At least one racist group supporter with online ties to the far-right and US based militia groups was charged with 3D printing guns in Canada. 3D printed guns, hate groups and covert militias, oh my! What does this mean at a time of escalating political violence?
An online supporter of an anti-Muslim hate group, the Soldiers of Odin, was caught working to circumvent Canada’s gun laws by 3d printing guns for sale. We took a dive into his social media before he managed to delete incriminating evidence and we found immediate links to people involved in weapons training and militia group activities as well as to racist group members in at least two other commonwealth countries.
On Wednesday, September 2 2020, a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged for allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearms and firearm parts. After an investigation which spanned from April 2019 to September 3, 2020 the RCMP charged Dan Forsyth of Picture Butte, AB with the following:
- Offering to traffic firearms
- Manufacturing a restricted firearm
- Manufacturing a non-restricted firearm
- Manufacturing a prohibited device
- Possession of firearms for the purpose of trafficking
- Possession of a prohibited device for the purpose of trafficking
- Unauthorized possession of a non-restricted firearm
- Unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm
- Unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon
- Unauthorized possession of a prohibited device
- Possession of a weapon contrary to a prohibition order
Forsyth’s social media presence includes vocal support for the anti-Muslim group ‘Soldiers of Odin. Forsyth also represents other “infidel” causes and presents these symbols on his personal Facebook page alongside the Gadsden flag which has been popularized with US-based far-right militias.
Who are the Soldiers of Odin?
SOO in Canada are a splinter from the Soldiers of Odin international chapter which originated in Finland. SOO in Canada and abroad have staged uniformed ‘patrols’ of Muslim-majority neighbourhoods and neighbourhoods surrounding mosques.
The group is fixated on Islam, and is part of a network of far-right groups. The two groups have a poor relationship. Group members are commonly pictured wearing biker-style aesthetics including leather vests and black hoodies emblazoned with the group’s logo.
The Soldiers of Odin (SOO) were the subject of a 2017 CBSA report regarding extremist activity and are widely recognized by subject matter experts and public interest advocates to be a far-right extremist group, with strongly anti-Muslim leanings.
In 2017 members of the Soldiers of Odin and other far-right, anti-Muslim extremist groups like the Jewish Defence League, were filmed fighting anti-racism activists in Toronto, Ontario. Members of the group have also been pictured at rallies across Canada. In February 2020, the group was linked to unspecified threats against Indigenous demonstrators in Victoria BC.
A 2019 article in The Griff notes that the Soldiers of Odin social media presence consists of posts displaying “bottle drives and volunteering in homeless kitchens across Edmonton, promoting the image that the SOO is a group dedicated to helping the less fortunate. But a closer look at their page, affiliations, and general belief system of the group paint a very different picture.”
The Soldiers of Odin group have also engaged in organized street violence targeting anti-racist demonstrations in cities like Edmonton and Calgary. In 2018 Facebook banned the group in all of its forms for the platform for promotion of hatred and violence. In 2019 the group returned to the news after it organized a fundraiser at an Alberta Royal Canadian Legion Branch. The Legion has since disavowed the group.
Who is Dan Forsyth?
Forsyth’s social media presence also identifies him as a heavy equipment operator, employed by a major international construction service firm which provides a variety of services to many heavy industries in Alberta, including its tar sands development projects. We contacted the company which confirmed that while Forsyth had been employed by them, he had not worked for them since early Summer 2019. This is the same time frame that the RCMP began their investigation in to Forsyth’s 3D printing activities.
A Google Search for his name indicates that a Dan Forsyth held a 2008-2010 lease on a historic co-op building where he ran a tattoo shop “Up Your Alley Ink and Custom Tatooing” in Coaldale, AB which neighbours Picture Butte.
Forsyth has multiple social media contacts and interests which clearly display their far-right affiliation on their profiles.
Forsyth follows the anti-Muslim group, the “Guardians Of Australia” a far-right Australian group actually partially administered out of Israel. Australia’s far-right have been credited with the Christchurch New Zealand mosque shooting, which killed scores of congregants.
He is connected with at least one member of a Soldiers of Odin chapter in the United Kingdom. Forsyth is also connected with the self-described ‘president’ of the ‘Canadian Combat Coalition (CCC) Alberta Chapter’ David Troute. The CCC is recognized by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as a far right extremist group.
Another associate of Dan Forsyth with far-right leanings is Ron Malsbury. Malsbury is listed as a Welder/Fabricator at Absolute Accuracy Welding and is a mutual friend shared between the CCC’s Troute and Forsyth. In the past two months, Malsbury and Troute have openly discussed and advocated for the shooting of demonstrators on social media.
