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This article was published 21/8/2017 (302 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Brandon man who is the vice-president of a national "anti-Islam" group denounced by critics for spewing hatred is adamant his actions are defensible because he is standing up for his family and country.
In a combative phone interview with The Brandon Sun on Saturday, Jesse Wielenga, a 30-year-old father of two who works as a pipefitter in Alberta and has a residence in Brandon, snapped back at the suggestion the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada is a hate group.
He insists he is not a white supremacist despite posting a slogan on Facebook with white-supremacist origins. He also refuses to call himself a racist in spite of racist comments he posted and endorsed on social media.
Wielenga, a 2004 graduate of Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School, was initially questioned about his Facebook writings by the Vancouver Sun.
On Saturday, Wielenga shared that his group, which attempted to host an "anti-Islam" rally in Vancouver last Saturday until it was postponed and subsequently dwarfed by a mass celebration of diversity, would soon demonstrate in Winnipeg.
"If you guys want to do me a favour and paint me as a racist, don’t. I’m more of a family man," Wielenga said. "I’m just here to make my children as safe as possible. I see something going on. I don’t like it."
He perceives federal immigration policy to be "bringing in people that want to hurt us." He thinks racial integration is forcing white people to be "exterminated" through multiculturalism.
"You might say that’s racist to even say that, but multiculturalism is a bad political ideology. It ghettoizes people. It makes people fight for their own kind. It doesn’t matter who you are."
Wielenga’s controversial views, shared on his publicly accessible Facebook profile where he goes by the alias "Jesse Canada," were given wide exposure in a Vancouver Sun article published last Friday. Anti-racism websites have previously scolded Wielenga for his social media commentary. His Facebook page was down by Sunday afternoon.
Joey De Luca, the president of the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada who claims his group is not racist, was unable to explain why his vice-president promoted racist messages online when the Vancouver Sun brought Wielenga’s comments to his attention.
Elected officials in Vancouver widely denounced the "anti-Islam" group in the days leading up to the rally. Scheduled for Saturday, the demonstration was postponed, according to their Facebook page, but counter-protesters still turned up in droves. Police estimate 4,000 people attended.
This month, Wielenga wrote the coded term "14 WORDS" in response to a Facebook comment. He also clicked the "Like" button on the comments "1488" and "hail victory," references to neo-Nazi attitudes.
The messages are recognized as coded terms used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, which may shield the statement from being perceived as overtly racist.
"Fourteen words" is a shortening of the white supremacist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
The slogan "1488" has similar implications. The first two numbers is shorthand for the "14 words" slogan. The last two numbers "88" stand for "Heil Hitler," since the letter h is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
Wielenga concedes the phrase "14 words" is understood as a white supremacist phrase, but he understands it differently.
"You know how I take it? We have to secure our existence," he said. "Whites are being phased out all over the world. If you don’t see it, you’re blind."
Asked about the neo-Nazi comments he endorsed through Facebook, Wielenga explained he hits the "Like" button on everything. "What am I supposed to do about that?" he asked.
Wielenga has also drawn condemnation for a Facebook post where he shared a picture of a black man who went airborne after being struck by the car that accelerated into anti-racism protesters in Charlottetown, Va., this month, killing one person and injuring 19 others. "It was in that moment that Tyrone realized black lives really don’t matter," the caption read, a reference to a black teenager shot by police in the United States. Wielenga added his own comment: "WHITE LIVES MATTER."
In response, Wielenga replied he was simply posting a "funny meme." He added it was the "leftists who drove into the people anyways," disputing the recollections of people who knew the driver and say he sympathized with neo-Nazi perspectives.
Wielenga said his "anti-Islam" group is not racist or hateful, but wants to put a stop to Islamic immigration and the permitting of refugees who cross the border illegally.
"We don’t want that in our country until we can properly vet them," he said, alleging the current practice of accepting immigrants and refugees is not stringent.
"I’ve met some good Muslim people, trust me … but right now we just don’t know what’s going on in our country."
Wielenga said nobody in his family supports his beliefs, but their opinions have not swayed him.
"I feel like I’m fighting for Canadian culture, Canadian identity and right now we’re getting that taken away," he said.
Jesse’s mother, who The Brandon Sun has chosen not to name, disavowed her son’s comments when reached by the newspaper by phone.
"I don’t have the same views. He keeps telling me it’s not a racist group, well," she said in a brief interview.
Later, she called back the newspaper to clarify her previous statements. Although she does not agree with her son’s point of view, she does not believe Jesse is a racist, white supremacist or neo-Nazi.
"I don’t agree with what he thinks. But if he’s anywhere near the white supremacists or anything, I wouldn’t be very happy and he knows that."
She gave The Brandon Sun consent to publish her comments.
Helmut-Harry Loewen, an anti-racism activist in Winnipeg and former sociology professor, has been tracking Wielenga’s online comments for months and says over time there has been an "increasing militancy" to the Brandonite’s views.
"Months ago, his racism was coded, fairly camouflage, but he’s become full-blown fascistic in many of his statements."
Loewen said Wielenga is playing on the insecurities some people have about refugee intake and violence in Europe, under the guise of Canadian pride.
"There’s nothing patriotic about targeting Muslims, about spewing Nazi slogans, about promoting white supremacy even though you try to disavow it," Loewen said. "I have great concerns that Jesse Wielenga is growing increasingly vitriolic."
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