author: kristian ferguson | news editor
Alleged anti-refugee group present in the province
Recently, an alleged anti-refugee group called “Soldiers of Odin” has been making their rounds in the news. Seeing as the University is a diverse community of people from many backgrounds, ethnicities, and places of origin, the Carillon feels the University community at large should be made aware.
The Soldiers of Odin group was founded in October of 2015 in Finland due to the European migrant crisis. Amidst concerns of potential criminals amongst the migrants and refugees, the Soldiers of Odin claim that they were founded to protect people, particularly women, from “criminal immigrants.”
The group’s founder, Mika Ranta, is a Neo-Nazi by his own declaration and a member of the Finnish Resistance Movement – a violent, right-extremist hate group. Ranta claims that his views are his own and that they do not reflect the Soldiers of Odin as a whole.
The Finnish Resistance Movement, for some context, is a branch of the Nordic Resistance Movement whose goal is to establish a “National Socialist republic covering the Nordic and Baltic countries.” The Finnish branch has been involved and implicated in many violent crimes against minorities including, but not limited to: tear-gassing and pepper spraying attendees at a gay pride event in Helsinki in 2010. This resulted in three members of the Finnish Resistance Movement being charged with 87 counts of assault, and 71 counts of violating political freedoms collectively.
Due to his background with the Finnish Resistance Movement, a criminal conviction due to a racially motivated attack in 2005, and his political views, Mika Ranta has since distanced himself from the Soldiers of Odin.
Since its inception, the Soldiers of Odin have grown and branched out across the planet, Canada being one of those places. Saskatchewan in particular has chapters established in Estevan, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Humboldt, Weyburn, and Regina.
Strangely though, the Soldiers of Odin, at least in Saskatchewan, have been trying to distance themselves from the actions of their European counter parts.
Provincial leader Travis Stokin has been quoted as saying, “We as Canadians, from all walks of life, have taken Soldiers of Odin to a more positive and very community-friendly approach”
Regina Chapter President Derek Niedermayer echoes this sentiment saying, “It is strictly written in our bylaws that we will not tolerate any of that [violent] behaviour.”
As it stands currently, the group has not done anything worthy of arrest. RCMP and local police services have not made any action towards the Soldiers of Odin, as they haven’t yet committed anything illegal. The RCMP says that they will not investigate ideologies unless there is explicit evidence of criminal activity.
Time and time again, the Canadian branch of the Soldiers of Odin have been trying to make it clear that they are not a hate group. Joel Agnott, the national president, has been saying the same things, trying to dispel beliefs that they are a hate group.
“People think we’re some sort of white power group,” says Agnott in an interview with CBC. “We’re not affiliated with any of that. We have had a few of those members, and we’ve kicked them out.”
As it stands, the Canadian branch of SOO has not done anything illegal and, at least on the surface, appears to be making an effort to combat right-wing extremism within their ranks. It does raise concerns about the group’s connection to the Finnish Resistance Movement, even if that connection is only by name.
The Anti-Defamation League, in particular Mark Pitcavage of the ADL, said that “These are exactly the sort of people who, not necessarily as a group but as individuals, some of them could actually be prompted, or inspired, or motivated (or) be angered enough to the point where they might even want to attack, or do some sort other activity against refugees,” in an interview with the Leader-Post.
It is unclear what the future of Saskatchewan and the SOO will be, if the group will be as involved and implicated in hate crimes as its European forefathers, or if the group truly is as they say. As it stands, the police seem to be taking them at face value and by their word. For obvious reasons, the presence of this group is upsetting and concerning for some. Does the presence and slowly rising popularity of SOO highlight issues of racism and xenophobia in our province? It can definitely be interpreted that way.