One of the oldest Canadian chapters of the Soldiers of Odin is no more.
Well, at the very least the Edmonton chapter is no longer called the Soldiers of Odin. On Sunday, days after being thrust into the spotlight when a group of United Conservative Party candidates posed for photos with them, the group announced they were “resigning.”
“It is with great sadness and humility that the Edmonton chapter of Soldiers of Odin announce that with the approval and consideration of Kimmo of Finland [the group's international leader], are resigning our Edmonton post,” reads a Facebook post.
Soldiers of Odin is a far-right street patrol/vigilante group that was founded in 2015 by a Finnish white supremacist (who once did time for assaulting a refugee) as a response to Muslim immigration. The group was a pioneer within the recent wave of far-right groups—like La Meute or III% Canada—and Edmonton was one of the group’s first active Canadian chapters. The group is formed around anti-Muslim bigotry and is well known for street patrols in which they claim to be cleaning up the streets, though experts call it intimidation.
Duncan Kinney, the executive director of Progress Alberta, a left-wing organization that was key to spotting and amplifying the group’s photos with UCP politicians, was rather cheerful when VICE reached him on the phone.
"It's been a culmination of a really rough six weeks for this group. They've been run out the Boyle McCauley community in Edmonton by a bunch of activists, they got caught consorting with UCP candidates, forcing official leader of the opposition himself, Jason Kenney, to describe them as a hate group,” said Kinney. "I think everyone wins when a group like this disbands and is on the ropes like it is right now.”
While the “Soldiers of Odin” are ceasing activity, the collection of people who make up the group doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, the group used this opportunity to rebrand as something more Islamophobic than before. On Facebook, the group has changed the Soldiers of Odin page to “Canadian Infidels” and in a post announced they will operate under that name. If the name Canadian Infidels didn’t show the groups unsurprisingly Soldiers of Odin-like hyper-focus on Muslims and immigrants, a specific portion of the write-up expresses worry about creeping Sharia.
“We want to exemplify freedom of speech according to those Charters and prove that Canada is heading in the possible direction of becoming a radical Islamic State and that we are losing the very essence of what makes us a free and multicultural Canada,” reads the post.
Unlike the Viking with a Canadian flag beard that the Soldiers of Odin used as a logo, the Canadian Infidels will be identifiable by clothing that features the Arabic word “kafir” which translates to unbeliever or infidel. The group is also part of what they call the Canadian Patriotic Alliance which is a coalition of far-right anti-Muslim groups in Alberta.
Tyson Hunt, the former president of the Soldiers of Odin Canada, told VICE that the leaders of the Canadian chapters asked for him to be removed after the group caught a wave of bad press. Hunt said that his new group would be conducting similar activities, including the street patrols, as the Soldiers of Odin. He said he was “more than happy” to stop being a Soldier of Odin because he was starting to question their views on racism. Hunt denied that he or his new group, the Canadian Infidels, are racist.
“We are the same group going to feed the homeless and walk the streets to help prevent crime and violence we just fly under a more patriotic flag,” he told VICE.
When asked about why they would name their group Canadian Infidels and use an Arabic symbol that means “non-believer” if they didn’t want to seem racist, Hunt told VICE that “Muslim can be any race.” He got defensive and evasive when asked if they were anti-Muslim but eventually explained that the name meant the group is "dropping religion altogether as we believe the government should do as well."
This sort of restructuring/rebranding is nothing new in the Canadian far-right ecosystem. A year ago a large group of Soldiers of Odin members in Quebec split off from the group and form others—such as the border patrolling Northern Guard. Furthermore, far-right groups tend to splinter as political infighting is rampant.
Left-leaning and anti-hate organizations in Edmonton are celebrating this development. In a press release Hate Free YEG co-founder Bridget Stirling declared it a “victory for Edmontonians and all Albertans” and said there “needs to be a high social cost for associating with neo-Nazi hate-groups.” Kinney said that, while the group is still going to be organizing, it’s hard not to look at this as a win.
"It's no question that the Soldiers of Odin were the group who had the biggest name and the most brand recognition so the fact that they're kicked out of the club by the overarching Soldiers of Odin group is an interesting development,” said Kinney. “I think it's only a good one.”
"The fact that these people are too bad at their jobs to even be a part of the Soldiers of Odin is hilarious and something that needs to be noted."
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