They crashed the party, did they?
But I wonder why they picked a United Conservative Party affair to crash?
I speak, of course, of the "Soldiers of Odin," the unsavoury anti-immigrant group founded by a Finnish white supremacist whose Edmonton chapter's members dress like bikers and have been making a nuisance of themselves by posing as the Edmonton Police Service's little helpers.
On Friday, several members of the group showed up in full regalia at a pub night for UCP nomination candidates in the Edmonton-West Henday Riding and were welcomed with big smiles all round.
Before long, photos of the "Soldiers" with beaming UCP candidates Nicole Williams, Lance Coulter and Leila Houle were all over the internet.
They appeared first on the Edmonton group's own Facebook page. Soon thereafter screenshots were posted on social media by Progress Alberta, progressive activists who among other things have been tracking the activities of the Soldiers of Odin in Edmonton.
All the candidates were smiling in the pictures from the Edmonton-West Henday pub night. "Edmonton Chapter had a great night at the UCP pub event," said the Soldiers of Odin's accompanying post. "Thank you to those who came out and to the UCP candidates for their support." The pictures and commentary alike have since disappeared from the Soldiers of Odin page.
Once published by Progress Alberta, though, the snapshots went viral in minutes. A lot of voters wondered just what it is about the UCP that makes people like the Soldiers of Odin feel comfortable at their get-togethers, and why for pity's sake the party of Jason Kenney doesn't give such characters the bum's rush the instant they show up?
These are good questions. According to a tweet on Oct. 7 by Kenney, he was "disturbed to learn that a UCP pub night in Edmonton was crashed by supporters of the fringe 'Alberta Independence Party,' including members of hate groups."
Never mind that, as Progress Alberta soon revealed in a tweet, with an image of the evidence, that the Soldiers of Odin had RSVP'd the invite on Facebook. Hey! Who actually reads their social media acknowledgments?
"Groups like the Soldiers of Odin are nevertheless not welcome at UCP events, period," the Conservative Opposition leader said in another tweet.
Williams and Houle posted a joint statement Oct. 7 expressing similar sentiments. "We were unfortunately not aware of what the abbreviation 'S.O.O.' stood for when these individuals entered the public venue in which the Constituency Association was holding an event, nor were we aware of this group's disgusting views," it said in part.
Williams added to that with a statement of her own, saying, "I was completely unaware of what 'S.O.O.' and Soldiers of Odin stood for. … Had I known their views I would have requested that they leave as their hate is not welcome in our party."
I'm sure as far as the UCP is concerned, this ought to be enough, thank you very much, and could we all please forget about this by Tuesday morning?
Still, this is odd, don't you think? Just for starters, wouldn't you expect someone at a major political party's event to have thought to ask one of the visitors in vests with biker-style colours and hats emblazoned "S.O.O." just whom they represented?
The photos aren't clear, but the "Soldiers'" jackets appear to have patches on them with additional slogans. Did no one think to read them?
Regardless, we can reach two conclusions with confidence:
- No one from the Soldiers of Odin would have shown up in regalia at a meeting of any other Alberta political party running candidates in Edmonton -- not the NDP, not the Alberta Party, not the Alberta Liberals, not the Greens.
- If they had been inclined to turn up anyway at a beer night organized by any of those other parties, they would have been immediately recognized for whom they were and shown the door.
Alberta voters are within their rights to wonder why the UCP keeps attracting far-right fringe groups, some of them quite unsavoury.
Whatever the answer is, it doesn't show the UCP in a very good light.
I suppose we can be thankful Kenney himself doesn't knowingly pose for photos with white supremacists as his bromantic partner Doug Ford sometimes does.
But while Kenney says the Soldiers of Odin are not welcome at UCP events, he has no problem speaking to a creationist fringe group and forgetting to mention it in his schedule or tolerating a campaign by anti-abortion organizations to assist candidates to win UCP nominations.
Meanwhile, this list of UCP nomination candidate bozo eruptions keeps growing: A Nazi meme scheme here, climate change denial there, a homophobic slur here, an anti-Muslim comment there. Why does the UCP attract these people?
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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