The former Soldiers of Odin (SOO) Edmonton chapter, now known as the Canadian Infidels, disbanded in part for being deemed too controversial (read as racist) for the larger SOO organization, which has described itself as anti-immigrant and was founded by a neo-nazi.
I’m not saying that other SOO members are better people than those found in the Edmonton chapter, but an organization who thrives on bad press found that the Edmonton chapter was getting too much bad press.
Let that sink in.
Now normally I’d be extremely overjoyed to see the disbandment of an SOO chapter, but their rebranding as Canadian Infidels is ominous. Firstly, this is because it suggests a continued religious focus, likely meaning more Islamophobia, and secondly because it means there’s no overseeing organization to counsel against extreme actions. As far as I know, there’s no national organization of Canadian Infidels, and hopefully, there never will be. However, the lack of such an organization allows for the possibility of unchecked radicalization that makes this new group dangerous.
As we’re slowly beginning to realize, the Canadian Infidels aren’t unique. As hate becomes more and more commonplace in our neighbour to the south, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Canada is not some utopian, post-racism wonderland. The difficulty is that unlike the United States, it’s still a common misconception here that racism doesn’t exist, despite the fact that we don’t even consult with indigenous groups when drafting laws that impact them, for example. Since many people are still so so eager to claim “Canada isn’t racist,” it becomes too easy for groups such as the Canadian Infidels to go unaddressed as they too “can’t actually be racist.”
As such, the Canadian Infidels can play on racism and xenophobic tendencies by couching them in the unaddressed racism still rampant in Canada. This then becomes hard to combat because the very narratives the Canadian Infidels use will seem commonplace to some and therefore non-threatening. Some may misunderstand the dissolving of the SOO Edmonton chapter as a sign that the group has disappeared, and subsequently relax their guard.
The new name is, despite being decidedly not low-key, subtle in its own way. By calling themselves Canadian, they try to stress the idea that their feelings are normal and common, that they’re just another normal group of Canadians. By calling themselves infidels, they want to focus attention to their stance on “religious differences,” since many people don’t recognize that as a stand-in for Islamophobia, which is obviously entwined with racism. If it wasn’t for the fact that the name “Canadian Infidels” just feels aggressive, I’d be concerned that the rebranding could lead many people to think this group is something they’re not.
So while it’s good to hear that the work being done to stymie the actions of hate groups like the SOO is going well enough to cause internal strife within their organization, it’s imminently important that we don’t let up just because this group decided to rebrand.