Forsyth follows Hells Angels ‘81’ themed Facebook pages, firearms advocacy pages and an assortment of extreme right-wing content including People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier who has long been connected to Canada’s far right, and Consevative politician Michelle Rempel, MP for Calgary-Nose Hill. On social media, Rempel describes herself as a “Canadian Member of Parliament (Conservative).” and “Wife of a US Army combat veteran.”
Rempel has been outspoken on issues of gun rights, COVID border closures and was noted for her opposition to Motion 103. M-103 was a federal government motion condemning racism and Islamophobia. The motion became controversial following a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec by a man who was radicalized online by far-right propaganda. Soldiers of Odin and similar groups held monthly protests in cities across Canada opposing the motion.
Fake ‘charity’ militias
The Soldiers of Odin group which Forsyth espoused social media support for has long been connected to a specific style of homeless outreach activity, which involves a recruitment and radicalization nexus centered around food banks and homeless shelter volunteering. The group has openly acknowledged it seeks to recruit the most vulnerable people in society into its ranks.
Another contact on Forsyth’s list goes by the name ‘Dale Lickinstine’. Lickinstine advocates for groups including SOO, ‘Clann Canada’ and the ‘Minuteman Alliance’.
Clann Canada was a failed offshoot of SOO and its own successor, the Northern Guard. Lickinstine also shares content from and is connected to people who espouse ‘Q’ related conspiracy theory, an increasingly virulent far-right propaganda project which tries to link prominent progressive politicians to “international child trafficking networks.”
Lickinstine is connected to another mutal friend of Forsyth’s, Damien Maje. Maje regularly shares content from the “III% Community” facebook page, a far-right militia support group.
Lickinstine advocates for, supports and has been involved in a group called the “Minutemen Alliance”.
Who are the Minutemen Alliance?
The ‘Minutemen Alliance’ (also based in Alberta), is particularly concerning as it appears to be a continuation of the same activities which Soldiers of Odin were involved in, with the addition of co-ordinated firearms training. They’re very open about this activity on their website.
The group was founded in 2017 following fundraisers at local bars, including a Royal Canadian Legion hall. The group’s name references the politics of the US revolutionary war and is also the name of a U.S. Based far-right militia group which styles itself as a citizen border patrol.
The group engages in a variety of fundraising activities online and through events, and appears to position itself as a charitable society and not a militia. Militia training in Canada is prohibited under law. In January 2020 the group claims to have received a ‘Helping Hands Grant’ from 96.3FM Radio in Edmonton. 96.3FM has not responded to The Scaffold’s request for comment.
The Minuteman Alliance lists full contact details for its leadership on its own website, including a phone number it attributes to a person named ‘Pegg’. Many of the group’s social media postings have been liked by a person named ‘Pegg Smith’.
Smith appears to be connected to more than a dozen of Canada’s top far-right social media personalities and shares an assortment of anti-government propaganda and ‘Q’ type conspiracy theory on her Facebook page.
She also follows some extreme groups and individuals including Derek Sloan, Rocco Galati, the Yellow Vest movement, far-right propaganda outlet Rebel Media and various Alberta “secession movement” pages including some which suggest Albertans should forcefully rebel against Canada and join the United States.
The Minuteman Alliance Facebook page indicates the group is still organizing local activities as of publication time, and has been regularly posting contents and update since 2017.
The Minuteman Alliance website lists contact information for its directors:
Phone: Secretary/Treasurer (Pegg) – 780-932-1177
Mailing Address: 12462-18A Avenue SW, Edmonton, AB T6W 1V9
Elsewhere on the internet the group uses firstname.lastname@example.org to provide its contacts. The email tracks back to a 2014 scribd.com resume for Pegg Smith’s husband Lawrence “Larry Flipper” Pilipchuk.
According to LakelandToday who intereviewed Pilipchuk and others in an article about the organization, the Minutemen Alliance claimed they ask people (the homeless and food bank users) who “use their services, to volunteer some time if they’re able.”
According to the Minutemen Alliance’s own website, the group offers “self defence, gun training, knife edge training, security training and survival training” to its members.
Remember, we stumbled across the Minuteman Alliance because we were digging into a far-right connected individual who was producing firearms and assault weapon accessories using multiple 3d printers. That’s probably nothing, right?
The Minutemen Alliance and the Threepers?
