Sunday, January 01, 2017

Interview With Former Soldiers of Odin National Vice-President Dave Tregget

Last month we published two articles that dealt in part with the direction of the Canadian chapter of the Soldiers of Odin (see here and here). In the CBC article that we quoted in those articles, one of the foci was on the seeming split in the Quebec branch of the group which had been formerly led by Dave Tregget:
But as Tregget was busy building the group's membership he was also running afoul of the national leadership as well as the movement's international leaders in Finland. 
According to his one-time second-in-command, Tregget gave a series of interviews in the fall in which he downplayed the links between the Finnish and Quebec branches of the group. 
He also insisted on patrolling the "political correct" areas of Quebec City, like St-Roch, where the group was less likely to confront the city's immigrant population, said Katy Latulippe, who is now the acting president of Soldiers of Odin-Quebec. 
There are conflicting accounts of what, precisely, happened. Latulippe said Tregget was suspended. Tregget said he quit: "Finished with the racist image of Finland," he later told CBC News in a Facebook message. 
Regardless of the details, what is clear is that with Tregget out, and Latulippe in, the group's Quebec chapter will undergo a reorientation....."Dave avoided that, on patrols, we go into areas where there are a lot of Muslims or Islamization," she said during a recent phone conversation.
Tregget had also been the SoO national chapter's vice-president prior to his depatrure. That fact however did not insulate him, nor some of the other former SoO members who left the group, from being labeled as traitors. Among the others who left the SoO are William Crotty who had been the president of the Alberta chapter (and who is the "William" mentioned in the Vice exposé published last April) and Colin Oleary who was a leader in New Brunswick. Depending upon whom one wishes to believe, Tregget either resigned from the SoO or was suspended.

After reading the CBC article and on a bit of a whim, I decided to contact Tregget to see if Anti-Racist Canada could get his side of the story regarding the reasons for his departure from the SOO, though if I'm honest I didn't expect him to respond to my query. Much to my surprise, he did respond and further agreed to an on the record interview to offer his side of the story concerning his exit from the SoO.

What follows is a brief interview with the former Quebec chapter president and national vice-president of the Soldiers of Odin in Canada. I will add that French is Tregget's first language so please forgive any communication issues that may result:

I suppose one thing you might have to gain [as a result of this interview] is clarity on what the reasons you have for leaving were because [some of the] SOO [leadership] are throwing the word "traitor" around fairly liberally.
I the quit the SoO [Soldiers of Odin] without make waves as you may have noticed but
the SoO did not feel the same way. The "absolute traitor" post shows exactly what kind of leaders run the SoO. You can find numerous posts or interviews where [B.C.

provincial leader] Bill Daniels says that I'm an excellent leader and that my vision for the SoO is (or was) the way to go, but suddenly upon leaving I became a traitor. I think they tried to discredit me because they were afraid of the backlash of me leaving, but the damage is done. I left because of a leadership that doesn't represent the majority and always goes against majority votes. I fought for months to clean up the SoO’s image in Canada which was suffering from Finland’s reputation and no, it wasn't a front. I really believed that in Canada we could have done something different.
ARC has raised concerns on the blog that the leadership of the SoO doesn't seem overly troubled about the overt racists that have joined their groups, suggesting at best naivety and at worst active support. We counted several people on your own friend's list while you were an SoO leader who subscribe to extremist views as well as many who were or are on the Quebec chapter's Facebook page that suggested you might harbor similar beliefs.
As for my Facebook friends with questionable beliefs, well they’re Facebook friends – people I don't really know to be honest and you probably know more about them then me. 
What appealed to me about the SoO was the concept of protecting women and children but not in the sense of walking the street filled with migrants waiting to assault people. It was more like helping women getting out of abusive relationship or helping children to face their aggressors. 
The ideal of patrolling the streets especially in Québec City in Muslims areas is ridiculous. Only someone that doesn't know the city would say something like this. There's no Muslims ghetto or neighborhood here. Our walks in Québec were to help the homeless or anyone in needs. 
I have nothing against the SoO. They went for a change that doesn't fit me anymore so I left and many others did as well. I never commented on their attacks on me because I don't care. I moved on. I’ve got a lot of respect from members all over the country and there's a reason that. Less than 10 members unfriend me after they were ordered to block me, so it seems like not everyone agreed with SoO leadership. 
I'd like to address the part where you said that I maybe was more ignorant then a neo-Nazi. I can tell you that I'm not a neo-Nazi or a racist. This whole journey in the SoO taught me a lot of things about the Internet and disinformation. Yes, I said things in the past about migrants and you're right that it was more out of ignorance then personal beliefs. That's another thing I brought to the SoO, check your sources three times before posting because there's a lot of anti-migrant propaganda out there.
It's interesting that you mention disinformation on the Internet. What do you think the role of "fake news" is in creating animosity towards refugees, immigrants, and/or people of colour and do you think it influences the way the SoO acts towards these groups?
Disinformation plays a big role on how people think and talk about migrants. I say "think" but those people don't think; they just take it without thinking or questioning the sources. As for SoO actions, at least in Canada, nothing negative has ever been done towards migrants. I would never have tolerated neither would the majority of leaders and members. The SoO in Canada has only been involved in charity and community events.
You were one of the first Canadian members of the SoO and were at one point the national vice-president. Considering what the SoO in Finland is like, what was the attraction of the group? What ultimately turned you off the Finnish SoO that you tried to distance the Quebec chapter?
My interest in SoO has always been about helping people. I'm not the only one who wanted the SoO Canada to distance itself from Finland. Again, it was a majority vote that was taken by the National council. Even people denouncing me now were for [distancing the SoO from Finland] but I guess when some wants you gone it becomes convenient to make those kinds of accusations.

