Members of a far-right group who Canadian border officials say has members that “adhere to extreme right-wing ideology and are not afraid to use violence” was confronted by several dozen protesters in Edmonton’s central McCauley neighbourhood on Monday.
An area resident who was at the protest told Global News he and others in his community rallied people to come and protest the Edmonton chapter of the Soldiers of Odin (SOO) once they saw a poster that had been circulating online indicating that the group — along with organizations identified as Northern Guard and O.C.S — were planning to “serve food and water for homeless people” on Monday.
“We were pretty alarmed when we found out that this group was coming to our neighbourhood as the Soldiers of Odin are known to be an anti-immigrant and Islamophobic group,” said McCauley resident Jim Storrie. “They have a history of intimidating folks, a history of violence.”
In 2017, Global News obtained a declassified Canada Border Services Agency intelligence report about SOO that said “the group’s nature has raised concerns of anti-immigration vigilantism.”
“Members of the SOO are generally Caucasian males between the ages of 20 and 40 who adhere to right-wing politics and ideology – some members adhere to extreme right-wing ideology and are not afraid to use violence to achieve objectives,” the CBSA report said.
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of Soldiers of Odin chapters in Canada.
Storrie also expressed concern that the SOO event poster he saw online referenced the Mustard Seed, a local Christian organization that works with homeless people and other vulnerable Edmontonians.
“People got very angry at the Mustard Seed and thought the Mustard Seed was involved — they are not. The Mustard Seed does very good work.”‘
On Tuesday, the managing director for the Mustard Seed in Edmonton issued a statement about the poster.
“We are not affiliated with this event or organization in anyway,” the email said. “The Mustard Seed’s 96 Street building was closed on Sept. 3.
“For reasons unknown to us, the group decided to use our name and location on their event advertising. One of our core values is treating all with respect. We do this each and every day and are proud to work with other organizations and individuals who do the same.”
Photos posted to a Facebook page called the Soldiers of Odin Edmonton on Monday showed at least one person wearing an SOO hoodie handing out food and coffee out of a pickup truck.
About a dozen people wearing SOO gear and others were confronted by the group of protesters according to Storrie.
A Global News crew at the scene noted about a dozen police officers — including members of the Edmonton Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit — at the scene. Police told Global News they deemed the protest to be peaceful.
“They will tell you that they are coming out to help the community, and you should not believe them when they say that,” Storrie said. “This is the people of McCauley standing up to say that this anti-immigrant, Islamophobic vigilante group is not welcome around here.
The SOO were founded as an anti-immigration group in Finland in 2015. The Canadian group formed the following year and its members have said it is independent of the European group and that it is not racist. Instead, it has presented itself as a community volunteer group.
The CBSA report obtained by Global News found that support for “right-wing ideology” in Alberta is growing because of a struggling economy as well as the “continued influx” of refugees and an “actual or perceived increase in crimes committed by migrants.”
Global News reached out to the SOO’s Edmonton chapter for comment but did not receive a response.
–With files from Global News’ Stewart Bell and Kim Smith