Facebook lists related pages to the Minutemen Alliance, drawing its own algorithmic link between the group and the ‘Alberta Threeper’ association.
‘Threepers’ is a name given to members of the far-right ‘Three Percent Militia’. The “three” in three percent references, three percent of the population actively engaged in violent revolution, which is required to overthrow the state.
The far-right extremist group has been stockpiling weapons for several years in Canada now with the stated intent of preparing for political violence. The Three Percent Militia is a US based far-right organization who were the subject of a 2017 VICE article detailing militia training and the group’s ultraviolent extremist gun culture.
Like the Soldiers of Odin, the Three Percent Militia have been linked to political violence including threats and assaults related to far-right demonstrations in Canada and to assaults, killings and bomb plots in the United States. The Scaffold has coverage regarding the III% Militia as far back as 2018, when we asked how an Islamophobic extremist was able to get a gun and kill four people including two police officers.
The III% group has also been involved in the production of smoke bombs, live fire weapons training and covert surveillance of mosques as detailed in the VICE report.
Forsyth, charged with fabricating and trafficking untraceable weapons parts, actually follows a number of Three-percent affiliated groups including the “Canadian Three Percenters” Facebook page and the “III% Canada: PTSD Awareness and Help Page”
Canadian racists are 3D printing guns now, really?
The RCMP arrested Dan Forsyth for 3d printing black-market “ghost guns” to circumvent Canada’s firearms laws, and have charged him (not just with possession) but also with an intent to traffick what they allege to be homemade weapons.
What we do know is that Dan Forsyth was arrested in possession of only a small amount of firearms inventory including a rifle and most of a working pistol along with the bump stock and silencers. He also possessed equipment to produce ammunition, according to the police, however the ALERT press release does not note if any ammunition was found.
We’re not going to get into the history or specifics of the 3d printing guns trend, but want to say that at this point nearly every conceivable part of America’s “most popular” ‘AR-15’ rifle can be printed by home enthusiasts in a few days, plus the time it takes to clean up the parts by hand and make them fit together. Homemade AR-15 clones have been printed which have been proven capable of reliably firing 1,000 rounds or more.
The gun parts which can’t easily be printed or don’t stand up to use in a firearm can always be purchased in (or illicitly ordered from) the United States, and since they’re constructed from small pieces of metal like tubes and plates, they are purportedly simple to import into Canada, not that we’d suggest trying it. Did we mention Pine Butte where Forsyth was arrested, is a short drive from the US-Canada border?
Forsyth has also been charged with trafficking the firearms he produced. This would indicate that he tried to, or, succeeded in selling his creation. Because the RCMP investigation went on for a year and a half, and because 3d printing a full AR-15 takes days not weeks, even with time hand-crafting the parts to fit perfectly it is fully possible that Forsyth produced more than one facsimile of his “ghost” AR-15, pistol or prohibited accessories, especially since the press release notes he had multiple printers.
It remains to the RCMP to clarify whether this was a “gun enthusiast’s private laboratory” or a “gun factory”. The wording of the press release indicates the latter. The charges also indicate he had a prior criminal history as he has been charged with breach of an existing weapons prohibition.
3 hours after news organizations first reported on the ALERT press release regarding Forsyth’s arrest he seems to have had access to Facebook, where he made this post in the group ‘3D Printing Canada’. Forsyth has made a few other posts in the group since January 2019, asking for advice and information about 3D printing.
In his response to the charges, Forsyth has already claimed publicly in the group that he was printing ‘airsoft’ (replica toys). It is worth pointing out that airsoft toys which fire tiny plastic pellets, can be legally produced and sold with features which simulate ‘automatic’ fire modes prohibited in real firearms.
Airsoft weapons are also silent when fired, producing little more than a clicking sound accompanied by a mechanical whine. This means that producing functional (thereby illegal) silencers (often sold online as “oil filters” and bump-stocks (fully banned in the United States) is redundant, since the toys don’t need to be suppressed and don’t benefit from an attachment which converts them from semi-automatic to automatic fire modes.
It is ALSO worth pointing out that Forsyth posted a condemnation of Canada’s gun laws changing in May on his Facebook page declaring it the ‘day that Canada died’. Those laws were changed by the Trudeau government after Gabriel Wortman, a Nova Scotia dentist, killed dozens of people with unregistered firearms. The RCMP have still not updated the public on the source of Wortman’s firearms.
Why 3D printed guns, why now?
Throughout 2020, political violence in North America has escalated. There have been multiple instances of demonstrators being shot during US rallies over issues of racism and police brutality.
