This blog article is the first known publication in Canada related to Firearms, Gangs and Extremists that specifically comments on the intersections of gangs, extremism, firearms law and Internet in Canada.
This article is written with knowledge (of the author) that national security teams across Canada have failed to address the alarming fact that para military extremist training camps have emerged all over western Canada in the last two years. These training camps use both firearms and improvised explosives.
Also, gang units and national security teams are aware of the connections between gangs and extremist groups throughout Canada but choose to not address the interplay between gangs and extremists.
This article is written with the intention to contribute to a momentum of ideas for addressing a real problem: Firearms, Gangs, Extremists and the Internet.
In Canada there are stringent licensing requirements for issuing firearms licenses and buying firearms. Canadian governments (federal, provincial and municipal) started a national discussion on banning all handguns, along with other changes to existing firearms laws.
In recent years, extremism and terrorism has become a concerning reality in Canada. There have been numerous attacks, and depending upon who you talk to there have been more attacks than we are able to count and track. Some extremist and terrorist attacks in Canada have included firearms, however, I have yet to see any data on whether these firearms were legally owned or not.
Gangs have also wreaked havoc with gun violence in communities across Canada for decades. There is little data, to my knowledge, that evidences legal firearms are used in these attacks, rather, it appears that the majority of gang gun violence is perpetrated with illegal firearms. That being said, there seems to be a growing trend that somehow active gang members and extremists are able to acquire gun licenses; none of the proposed changes to firearms law address this matter.
Recent Media Coverage
Vice media has recently covered a story of Vernon resident Kaz Nowlin who has been a member of several right wing extremist organizations, including Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”) and III% (“3%”). Kaz and others openly advertise online that they are legal firearms owners and demand that their membership engages in training to protect Canada from, primarily, Muslim terrorists. Kaz and his crew have been engaging in combat training, while attempting to deceive media into believing they only use ‘air soft’ guns. SOO and 3% are not the only ones engaged in para military training in western Canada; and there are groups that are even more concerning (this will be saved for another day).
The SOO have garnered fame within media as being debated as a community interest group. The first Canadian SOO President was an employee of the Manitoba Provincial-Government who was publicly known to be connected to the Hells Angels. SOO is a right wing extremist group that has gained permissions to fly gang colors by the Hells Angels. Other members of SOO are known to have close affiliations with Hells Angels as well.
Journalists have contributed to recruitment campaigns of the SOO and similar groups. Since then, SOO has experienced a high turnover in members. Many SOO members have defected and became 3% members in western Canada. The 3% is an American right wing militia group that now intends to stand as a vanguard against Islam; both SOO and 3% are groups rooted within a movement that targets and promotes hate against an ethnic and religious minority in Canada.
Extremist groups and gangs now recruit and advertise online. The Internet is the primary tool to access mouldable minds, and is often an effective recruitment tool for dangerous people. Social media platformsare riddled with pictures of gangs and extremists in Canada who brandish their illegal firearms (aka weapons) without fear of reprisal.
While Vice has highlighted an issue with para military training, the article is only meant as a spring board for further enquiry. There are many things that the article does not address, nor expose. It merely ricochets off the target.
There is much to say about firearms law, and this article is not intended to dive into this murky and often nonsensical area of law and regulation.
It is important to highlight that Canadian Governments are intending and hoping to make Canadians safer by decreasing the amount of legal firearms, which in effect does not achieve the governments stated goals. Rather than approach the issue by speaking to real experts in the areas of gangs, extremism and firearms law to determine how to best prevent further gun violence and attacks, the governments are targeting legal firearms owners. This is wholly unfair and seems to be motivated by the political aspiration of optics, to make it appear that the government of the day is sufficiently upholding public safety.
There are more effective methods to approach gang gun violence, extremism and terrorist attacks than by taking measures against law abiding firearms owners.
Across Canada, both federal and provincial governments have sanctioned the legitimization of gangs and extremists by allowing them to take forms byway of incorporated companies and societies. Several of these legitimized criminal and extremist groups are known to be engaged with gun violence or para military training, yet authorities do not act on this. Some examples of government sanctioned gangs include groups mentioned herein: Hells Angels and Soldiers Of Odin.
