White supremacists come from all walks of life

Three alleged members of a white supremacist group are facing charges in connection with a spate of attacks on minorities – including one incident in which a man was lit on fire.

The B.C. RCMP’s hate crime team held a news conference Friday to announce charges against Robertson de Chazal and Shawn MacDonald. A third man has been arrested, though police said charges against him have not yet been laid.

Mounties accused the men of being members of Blood and Honour, a neo-Nazi group that has been linked to violent incidents across the globe.

The scariest B.C. incident occurred in October 2009 after a man of Filipino descent fell asleep on a discarded couch near a Vancouver intersection. The RCMP say three men were observed by a witness allegedly lighting the sleeping man on fire. The victim suffered burns to his arms, neck and head.

Mr. de Chazal has been charged with aggravated assault in connection with that incident. He’s also been charged with assault causing bodily harm in connection with a September, 2009, incident in which he allegedly attacked a black man.

Mr. MacDonald has been charged with three counts of assault, stemming from incidents in 2008 and 2010. Police say race was a factor in each attack.

Detective Constable Terry Wilson said the hate group is one of two operating in the province – that the RCMP knows of. He said Blood and Honour could have up to 15 members in B.C.

“The Internet is a huge tool when it comes to the white supremacist movement throughout the world,” Det. Constable Wilson said. “And that’s how they get their members.”

He later said it’s difficult to tell just who might be a member of a white supremacist group. “They come from all walks of life, they come from all ages,” he said.

He added that while being a member of a white supremacist group is not itself illegal, a section of Canada’s Criminal Code does outlaw the public incitement of hatred.

A 2011 Statistics Canada report indicated that hate crimes had risen by 42 per cent between 2008 and 2009. More than half were racially motivated.

Vancouver ranked second behind Toronto with 163 reported hate crimes in 2009.

White supremacist paraphernalia from unrelated investigations, including flags emblazoned with swastikas, was on display at the news conference.