It is certainly a revelation that on the eve of widespread political unrest in a neighbouring country, at least one supporter of a far-right groups who are party to that conflict was engaged in the wholesale manufacture of firearms, firearms parts and prohibited firearms accessories in Canada.
It is doubly concerning that a supporter of an anti-Muslim group was producing these items with the intent to sell them. In 2017, a gunman killed six worshipers in a Quebec City Mosque.
Despite online evidence suggesting a link with international ties to other commonwealth far-right groups, the RCMP release doesn’t mention any of Forsyth’s extremist group affiliations in their press release, and without the benefit of any further disclosure at this time, we are left to wonder precisely who Forsyth’s intended customers were and how many firearms he managed to produce in the year and a half the RCMP surveiled him. His earliest posts in the 3D Printing Canada group go back to January 2019, 3 months before police surveillance began.
While we fully expect to be disappointed by the police response to this pressing safety issue, we hope the RCMP will take this urgent threat seriously.
Are Forsyth’s creations still circulating in the public, are they in the hands of political extremists right now?
Will we see untraceable firearms linked to the deaths of activists, politicians, frontline workers, journalists, healthcare providers, public figures or faith community members in the near future?
The police could answer these questions, but they won’t.
Surely the public deserves more transparency, and deserves to to know the truth, especially now that there’s evidence that 3D printed guns are linked to far-right extremists who were already stockpiling weapons.
We made calls to the Lethbridge police department and the Lethbridge and Picture Butte RCMP to inquire about what we found on Forsyth’s social media profile. Police were unable to connect us to someone who could comment on the press release, seemed not to know what we were calling about, and messages left for a communications officer with ALERT were unfortunately not returned by press-time. In fact, Mr. Forsyth’s ex-employer had better knowledge of the charge and case than any of the police we spoke to. Behold, the thinnest of blue lines.
Two hours after we contacted the police in Alberta and left messages for investigators and police media liasons which succinctly articulated the lede from this article, Forsyth’s profile was scrubbed of overt social media links to any far-right groups and Forsyth changed the privacy of his friends list, hiding his contacts. Unfortunately for him, and for whomever advised him to cover his digital tracks, his profile had already been fully exported and analyzed.
In a behaviour we’ve seen time and time again from guilty people: Forsyth locked down his profile and changed its appearance. He even re-published old photos on his profile, replacing the far-right political content with photographs of his family.
Forsyth’s response is telling: hiding his contacts on social media, posting an inadequate explanation for his activities in a 3D printing group and removing links to far-right groups from his profile all demonstrate that Forsyth knew (or was counseled) that he had something to hide.
It’s probably a good thing that we noticed, recorded and called attention to these links before he made them disappear.
UPDATE 2:45 PM 2020-11-25
The Crown in Lethbridge announced at Mr. Forsyth’s first court appearance that they will withdraw the charge against him because he is now deceased. The Scaffold has learned that Forsyth died by his own hand the day before his first court appearance. We have removed certain photographs and screenshots from the body of the article, at the request of Dan Forsyth’s family.
UPDATE 4:38 PM 2020-09-04
A media liason with the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) responded to our inquiry about an hour after the publication of this piece.
As of the timestamp on this update:
1) ALERT is unable to deny that Forsyth sold or gave away other manufactured firearms or parts prior to his arrest. “He is charged with manufacturing and attempting to sell the parts, not with selling them.”
2) ALERT can’t say there aren’t more products produced by Forsyth on the market or in the community. They are likewise unable or unwilling to claim that there is no further risk to public safety.
3) ALERT says that while there is no definite link to organized crime in their notes, they have previously seized 3D printed weapons parts during other organized crime investigations.
4) Investigators weren’t aware of, or didn’t note any links to political extremism during their investigation.
UPDATE 4:50PM 2020-09-04:
Dan Forsyth has since posted in the 3D printing Canada group that he plans to publish his files including technical specifications for reproducing his firearms parts and that he plans to counsel others to reproduce his designs.
UPDATE 5:29PM 2020-09-04
The ‘3d Printing Canada’ Facebook group deleted a post sharing this article.
UPDATE 6:29PM 2020-09-04
96.3 “The Breeze” contacted The Scaffold in response to our inquiry about their donation the Minuteman Alliance. The Breeze told The Scaffold that $1000 was given to the group, but that they did not know the group was involved in weapons training activities and that they did not condone those activities. They declined to comment further until their public relations team was able to craft a response.