Governments should be addressing the root of gun violence and extremist/terrorist attacks by responding more diligently to the behaviors of those responsible for much of the gun violence: gangs, extremists and terrorists. Legal firearms owners are not the root of the gun violence.
There are accessible, tangible and practical methods to curbing gun violence in Canada. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Regulation and Rules may be established to prevent and revoke registration of federal and provincial incorporated companies and societies that are gang and extremist affiliated. Governments need to cease the sanctioning and legitimizing criminal and extremist organizations.
- Deny or revoke licenses to anyone who engages in any para military training with extremist groups (whether right wing, left wing or religious) for activities contrary to Canadian social policy including human and civil rights.
- Create Firearms Act Regulation that prohibit intimidation, threats or appearance of taking arms, or engaging gun violence, against any other citizen, group or nation; apply this to both community and cyber spaces.
- Create an effective reporting system for the Chief Firearms Office (“CFO”) and RCMP online that allows users to provide links and photo uploads of identifiable extremists and gangs who are brandishing weapons online; if not an online system, one that is more effective than the mere telephone system operated by CFO, as it is too logistically complicated to report online activity via telephone.
- Empower communities to effectively and legally respond to gangs and extremists. Create Canadian Internet Regulations that will deter gangs and extremists from using cyber spaces as recruitment and promotion because these groups pose dangers to our communities. Provide citizens, communities and incorporated non-government organizations with legal mechanisms to pursue injunctions and torts where gangs and extremists are brandishing firearms and other threatening behavior online.
- Develop checks and balance system to report police and authorities who refuse to investigate or take action when credible reports of gang or extremist activity are not acted upon. This can include tort liability, or any other mechanisms available to legislators.
If the root of the gun violence problem in Canada are criminals, gangs, extremists or terrorists, we should not be taking punitive measures against legal firearms owners, we ought to be focussing on those who are the problem.
I am one of a few people in Canada who have collected a small database of known extremists and gang members who do advertise para military training and brandish weapons online. To date, interest of authorities related to firearms brandished online by gangs and extremists is nil. This needs to change.
If the governments are serious about tackling gun violence they ought to address the roots of the problem.
Daniel Gallant is a former white supremacist and a practicing Social Worker that is currently studying law. Most recently Daniel Gallant was interviewed on this topic by the Montreal Gazette.
Letter to the Editor
President-Elect Donald Trump.
Successful in his presidential campaign, 2016, Trump has enshrined and emulated living controversies from the depths of American society’s psyche. He has advocated and capitalized upon angst of many citizen’s valid grievances against the state. Additionally, Trump has echoed the long standing American right wing rhetoric; many of his statements can only be described as discriminatory and bigoted. Much of the commentary from Trump, echoes that of the extreme far right.
There is no doubt that many people echo sentiments, similar to that expressed by the likes of the KKK, and David Duke. Right wing extremists have proclaimed that it is their vote that succeeded the Trump vote. A question remains: is this true?
What we know, as evidenced through a plethora of academic research, theorizing and confirming that our Americas (namely Canada and USA) are built upon capitalist precepts that include white supremacy.
The privilege gained by the dominant society has been attained and maintained through injustices served upon the other(s). Our system is historically white supremacist and classist, some will claim a cultural predation and law entrenched in arcane supremacist doctrines. While others emphasizing that the power belongs to the nations descendants; albeit missing the context of indigenous peoples. Perhaps, the most intense shock for Trump’s critics is that merely the point that America is not all that different than it’s ever been.
While, the KKK may not have directly affected the voting majority per se, it is known that Klan’s (and kin networks) message is directly aligned with the ideological construct of Trump’s campaign, and the collective conscious of the voting majority in the USA. This was not ideologically distinguished from that of the Harper-era in Canada. In many contexts and applications of politic, the violent right wing extremist ideology and doctrine (e.g. KKK) is cut from the literal same social fabric as is Trump and his voting majority. This is not to say that all Trump voters are white supremacist. However, it is fair to argue that the absorption of collective consciousness has become what was white supremacist and could now be legitimately concluded as mono-ethno-centric in construct. This ethno-centric trend espouses hatred, on both the left and right wing majority and fringes.
