The “Active Club” network in Canada is revealed to be a recruiting front for the Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang with a decades-long history of violence.
“The kind of garbage has no place in Canada. No one should face this abuse.”
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A shaky mobile phone video posted to an encrypted messaging app shows half a dozen white men running lockstep through a winding cement park trail. Some jog shirtless, exposing various tattoos to the sun. Each man’s face is hidden under the white and black Cheshire toothed smile of a skull mask.
One of a flurry of videos to be posted since Fall 2021, other pictures and footage show members doing push-ups in the snow, men in balaclavas taking weighted rucksack marches through treed backgrounds, and more skull masks repeating striking drills at focus pads.
In another photo, a concrete wall somewhere in Canada is covered in stylized graffiti reading “Active Club,” the masked artist squatting at the edge of the frame.
Marketed under a banner of “white unity at every opportunity,” multiple chapters of these Active Clubs now operate across Canada as well as in Europe and Australia. These clubs appear to be independent, decentralized, and marketed as a means to get in shape and build community among young, “racially conscious” white men.
In Canada, our investigation has revealed that it is connected to a transnational organization with a much longer, violent history.
At a bar in Oshawa, Ontario, a stout man with a dark sonnenrad tattooed on the back of his hand sits down with an associate across from me. Both of them wear facemasks bearing the flag of the German Empire. Pulling the coverings off their faces, one man is tall and wry, smiling with a collared shirt bearing a stylized A14 symbol on the breast. The other with the neo-Nazi symbol inked onto his hand is stout, unsmiling, and wears a t-shirt displaying two red and black crossed hammers.
Sitting at the table, this meeting is the second stop in a series of security and ideological checks before being granted access to the Active Club.
They have questions – “what is your ideology,” “what books do you read?” – they want to know my name, where I’m from, if there are skills I possess to help with propaganda, and most importantly, how often I work out.
We are joined shortly after by a man named Spencer. Known online as Mcleafin, Spencer is a National Socialist live streamer and the principal organizer of a string of sparsely attended “White Lives Matter” protests in Toronto and southern Ontario.
We keep talking.
“I’m part of an international brotherhood,” says Ryan, the man with the tattoo. “The Hammerskin Nation.”
Violent, secretive, and boasting patched members in multiple countries, the Hammerskin Nation is one of the largest racist skinhead gangs in operation. Members of the organization’s various regional cells have been arrested on charges of murder, assault, arson, harassment, and more.
Potential members are assessed for their ideological leanings. Though Ryan said the club would take “everything from far-right conservatives onward,” a discussion of literature reveals his admiration of the works of a variety of prominent white nationalist and neo-Nazi authors.
The Hammerskins bring potential members close into the fold. They meet each other's families, become involved in each other’s lives, and continuously test their hopefuls before finally inviting them into Crew 38 – the Hammerskins’ feeder club for prospective members.
Crew 38 is where they prove themselves before earning a crossed hammer patch and full status as a Hammerskin.
In Canada, the Hammerskins have been in numerous street brawls, implicated in an assault on members of the media, and one of their members was accused of lighting a man on fire in the streets (before being cleared of all allegations). Internationally, huge swaths of members have been swept up in police raids for accusations of violence, another opened fire at a Sikh temple in the US, and their members are responsible for multiple murders.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network can now identify three men, Troy Miles, Ryan Immel, and Ryan Marshall, as current and senior members of the Vinland Hammerskins (VHS) – the Canada-wide branch of the Hammerskin Nation. We can also reveal that they are chiefly responsible for organizing the first Active Club in the Greater Toronto Area, with other Hammerskin members and affiliates forming similar chapters across the country.
Picture of Troy Miles (right) and Ryan Immel (left) taken in 2019 during a PEGIDA rally.
The Vinland Hammerskins are the Canadian iteration of the white power gang that officially began as the “Confederate Hammerskins” in Dallas, Texas in 1988. A founding member of the Hammerskins faced charges of assault in its first summer.
Both violent and secretive, Hammerskins do not seek out media attention or have a significant public presence. They declined to comment on this story. Their signature symbol, two red and black hammers crossed above a mechanical cog, are worn by the avowed National Socialist street gang to signify membership. Some Canadians belonging to the organization wear it on their skin – BC Hammerskin Scott Sinclair has the insignia tattooed on the lower part of his neck.
A series of fortunate networking opportunities for the Hammerskins – including an alleged appearance alongside members of Thomas Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance on a popular national talk show – gave rise to chapters across the United States.