We noticed that not many SoO members appear to have "unfriended" you as was ordered by the national leadership and that some of those members who still remain close to you are in leadership positions within the SoO.
I'm still friends with a lot of members because our friendship goes above the cause but it's their decision to stay or leave and I respect that. There’s a lot of turmoil in SoO right now. Some say it's my fault but I think that claim is giving me to much importance. It's rather an excuse for those responsible of all this dissatisfaction or frustration with the SoO.
We also see that you're still Facebook "friends" with Mikka Ranta, or at least one of his two known profiles. What are your thoughts on him and his active membership in an infamous neo-Nazi gang in Finland prior to, during, and after his founding of the SoO? Did his associations ever give you or Joel Agnott pause when considering forming the Canadian branch of the SOO?
Regarding Mikka all that I know about him is what's out there on the web. Somethings are true and some are false I guess. I only talked to him a couple of times. Nothing serious but he was always kind to me. Honestly I don't have an opinion of him. I never thought it would matter with the vision of the SoO we had in Canada. Obviously I was wrong. As for the future of the SoO I can't tell what's going to happen. I left. I moved on but one thing for sure I will never collaborate with them. It's nothing against members. It's all about the leadership.
You've mentioned several times that your biggest concern was with the leadership of the SoO.
What were the issues that were ultimately the breaking point for you?
I won't go into details but the biggest concern of the majority of leaders and myself was of a president [Joel Angott] who doesn't respect majority votes or the [SoO] charter.
What is the biggest problem that you see with the SoO in Canada? Also, what do you think will happen to the SoO in Quebec now that you've either stepped down (or suspended if one were to believe the SoO)?
I don't want to sound like I'm settling scores with the SoO because I'm not. I'm not angry or mad at them. They did me a favor and it didn't come as a surprise. I've been fighting this bad leadership with the majority of the executive but eventually you’ve got to realize that you're running in circles if not going backwards. It pushed me to leave – or being suspended if it gives them a kick to think so – and do what other members and I thought what the SoO was going to be. As for QC chapter, Mme Latulippe announced that they were going to be more at Finland’s image. A lot of active members already left to join the SA [Storm Alliance, the group started by Tregget after leaving the SoO] because obviously those people who left the SoO like the vision we gave of the SoO [while Tregget was the Quebec leader]. I don't wish the SoO any bad luck. Time will tell but again it's behind me.
It seems clear that if you don't necessarily have concerns about the SOO membership, you do have concerns with the leadership.
That's exactly why I left last July. After a couple of weeks I was asked to come back and that we were going to work out these issues. Well I don't have to tell you it didn't work out..
So you've started a new group that you've named the Storm Alliance? How would you answer critics who might believe that this group's purpose is to target minorities in your province?
I don't give too much importance to critics. We're here to help Canadians in need. I'm conscious that with my past involvement with the SoO won't help but hopefully in time this will be behind us. I thought that actions would have spoken louder than words in SoO, I truly think we're going be able to do it in SA.
We asked a number of off the record questions as well, the answers to which were most enlightening.

Now our readers are free to interpret this exchange as they see fit and question the claims made by Tregget in the interview, but some of what we derive from the discussion is that the SoO is hemorrhaging members and there is dissension among the members and the leadership, a fact that confirms our previous reporting of internal conflicts and power struggles within the group.

From our point of view, that's a pretty good thing.

However it does raise a concern for us as well. Should the SoO break up, does the membership move on to other less xenophobic pre-occupations, or does it splinter into smaller groups which, while not containing the same numbers, might be more aggressive?

Time will, indeed, tell.

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