Canada this year; experts say the incidents may be part of a trend of the far-right feeling emboldened by the modern day environment surrounding hate. The man who burned the flag bluntly explained his actions in a video posted to Facebook.
“Stop racism,” he says in front of the burning flag. “This shit ain’t cool, it has to end now and not later.”
The Nazi flag was torn down from a house in a small Saskatchewan village by an Indigenous man from a nearby George Gordon First Nation named Caleb Pelletier. Pelletier told CTV Regina he tore down and torched the flag because it was an affront to Indigenous people. According to CTV, the man also torched a Confederate flag which hung alongside the Nazi flag as well.
“I believe it affected so many of our people so I took matters into my own hands and now they are taken down and burned,” Pelletier told CTV.
Pelletier didn’t return VICE’s request for an interview. Online he remains defiant writing on Facebook Saturday night, “If I get charged just know I have a whole nation behind me and we will use our voice.”
The man that flew the Nazi flag has not been identified but Darcy King, mayor of the tiny village of Kelliher, described him as a 34-year-old “no-brainer kid” who never grew up. The flag was first put up in the middle of last week and taken down by Saturday night.
Earlier in the year a person in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, flew a Nazi flag for several days in their backyard. A neighbour of the person told the CBC “the fact that that flag is flying, fluttering in the winds that blow across this big democratic country of ours is repulsive.” After flying for several days police spoke with the person who put it up and it was taken down. Local media did not identify person who flew the Nazi flag.
Whoever put these flags up is sending a signal to their community, experts told VICE. Ran Ukashi, the new national director of B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights, told VICE “the fact that people feel comfortable at all to do this and to do it so publicly it demonstrates a certain level of confidence.” Flying the flag in Canada isn’t illegal but it is incredibly disrespectful to minority communities and sends a clear message.
Dr. Barbara Perry, one of the leading experts in the Canadian far-right, told VICE that the extreme right are becoming more comfortable being out in the open because they feel their environment is more “responsive and accepting of their positions.”
"I would definitely say that people are much more emboldened about expressing their views in many ways, including through symbols," said Perry.
As far-right rhetoric becomes more mainstream and people who follow this ideology are able to find communities online, their actions are transferring to the real world. In recent years, we have seen mass killings of minorities in synagogues and mosques, a spike in hate crimes, and, what seems to be, an uptick in racist actions like racist graffiti and the flying of Nazi flags. From 2017 to 2018 hate crimes in Canada rose by 47 percent.
Ukashi says one of the things that worries him is the distance between the two people who flew the flags—one being in PEI and the other in Saskatchewan. B'nai Brith tracks anti-Semitic incidents across Canada and Ukashi says this flag appearing in both the Atlantic provinces and the prairies show countrywide growth in anti-Semitic incidents.
"We're seeing a growth of [this far-right ideology] online and naturally when you see a growth of this ideology online there is going to be an expression in the real world eventually,” Ukashi told VICE. “Online sentiments lead to offline consequences."
"You don't just everyday wave a Nazi flag above your house.”
In Saskatchewan, like in PEI, people quickly took notice of the Nazi flag in Kelliher and authorities went and spoke to the man who hung up the flag. The mayor of the town told the Canadian Press that he knew who was flying the flag and didn’t mince his words when describing him.
"It's this no-brainer kid—34 years old and never grew up," Kelliher mayor Darcy King told the Canadian Press on Friday. "I contacted his parents ... and they didn't know it was happening. He's living in his grandpa's house and, as soon as it quits raining, he's going to take it down."
While the flag was eventually taken down, it wasn’t by the “no-brainer kid.” Instead, it was Pelletier.
“I’m here and I'm real,” Pelletier says in his video before the flag goes up in flames. “[Now] watch this bitch burn.”
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