The first of these expansions was the Northern Hammerskins. Based in Michigan, this branch would eventually become the home for the first Canadian chapters. Ryan Immel appeared to be wearing the Northern Hammerskins’ crest on his shirt when we met in Oshawa.
International branches were formed in 1989 in Northern Ireland and Switzerland, according to the Counter Extremism Project. The Hammerskins now boasts chapters in the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand, Hungary, Russia, and Germany.
A banner featuring the various crests of the Hammerskin Nation and its branches taken from
a now-defunct HSN website.
The various clans of racist skinhead groups found a recruiting tool that would stay an essential part of Hammerskin culture – white power music. A few years after successfully networking at large national racist skinhead events hosted by other street crews, the Confederate Hammerskins and Northern Hammerskins organized the first “Hammerfest” in 1999.
This event continues annually to this day, both in the United States and Europe.
The first Canadian Hammerskin chapter formed in Montreal and Toronto in the early 90s under the Michigan-based Northern Hammerskins. According to their own telling, “Things did not go too well” and the chapter disintegrated.
When the group returned, they called themselves the Vinland Hammerskins.
“The few that stayed true, formed the VHS in the city of Montreal, Quebec. In late 90's [sic] VHS has extended into the province of Ontario,” reads an archived Hammerskins webpage from 2006. “Today, the VHS is active in Montreal, Quebec and Brampton, Ontario.”
This appears to still be mostly correct.
Traditionally, the Hammerskins' presence in the great white north straddled territory in Ontario and Quebec. They have found a more recent home in Alberta, British Columbia, and the Maritimes. Canada’s west was previously represented by international racist skinhead groups like Blood and Honour and Volksfront. Despite considering themselves enemies during much of the 1990s and 2000s, the Hammerskins have absorbed several members from their previous rivals as the membership of those groups appears to have collapsed.
Now, the Hammerskins are using the Active Club brand to find new blood, and not only in Ontario.
A member of Crew 38, Josh Bruce, is the contact for the Active Club in British Columbia. Messages within the Active Club’s Telegram chat indicate the establishment of a Quebec chapter, alongside already established groups in BC and the Maritimes.
Josh Bruce, BC recruiter for the western branch of Active Club Canada. Bruce is a member of
Crew 38, the Vinland Hammerskins feeder club. Source: Instagram
Full Hammerskin members, prospects, and hang-arounds in Canada have been quiet in the past several years. Once the Canadian Hammerskins ran a thriving northern white power music scene, importing bands from the US to play alongside Canadian acts whose shifting line-ups included musicians from the HSN and Crew 38. This included bands like Odin’s Law, Kremator, and Nordwind. With their often explicit and racist lyrics, white power bands are a key feature in the international networking of allied but independent Hammerskin chapters across the world. Many of these Canadian acts took their shows on the road to Europe.
Attending these events involves intense vetting for those outside the Hammerskins social circles, often requiring travelling to a separate location for questioning before being told the actual venue location.
Before the Active Clubs, the most recent public activity from the Canadian Hammerskins was a meet-up in British Columbia in November 2020, with a revival concert in 2019, somewhere in the Greater Hamilton Area.
There is also a mandatory annual meeting where the VHS comes together to vote on issues impacting the club. The most recent took place in Fall 2021, shortly after the formation of what was originally called “White Active Club Ontario,” somewhere near Bancroft, Ontario.
Promotional poster for the December 2019, show in Hamilton, shared by Vinland Hammerskin
Shawn Macdonald. Source: Facebook
Those who are now showing up for the Active Club typically haven’t attended a concert, are not seeking to gain admission to Crew 38, and are often unaware of the connection between the whites-only workout club and the secretive gang. Much like how music was a way to make money and find new members in the past, for the Canadian Hammerskins, these Active Clubs are a recruitment tool. Effective and innocuous, it reaches and develops the type of men the Hammerskins want – white fighters.
Photo of RAM and Active Club founder Robert Rundo Source: Media2Rise
Like the Hammerskins, the Active Club is also a worldwide phenomenon. Structured to be decentralized and a brand rather than a hierarchical organization, it is a reinvention of the Rise Above Movement (RAM) – a violent fascist group of street enforcers founded by Robert Paul Rundo in 2016 as “DIY Division.” Tailoring itself as an alternative to the suit and tie culture of Richard Spencer’s “Alt-Right” movement, RAM and now the Active Club would form the tip of the spear for what its founder calls white nationalism 3.0 – with 1.0 being the racist skinhead culture that spawned the Hammerskin Nation and 2.0 being the aforementioned Alt-Right.
