Royal Canadian Legion bans branches from affiliating with hate groups

The Royal Canadian Legion has released a new policy barring affiliations with hate groups. It comes a month after CBC News revealed an Alberta branch counted far-right Soldiers of Odin among its ranks.
Soldiers of Odin attend an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam protest in Toronto on March 19, 2017. The Royal Canadian Legion released a new hate group policy on Monday after CBC News revealed the Grande Prairie, Alta., chapter counted members of the group among its ranks. (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Royal Canadian Legion has released a new policy barring any of its chapters from affiliating with hate groups.

The policy comes a month after CBC News revealed a chapter in northwestern Alberta counted members of the far-right group Soldiers of Odin among its ranks. 

The Soldiers of Odin Canada are an offshoot of a neo-Nazi group with the same name in Finland.

About a half-dozen members of the group signed up with the legion in Grande Prairie, Alta. The legion also rented its hall to the group for its community Easter dinner, CBC News found.

Anti-Islam, anti-migrant

Founded by a Finnish white supremacist and neo-Nazi in 2015, the group is known globally as anti-Islam and anti-migrant.

In response, the national legion said it launched an investigation and would update its policy on hate groups. 

The new policy, released Monday, says the legion "does not support or tolerate any group or organization whose views or actions are contrary to our values and those of our country.

"As such, no Branch or Command within the Legion may affiliate itself in any manner whatsoever with a group or organization that promotes or is known to promote hatred or violence due to ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other social determinant." 

Soldiers of Odin banned under new policy

It's up to branch and provincial executives to "use their best judgment" to ensure compliance, according to the policy. Provincial executives would try to resolve any complaints or disputes with the branch as to what constitutes a hate group.

If there is no resolution, the ultimate determination is left to the national executive.

"If a determination was to be made at the national level, we are quite confident that our colleagues at the provincial level and/or the branch level would follow through," said Nujma Bond, manager of communications with the legion's national headquarters.

Bond said the national executive has no plans to issue a list of groups in Canada that are banned under the policy.

But she said Soldiers of Odin and all of its chapters would be prohibited. If a group is deemed a hate group, all of its chapters are banned under the policy.

It's up to the branch executives to do their research, she said, before renting out their hall to a group. A branch with any doubts about a group's history has to obtain advice from provincial or national executive, according to the policy.

Members could be expelled

Provincial and national executive could also make a finding that a group is a hate group, even if the local branch does not raise the issue, Bond said.

Non-compliance with the policy is punishable with expulsion from the legion.

Bond said the policy is there to ensure that everyone feel welcome and treated with respect at legions across the country. 

"We are really hopeful that this policy is not something that needs to be referred to every day," she said.

An investigation into the links between the Grande Prairie Legion and the local Soldiers of Odin chapter is ongoing, Bond said.