Those identified as the left wing, often believe our societies have progressed away from racism and other arcane political practices. We only need to see the manifestation of the 2016 campaign to understand this is not true. The right wing proclaims the left wing is as bad, or worse, than the right wing; that the left wing who claim to be anti-fascist are demonstrating attributes of fascism themselves. Both, left and right, have turned into ugly polarizations of the other. Violence is brought forth, emerged, from both narratives, but there is a simple solution: building upon common ground through human relationships.
Trump merely mimics that which already exists. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. Trump is a mere expressive mouthpiece, a trumpet if you will, that has a platform of power that expresses what other groups have been doing for decades. Obviously what Trump has said and does coincides, and is congruent, to that of the voting majority in USA.
Expressively, the voting majority does concur with Trump. Those left wingers who are frustrated have emulated the aesthetic of their opponent, as they engage violent rhetoric and action on the streets. Citizens have a right to be angry and frustrated and to express that. However, it is unlikely that the right to expression is to include the right be violent in messaging and action. The left wing now demonstrates engagement similar to their right opponent. Polarizations and rock throwing do not resolve issues. Dialogue and education resolve these issues.
I have affirmed through formal education and research that of which the far right wing extremists have stated for decades; that their views are not foreign to that of the dominant colonial nations and culture of the Americas. I believed this to be true when I was young homeless street youth entrenched in right wing extremist doctrine, and now as an academic, practitioner, researcher and global citizen. Moreover, the actions of the left wing are turning ugly and violent, just as are the expressions of the right wing; including Trump himself.
Moving forward with the political reality and social mirror we gaze into, we know that the historic context of North American society is racist and continues to be; it is embedded into law and culture. The existence of racism, or white supremacy if you will, in law is undisputable. The question remains: can we overcome these arcane elements of our western ‘civilized’ society?
The American normalization of racialization, discrimination, hate, and supremacy combined with the lack of educational outcomes that foster practical critical thinking skills and the ability to practically identify and overcome logical fallacies will continue to result in a tidal wave of reemerging right wing politics, which continues to navigate ends of causing harm to identifiable groups seen as the other; as the dominant class (whether race or socio-economic) mainstays its power and privilege.
It is worrisome that the norm is still the social acceptability that people can conduct, and express, themselves in discriminatory fashions. More to this point, what is feared by most people is that both the left and right wing have become viscerally entrenched in acts of violence and hatred.
Hopefully the election of Donald Trump will demonstrate to those who are opposed, or reject, the dominant supremacist doctrines will collectively find a way to ensure our education systems construct and incorporate practical critical thinking skills and how to identify and overcome logical fallacies, which are embedded within our culture, institutions, law and politics. Only then can we engage dialogue.
The revolution needs to begin now. We need to overcome our arcane past of supremacist doctrines, and walk towards a future that includes all of us. Including those who hold racist views and have a long way to go. Our revolution must be education, not violence and hate. We must not embody the aesthetic of the arcane element that still grips onto power. We must become the change we want to see in the world. This can be achieved through transformative education and dialogue. Revolution through education.
I spent years in the DTES (downtown eastside) Vancouver. I committed a lot of hate crimes there. Blood Alley was a place I frequented.
Now, at times, I am bothered by the recall of the feel, smells and tastes of blood soaked into my skin and clothes. I am reminded of the sputters and chokes and gags and screams and cries of the abuse I perpetrated. I am reminded of waking up with swollen hands and infected gashes on my knuckles. I am reminded of my fingers sticking together due to the dried syrup blood. I remember the adrenaline hang overs that made me puke…or maybe it was a spiritual rejection of my disgusting behaviour.
…now after years, education, social transformation and a whole lot of healing…I am still haunted by my own deeds and the pain I caused for others, in moments that likely linger for their whole lives…I remember…
First, I want to introduce you to my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos.
Before I tell you about the incident that screams discrimination against Gary Moostoos on behalf of OXFORD Properties Group Inc., I want to offer you a quick bio about myself, which will make more sense by time you get to the end of this article.
My name is Daniel Gallant and I am a former violent white supremacist. I was a street kid for many years in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I suffered sexual and physical abuse as a child. I was angry and lost. Since that time I changed my life. At the age of 26 I started post-secondary school with a grade seven education. After my first year of school is when I met Gary Moostoos, which was about 12 years ago. Since that time I have worked as a frontline human services worker, group home manager, counselor, researcher and advocate. I now have a BA in First Nations Studies and a Masters in social work, which Gary Moostoos is included within. I am currently a student of law in Kamloops, BC. My public work can be found in the media throughout the world. I am currently the director of Exit Canada, which is a non-profit that assists other violent extremists to leave violent lifestyles.