Rundo, a New York native who relocated to California, began RAM with a series of public workouts to draw in “racially conscious” white men. The group quickly developed into a visible force at American right-wing protests – including the Charlottesville, Virginia’s Unite The Right rally and several others. RAM recruits notably included members of California’s Hammerskins, however, a substantial link between the Hammerskin Nation to the wider Active Club movement has not been found.
Rundo has repeatedly denied allegations that RAM provokes the fighting it has become known for, however, numerous members, including Rundo, have been charged with committing violence during counter-protests. A trial date related to these dust-ups with antifascists has been announced, though Rundo’s lawyer told the court he cannot contact his client.
A series of investigative reports by the publication Belingcat, placed him most recently in the Serbian capital of Belgrade – despite him reportedly already being kicked out of the country once.
Ryan Marshall (left) holds focus pads with an unidentified member of the Active Club Canada and a
picture of Marshall taken from his social media.
The man currently at the helm of Canada’s “leaderless” Hammerskin organization is Ryan Douglas Marshall. A longtime Canadian racist skinhead and mainstay in the Ontario white power scene, the earliest public records of Marshall date back to 1997 when he participated in demonstrations against Roma refugees seeking asylum.
He and several others were later charged with the Willful Promotion of Hatred for their role in the protest. The same year, Marshall and Quinn McFarlane were accused of assaulting a CTV affiliate cameraman and anchor while they filmed the pair exiting a courthouse. McFarlane pled guilty, but Marshall was acquitted when it could not be substantiated beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the one who had thrown the punches.
Ryan Marshall pictured in a 1998 copy of “On The Prowl” (left), an antifascist zine distributed at
the time and a picture taken from social media (right)
Ryan Marshall currently resides in the Whitby-Oshawa area of Ontario.
Screencapture taken from a video posted by Troy Miles. The “No Lives Matter'' shirt he wears
appears to be from VHS-affiliated clothing line Vinland Battlewear. Source: Telegram
Troy Miles claims it was his idea to start an Active Club branch in Canada. Initially intending it to be a formal organization called “Action 14,” he even made shirts with its logo. Video posted to a channel dedicated to building cheap DIY fitness equipment also shows he put the branding on a bench press rack in his home gym. The A14 logo also appears in early propaganda released by the Active Club.
After an initial explosion of interest in the new White Active Club Ontario Telegram channel, there was an attempt to shift to the name Action 14, and codify as a group. As a result, numerous unvetted members of the chat left. Miles and the Hammerskins gave up on Action 14, and went back to using the already well-established Active Club brand. Instead of just focusing on Ontario, they broadened their reach and changed from the White Active Club Ontario to Active Club Canada.
Miles – under the name “Odinson” – also appeared with another man who we believe to be Ryan Immel – then using the name “Top” – on a video with John Beattie, founder of the Canadian Nazi Party (1965 - 1978) and the British People’s League after a June 2019, PEGIDA rally. In the video, both Miles and Immel refer to Beattie as a “very good friend,” and encourage people to join movements like the Yellow Vests to network and collaborate with like-minded people.
Troy Miles (left) and a man we believe to be Ryan Immel (right) with John Beattie in 2019.
Miles is also involved with a white nationalist and overtly neo-Nazi music podcast run by American Mark Allen Davis II (AKA Mark-Magnus Thorson). Davis’ identity was already revealed by antifascists and we were not able to determine if he is a member of the Hammerskins, though he is active within the public Active Club Canada chat.
Ryan Immel likely lives in or near Oshawa, Ontario, along with several of the other members of the Vinland Hammerskins. He acts as one of the recruiters for the Active Club in Ontario. In conversations, he discusses white nationalist and neo-Nazi literature including James Mason’s book Siege and expressed a particular interest in the works of William Luther Pierce, a decades-long influential activist in far-right and racist movements.
Most distinctive about Immel’s appearance is a large Sonnenrad tattooed onto the back of one of his hands. A man with this particular adornment regularly appears masked in photos for the Active Club Canada.
Immel appears to have attended the PEGIDA rally with Troy Miles in 2019 and is likely the individual who appeared with him alongside Beattie in the live stream after the rally.
