A group of citizens took to the streets of Collingwood for a march earlier this week, however the attendance of some controversial groups raised questions about ties to far-right and anti-immigration organizations.
According to a video and photos posted on social media from the demonstration, attendees were representatives of a group called MAPP: Mankind Against Pedophiles and Predators. One of their stated goals is to have the Ontario Sex Offender Registry made public. Currently, the registry is only made available to police.
Members of the Northern Guard and the Soldiers of Odin Grey Bruce were in attendance at Monday’s demonstration.
Robb Reason, of Collingwood, is the president of the Ontario branch of The Northern Guard.
“It’s a patriot club. The media tries to paint us as white nationalists. We’re so far from that that it’s ridiculous,” said Reason in an interview with CollingwoodToday.
Reason says the group has engaged in social-justice endeavours such as campaigns to support the homeless and veterans’ rights.
In July, Reason started MAPP. He said the Collingwood demonstration was the first, with more planned in London, Toronto and Peterborough. About 20 people attended Monday’s march, which circled Collingwood’s downtown.
“It was us just out there showing people that we’re not just going to sit at home while things are being done to our children. All parents should have the right to access that information,” said Reason.
Reason said he sent an email to Mayor Brian Saunderson concerning the issue on Sept. 2, a claim that is repeated in the video posted to the MAPP Facebook page.
When asked what made him want to get involved in this kind of advocacy work, Reason said he’s surprised more people don’t get involved.
“The better question is: What’s stopping other people from doing it? Tweeting hashtags from your couch isn’t really doing s----,” he said. “Soldiers of Odin and The Northern Guard showed up to support MAPP.”
Soldiers of Odin (SOO) is an anti-immigrant and white supremacist group founded in Finland in October 2015.
A few months later, iterations of the group started popping up in the U.S., resulting in the Anti-Defamation League releasing a paper on the origins. Canadian chapters of the group surfaced in 2016, although Canadian versions have stated publicly on multiple occasions that they are unaffiliated with the Finland and U.S. groups and are focused on community work and helping those in need.
According to Soldiers of Odin Canada bylaws, they are “a non-racist, conservative organization that seeks to keep Canadians safe in their daily activities and also uphold and protect our Constitutional rights, by acting as a nation-wide community-watch organization.”
However, other parts of their bylaws seem contrary to that message.
“Between the allowing of illegal aliens into this country and giving them the ability to vote and drive, accepting refugees from countries that hate us while Canadians are on the streets, releasing confirmed terrorists back to their organizations to cause more harm against Canada, and demonizing anything that has to do with European Culture to try and create racial tensions to turn citizens on one another; we as Soldiers Of Odin realize that it is time to take back our streets, provinces, and country,” reads their bylaws.
Facebook opted to ban all pages related to Soldiers of Odin, including Canadian iterations, in 2019.
The Northern Guard, which started in 2017, are an offshoot of the Soldiers of Odin according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. The group is described by the network as an anti-Muslim far-right group with ties to neo-Nazism.
According to Reason, the Northern Guard is against illegal immigration but other claims are not accurate.
“People think that means we’re anti-Muslim and white supremacists... that is absolutely not true. In our club, it says that if we are racist in any way, we are booted out,” said Reason. “We have homeless veterans and there’s so much money going out to help other people but we can’t help the people who are here right now.”
A request for comment sent to Soldiers of Odin Grey Bruce was not returned by publication time.
Mayor Saunderson was in his office at town hall on Monday when the protest occurred, saw the group pass his office and saw it was about making the sex offender registry public.
When asked if he had received an email from the group, he said he had not.
“I take all emails very seriously, but I don’t recall seeing an email about the protest,” he said.
When asked his thoughts about the issue, Saunderson said municipalities have no jurisdiction over the sex offender registry as it is a federal mandate.
“To the extent that there is any link between this group and any white supremacist organization, certainly that isn’t something that would be welcomed in our community, but I have no knowledge of that,” said Saunderson.
Collingwood/Blue Mountain OPP confirmed this week they received no complaints or calls about the Labour Day protest.
“Protesters would only be stopped if they were inciting a hateful message, however if it is peaceful, then the protest would be allowed to continue,” said Const. Martin Hachey.