UCP says candidates unknowingly posed for photos with Soldiers of Odin members

The United Conservative Party says it does not share the "hateful views" of Soldiers of Odin, after three UCP candidates were seen posing for photos with members of the extremist hate group.

UCP Edmonton-West Henday Constituency president Terry Howlett says he didn't know who the group was

UCP Edmonton-West Henday candidate Nicole Williams, second from left in front, poses with identifiable members of Soldiers of Odin. (Facebook)

The United Conservative Party says it does not share the "hateful views" of Soldiers of Odin, after three UCP candidates were seen posing for photos with members of the extremist hate group. 

Photos posted on the Soldiers of Odin Facebook page show UCP Edmonton-West Henday candidates Nicole Williams, Lance Coulter and Leila Houle smiling while posing with some of the group's members at a UCP pub night in Edmonton Friday.

At least 10 members of Soldiers of Odin are visible in the pictures, wearing hats, hoodies and leather vests emblazoned with "S.O.O."

In a tweet Sunday, Williams said she was not aware of who the group was and does not share their "despicable" views.

"I was completely unaware of what 'S.O.O.' stood for," she said. 

"While we were in a public place, had I known their views I would have requested that they leave as their hate is not welcome in our party."

Soldiers of Odin is an anti-immigration group founded in 2015 in Finland by Mika Ranta, a white supremacist. The Canadian branches of the group describe themselves as non-racist conservatives who seek to keep Canada safe. 

The group's Edmonton Facebook page says "the safety of our communities and citizens of Canada are our number one priority." The Edmonton chapter periodically "patrols" Edmonton streets.

The Edmonton chapter's Facebook page shared an event invite to the UCP's pub night on Oct. 5.

UCP Edmonton-West Henday candidate Leila Houle, left, poses with identifiable members of extremist group Soldiers of Odin at a UCP pub night on Friday. (Facebook)

Candidate Leila Houle also released a statement Sunday on Facebook saying she is "beyond upset" at the group's presence at the constituency pub night.

"As an Indigenous woman, I condemn — in the strongest possible way — the SOO, and the violent, racist activity they have been attached to in Edmonton and across Canada," she said.

"I have spent my entire life fighting prejudice and am painfully aware that this fight is an ongoing one. I absolutely reject the SOO and wish to move on from this disturbing event."

In a statement on behalf of the UCP Edmonton-West Henday Constituency, president Terry Howlett said Soldiers of Odin was brought to the pub by an organizer of the Alberta Independence Party in an "attempt to cause problems."

The UCP says the event was not split with that party in any way and was held in a public venue that was not exclusively booked by the UCP for the night.

Leader Jason Kenney was also not at the event, a UCP media spokesperson told CBC News.

Kenney said in a tweet Sunday the event was "crashed" by hate groups.

Howlett said the constituency was not immediately aware of what the "S.O.O." stood for on the clothing worn by Soldiers of Odin.

If he had known, he would have requested pub management remove the group, he said. 

"To be clear: Soldiers of Odin and their hateful views are not welcome in our organization," Howlett said.

"The UCP Edmonton-West Henday Constituency Association is a diverse group, and I am confident that my fellow members also denounce these despicable views."

UCP Edmonton-West Henday candidate Lance Coulter, right, in a photo posted on the Soldiers of Odin's Edmonton Facebook page. (Facebook)