Shawn Macdonald photographed around 2010 (left) and 2020 (right)
Now a Hammerskin, Shawn MacDonald used to be a member of Blood and Honour – the first white power group ever designated a terrorist entity by the Canadian government. He resides in British Columbia where he, together with other members of the Hammerskins, also run a branch of the Asatru Folk Assembly – a white-only religious order based on Norse paganism.
During his more active periods, he was an extremely dangerous individual and a figurehead in his local white power movement, according to one of the police officers previously in charge of investigating him.
According to CBC, MacDonald faced charges for an alleged string of assaults in 2008 and 2010, all against racialized people.
Since then, Macdonald has quietly run the Vinland Awake Facebook page. Originally connected to a blog by the same name, it has since been set to private and may no longer be active.
“If Whites had dominion over Jews, totally outlawed their religion and cultural practices, deracinated them by forbidding them from organizing in any way, and forced them to attend White-run schools where Jewish children learn of the evils of Jewish history, Jews too would very quickly be moulded into self-hating, psychologically dysfunctional and self-destructive lemmings,” reads one of the posts.
There’s an image of Macdonald attending the “Charming of the Plow” Asatru Folk Assembly event in Washington state. He has also travelled to Europe within the past three years and appears in pictures alongside members of various Hammerskin chapters.
Similar to Macdonald and Marshall, Scott Sinclair is another long-time racist skinhead with a history of white power membership. This time from the much more politically minded Albertan chapter of Volksfront. Volksfront was formed as a prison gang in 1994, according to the SPLC, by Randal Lee Krager. Racist, antisemitic, and violent, their chief focus was initially on creating an ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest.
Previous reporting by the ARC Collective reveals that Sinclair is from Manitoba but has spent time in the Atlantic provinces connecting with the eastern white power movement. Since then he appears to have returned to BC.
Scott Sinclair’s time with Volksfront was much quieter than Macdonald’s time in BC. Sinclair was credited as being the Calgary leader of Volksfront for a period, and aligned itself with the more western branch of Blood and Honour, rather than the Alberta chapter during their feud.
It is not known if he is a member of the Active Club’s western chapter. Pictures posted online suggest he became a full Vinland Hammerskin sometime in or before May 2020.
He also wears a prominent crossed hammer tattoo just below his neck.
Jesse Rankin (left) and Robertson De Chazal (right) pictured together in a European
Robertson De Chazal is a longtime member of Canada’s white power scene. Formerly a member of Blood and Honour, he become a Hammerskin sometime around 2012. Photos from a variety of sources place him at several Hammerskin clubs in Europe, where he can also be seen wearing clothing bearing the signature crossed hammers. He has previously played in white power bands, including those that headlined the Hammerskins’ event in Hamilton.
While still with Blood and Honour, De Chazal was one of three men accused by police of hate crimes. According to the CBC, “In one case, de Chazal pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault for allegedly setting a sleeping Filipino man on fire.” He was later cleared of all allegations.
Jesse Rankin is another BC-based Hammerskin. He remains close friends with De Chazal and is connected to the Vinland Hammerskin-affiliated clothing brand Vinland Battlewear. He is suspected to be the co-owner with Josh Bruce. He often appears in images of other Hammerskins, including members of the German branch of the Hammerskin Nation, promoting the clothing line.
Seemingly younger than many of the current known members of the VHS, Josh Bruce is still likely a member of Crew 38 – the feeder club where prospective members pool until they are patched in as official Hammerskins. Along with Jesse Ranking, Bruce is involved with Vinland Battlewear and regularly appears in the brand’s attempts at digital marketing.
His Telegram account is listed as the west coast recruiter for Active Club Canada.
Bruce is also the former leader of the now-defunct Northern Identity, an identitarian bookclub active briefly in British Columbia. Initially connected to the Generation Identity offshoot, ID Canada, the co-founder of IDC once complained that they had used Northern Identity to interview people hoping to join, but that Bruce’s group siphoned these individuals into their own ranks.
Based on social media postings, Bruce was an organizer of a cancelled talk hosted by Marcus “The Golden One” Follin and Thomas "Survive the Jive" Rowsell, both far-right influencers and YouTube personalities, in Vancouver. Bruce is also a former Proud Boy and was previously in the news after claiming to be the victim of a group assault in the bathroom of a BC bar in 2017. After the incident, the bar staff were reportedly subject to online threats and harassment by Proud Boy supporters who blamed them for the assault.