VANCOUVER - Mounties say they've put a dent in organized hate in British Columbia after arresting two alleged neo-Nazis for several racist, violent attacks, but an expert says there's still more work needed to stem white pride sentiments in the province.
The two men are accused of belonging to the B.C.-faction of the white supremacist group Blood and Honour, which has tentacles around the world. Their crimes, police say, occurred in Vancouver and date back to 2008.
Robertson De Chazal, 25, is charged with aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm in connection with two incidents, while Shawn MacDonald, 30, faces three counts of assault. Both are from the Vancouver area.
De Chazal is one of three people accused in an apparently random October 2009 attack.
Police say a 25-year-old Filipino man, who fell asleep on a discarded couch outside after a night of drinking, was doused in accelerant and set on fire. He suffered burns to his arms, neck and head.
The second charge relates to a beating one month earlier in which a black man was knocked unconscious.
The charges against MacDonald relate to incidents in 2008 and 2010 that injured a black man, a Hispanic man and an aboriginal woman.
Neither MacDonald nor De Chazal has a previous criminal record. They are both set to appear next in Vancouver Provincial Court on Dec. 23.
The arrests resulted from new investigations into old potential Blood and Honour-related crimes beginning last February, said Det.-Const. Terry Wilson, who announced the charges Friday at RCMP headquarters in Vancouver.
"Through the course of these investigations, we've been disruptive in this organization and its membership has dwindled," he told reporters.
It is one of two organized hate groups police have identified in B.C., and membership ranges from "a few" to 15 people, Wilson said.
Anti-racism expert Alan Dutton has worked in the field for decades and chairs the Canadian Anti-Racism and Education and Research Society.
He lauded the recent arrests, but said more resources must be devoted to routing out white nationalism.
"I'm not surprised, because the neo-Nazi movement has a lot of young members. Some of them are very violent, some are involved in mixed-martial arts and we are trying to track them as best we can," he said in an interview.
"We're very pleased to see that police have taken action and that they are concerned about the issues."
Dutton said police publicly underestimate the number of people in B.C. associated with white supremacy. He said there is an undercurrent of racist tendencies and "soft supporters" in Canada.
"In the last decade, we've seen fewer resources allocated and not as much connection with the community," he said. "I'm very concerned what's going to happen in the future."
Belonging to such a group or possessing paraphernalia related to the neo-Nazi subculture is not illegal.
"But if the membership of a white supremacist organization motivates you to commit offences, that's when the B.C. Hate Crime Team gets involved," said Wilson, as he stood next to a police display of items seized in previous investigations.
The display included flags bearing swastikas and a T-shirt emblazoned with a smiley face sporting a Hitler moustache.
Wilson said members of such organizations don't necessarily share much in common, aside from being Caucasian and being frequently between the ages of 17 and 30.
"I wish we could put in exactly what a 'hater' is in a bottle, but you can't," he said.
Legislation that currently exists to prosecute individuals convicted in hate-related assaults is sufficient, he said.
The B.C. Hate Crime Team was created in 1996 through the co-operation of several provincial ministries. It is the only one of its kind in Canada.