News / Vancouver

Soldiers of Odin start controversial foot patrols in Vancouver

Anti-racists link them to white supremacists. ‘We are a neighbourhood watch organization with no racist agenda,’ counters leader.

Members of Soldiers of Odin B.C., a volunteer citizens organization accused of racist ties, patrol during a provincial day of action on Saturday.

Soldiers of Odin B.C. / Facebook

Members of Soldiers of Odin B.C., a volunteer citizens organization accused of racist ties, patrol during a provincial day of action on Saturday.

A citizen patrol group accused of vigilantism and ties to racists held a street patrol in downtown Vancouver on Sunday night.

A recently formed B.C. chapter of Soldiers of Odin — an international network co-founded late last year by a Finnish white supremacist convicted of racially motivated assaults — held a “day of action” in the Okanagan and Vancouver.

According to videos posted to Soldiers of Odin B.C.’s 1,000-member Facebook page, the patrol involved less than a dozen members in black jackets adorned with the initials “S.O.O.” and the distinctive Norse logo.

"We got to watch every crevice,” a narrator of one video, which had been viewed nearly 1,500 times by publication time, said. “I never seen so many needles in my life going down that f---ing alley.

“Here we are in downtown Vancouver … the boys are doing their thing."

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But an expert on white supremacist groups said people shouldn’t be fooled, and the group’s activities overseas and Viking imagery — several racist groups in the U.S. have “Odin” in the name, while others embrace Norse mythology — should set off alarm bells.

“They’ve been caught in association with members of far right groups,” said Alan Dutton, with the Anti-Racism Canada collective. “It’s a notorious group that’s been anti-Muslim especially, because of the reaction to the flood of refugees into Western Europe as a result of the wars in the Middle East. There have been serious incidents of violence with some of the members.”

But the group denies accusations of racism. After concerns arose over branches popping up in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Hamilton, its national president Joel Angott said, “We are a neighbourhood watch organization with no racist agenda,” he posted to Soldiers of Odin Canada’s 6,000-member Facebook page.

The group’s volunteer patrols, he continued, “focus on the safety of women children and the elderly. They also look for hazards and unsafe conditions in parks and playgrounds.”

That’s the message of the group in its own charter, too: “Soldiers Of Odin Canada is a non-racist conservative organization that seeks to keep Canadians safe in their daily activities and also uphold and protect our Constitutional rights.”

Such statements “should be taken with a grain of salt,” Dutton warned. The group’s charter also decries “demonizing anything that has to do with European culture” as well as “the allowing of illegal aliens” in Canada and “accepting refugees from countries that hate us.”

On its website, Anti-Racism Canada posted images from social media accounts of several Soldiers of Odin Canada members, including its Saskatoon leader. The graphic includes the organization’s logo and name above the words, “We must secure the existence of our people and the future of our children.”

That’s just one word different from “The Fourteen Words,” a motto in U.S. white supremacist circles, according to the hate group watchdog Southern Poverty Law Centre: “We must secure the existence of our people and the future of White children.”

“There’s good reason for the police to be monitoring and watching this group,” Dutton said, “and for the public to be really concerned, unless they can prove themselves to be different from their reason to be … We’ll see how this chapter develops.”

Vancouver police did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, nor did Soldiers of Odin B.C.