Canadian branch of far-right group fragments amid infighting

The Canadian branch of Soldiers of Odin, a far-right group founded in Finland in 2015, grew quickly. It's now beset by infighting over whether to follow its hard line European leaders.

Canadian leader of Soldiers of Odin calls out racism of Finnish leaders, who then oust him

The Soldiers of Odin, whose Quebec City members are shown on patrol in December 2016, have been called intimidating. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

A far-right group that expanded quickly across Canada, to the alarm of anti-racism activists, is now fragmenting amid infighting.

The group, Soldiers of Odin, was founded in 2015 by a Finnish white supremacist concerned about the influx of Muslim refugees in that Nordic country.

Its Canadian affiliate, Soldiers of Odin Canada, now appears to be divided over whether to follow the group's hardline European leaders.

There are active Soldiers of Odin chapters in roughly a dozen Canadian cities — including Quebec City, Vancouver and Edmonton — where they follow the Finnish example of going out on street patrols.

Muslim groups have said they find the patrols intimidating, and the patrols are opposed by many municipal politicians.

Soldiers of Odin members have repeatedly clashed with anti-racism activists, including at recent demonstrations in Toronto and Vancouver.

'Wanna be thug' collaborators?

Last week, the head of Soldiers of Odin Canada, Bill Daniels, called the group's parent organization a "racist, unorganized, reckless wannabe thug collaboration."

In a Facebook message dated April 25, Daniels accuses Soldiers of Odin Finland of being overly focused on conducting street patrols instead of doing community-based volunteer work.

Soldiers of Odin demonstrate in Joensuu, eastern Finland, in 2016. The group insists its patrols are needed to protect the peace in the sparsely populated country, which wasn’t a major destination for migrants until 32,500 people applied for asylum last year. (Associated Press)

"Their ridiculous belief in racism has always been a huge issue for us in Canada as we do not support or share their views on race," Daniels's message reads.

Though Daniels wants to continue operating Soldiers of Odin Canada independently, the group's Finnish leadership has warned him against using the name or emblem.

"Bill Daniels is no more leader of Canada and no more member of Soldiers of Odin," it said in a Facebook response to his denunciation.

Storm Alliance is born

Daniels is not the first former member of the group to express reservations about the direction taken by the Finnish leadership.

In December, Dave Tregget — then head of the Quebec chapter — left the group, claiming its hardline stand against immigration was preventing its growth in multicultural Canada.

Tregget has since formed another organization, Storm Alliance, composed of disaffected Soldiers of Odin members.

On Sunday, several Storm Alliance members travelled to the Quebec-U.S. border, where they "took [matters] in their own hand" by attempting to witness illegal border crossings.

Storm Alliance is composed of disaffected Soldiers of Odin Canada members. (Facebook)

Just a power grab?

The current head of Soldiers of Odin's Quebec chapter, Katy Latulippe, remains supportive of the group's Finnish leadership, and she said other provincial chapters are as well. 

She said the claims made by Daniels and his supporters are a way of disguising the real source of their frustration with Finland.

Daniels was attempting to centralize the group's leadership and also tried to have her ousted, Latulippe claimed.

The group's Quebec members resisted, she said. The Finnish leadership stepped in to support Latulippe and chastised Daniels for his efforts.

"Bill Daniels's comments are ridiculous; they are all contradictory," she told CBC Montreal.

"He spent one year as a leader, saying that the Finnish chapter wasn't racists. And then suddenly, after a little conflict, he starts using the term racist? It doesn't hold."

Money may also have been a factor in the disillusionment of many Canadian Soldiers of Odin with the Finnish organization.

In a Facebook post on April 27, Mike Montague, in charge of public relations for SOO-Canada, said leaders in Finland wanted the Canadian group to charge membership fees.

Montague also expanded on why they labelled the Finnish leadership racist.

Breakaway groups out West

Soldiers of Odin members in Alberta and Saskatchewan have formed breakaway factions of their own, as well.

David Troute left the Alberta branch last fall to found Guardians of Alberta. He told the Edmonton Examiner that he objected to the neo-Nazi ties of Soldiers of Odin's founders.

The Guardians of Alberta Facebook page, meanwhile, is replete with references to "Jihadi Justin" Trudeau.

A Facebook page had this photo of a Soldiers of Odin Saskatchewan chapter. (Brandon Graves/Facebook)

Another post warns "Muslims on the rise in Calgary!" beneath a picture of a demonstration that features several Syrian flags.

Leaders of Saskatchewan's Soldiers of Odin chapter also left the group last year citing concerns about racism, going on to found an organization called Patriots of Unity.

David Alan Tierney, one of its founders, was charged with several firearm and explosive offences after police raided his home in October.

Authorities said they found six firearms, one pair of brass knuckles, eight containers of Tannerite explosives, approximately 2,000 rounds of ammunition, 220 grams of marijuana and six grams of psilocybin, popularly known as magic mushrooms.