I tell a story of how Gary and my other friend Jerry have taught me lessons. This story called Scars of Past won a writer’s award at the UNBC Weaving Words National Indigenous Storytelling festival in Prince George during 2013. This is attributed and dedicated to Gary and Jerry.
…so basically my point is that without the support and love from people like my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos I would likely have continued on with my violent rampages and not experienced the profound degree of change that I have been gifted. Now more about OXFORD, Gary and the issue at hand…
Gary Moostoos is a First Nations Cree Elder in Edmonton, Alberta; Gary is from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation.
Gary’s work is recognized across Canada and he worked along with Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings across the nation. Media, Edmonton Police Services and the community of Edmonton have recognized Gary as an elder, teacher and healer.
Gary Moostoos has dedicated his life to assisting and supporting indigenous peoples who are in need. Gary’s commitment to helping people started over a quarter century ago. He worked in a hospital supporting people whom were sick, then as a youth worker for many years he assisted youngsters in connecting with cultural practices and spiritual teachings. Gary currently is employed as he works with homeless populations and survivors of the residential school system.
Instead of recounting his words I am going to offer you Gary’s facebook post of an incident he faced this week at the downtown Edmonton City Centre:
“Oh my gosh I was eating noodles at City Center food court & a couple Security approach & stand over me as I eat. They asked for my name I asked Why? The one says that I looked suspicious & look like a person they banned. I asked who was this person & that they see me every day as I shop there & have to walk through there everyday to get to work. They then said I had to go. I asked to speak to the supervisor. Then she came with another fellow. She took a picture of me and said that I was associating with people who are banned & known criminals. I said I worked for the homeless and an Elder & I associate with whom ever needs support. Soon there was 8 of them & they asked me to leave my meal & go. I kept my composure I did not swear or was rude. 12 security escorted me out and said I was banned for 6 months. People were telling me they were banning native people all day. So when they approached me I turn my video on my phone. I wanna cry with all sorts of emotions running through me mostly NOW I feel how my inner city folks feel when they are targets. I don’t even wanna listen to the video. What should I do? I made a few calls but it leads back to one of the security that escorted me out… “
Aside from the racism Gary faces everyday in Edmonton, which I have witnessed first hand, he is now being condemned by a security team for merely doing his job. This is gross application of discriminative property rights in quasi-public areas conducted by a team of individuals who appear to have little regard for vulnerable populations and indigenous peoples.
I want to add a few more pieces of information about Gary Moostoos [see bottom for links to Gary’s work]. I include this link to my master’s thesis in social work because Gary has been monumental in my personal transformation from a violent white supremacist to a social justice advocate and practitioner. Gary has been instrumental in my life and the change therein. Moreover, I have gone on to help many people, which would not have been possible without Gary. Not only is Gary a healing practitioner for aboriginal peoples but he is also a practitioner for assisting all Canadians heal from racism and violence.
The conduct of the security team that works for OXFORD Property Group Inc. who manage the majority of the downtown Edmonton core has made a huge mistake by seemingly conducting themselves unprofessionally and abusing their powers as property owners, whether legally and or morally and ethically. Whether this conduct was manifested due to racial profiling or whether it was due to affiliation to ‘undesirables’ is merely seen as a minuet discrepancy or syntax. Either way OXFORD are reportedly attacking vulnerable peoples, Edmonton indigenous peoples and vulnerable people living in poverty, in the downtown Edmonton core who often access particular shops in the City Center Mall.
A direct and public apology to Gary Moostoos would be appropriate. A political gesture to show support for Edmonton’s homeless community from OXFORD Properties Group Inc. would also seem appropriate in response to this awful scenario. A gesture of this sort from OXFORD would both compliment and assist Gary Moostoos in his work of helping our society change. We as a society need to collectively move away from discrimination and abuse of powers. OXFORD should recognize the amount of work and the degree of Gary Moostoos’ commitment and work that he embodies.
Gary deserves more respect than this from those employed by OXFORD Property Group.
Here is a list of articles about Gary Moostoos’ work:
For related blogs written by Daniel Gallant please click below: