As the United States reels from a weekend of racial violence spurred by a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – politicians closer to home say they’re watching the issue closely.
In Maple Ridge the self-described “Soldiers of Odin” like to portray themselves as community vigilantes, who patrol neighborhoods in the interest of public safety.
But in public, the group struggles with its reputation as anti-immigrant and has alleged ties to northern-European white supremacists.
Other members have been seen at a protest at a Surrey mosque, and in a clash with anti-racism demonstrators in Vancouver.
Maple Ridge mayor Nicole Read said her community is home to one of its chapters, and that it’s a group community leaders are watching closely.
“There’s no politician that isn’t feeling the emergence of the ‘alt-right’ and so we need to be very vigilant about that line and monitoring that line in today’s world with some of this stuff that’s happening around us,” Read said.
WATCH: S0ldiers of Odin members arrested
Read, who was herself the subject of threats earlier this year, allegedly linked to her position on homeless issues, said speaking publicly about hate groups is crucial.
“I’ve gone through some really tough things in the community, and I’ve seen the community stand up to it. And so when leaders take stands and say ‘you know, this ideology is not okay,’ it creates the ability for the public to stand with them.”
The Soldiers of Odin were founded in Finland in 2015 as an anti-immigration group amid the European refugee crisis.
The Canadian group, which sprung up the following year, insists it is independent and non-racist.
The BC chapter of the Soldiers of Odin’s Facebook page says “members…don’t see colour, race or religion.”
Meanwhile, a recent intelligence note from the Canada Border Services Agency raised concerns over the group’s “potential for anti-immigrant vigilantism.”
And the group has drawn the attention of organizations like the Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society, with spokesperson Alan Dutton telling Global News in September the Soldiers were raising red flags.
“There are connections — a clear-cut connection — that have been reported between this group and racist organizations,” he said.
-With files from Jon Azpiri