VANCOUVER -- Three men accused by police as being part of the Blood and Honour neo-Nazi group had their arraignments on a string of assault charges postponed until January.
If the men are convicted, the Crown could ask for a hate crime designation in the cases, which is used as an aggravating factor at sentencing.
Robertson De Chazal, 25, and Alastair Miller, 20, had their hearings postponed until Jan. 23 at 9 a.m. for allegedly lighting a Filipino man on fire on Oct. 10 2009 as he slept on a discarded couch at Commercial Drive and Fifth Avenue. The victim suffered burns to his arms, neck and head.
As well, Shawn MacDonald, 39, had his case - three counts of assault stemming from two separate incidents - postponed until Jan. 27 at 9 a.m. MacDonald was charged with a 2010 assault on an aboriginal woman and her Hispanic boyfriend also at Commercial and Fifth, and a 2008 assault on a black man near Oak and King Edward streets.
De Chazal did not show up to court, but his lawyer David Sutherland released a statement on behalf of his client.
"He will mount a vigorous defence," the statement said. "However, it is difficult for Mr. De Chazal, his family, and friends to defend themselves from the totally inappropriate imputations and innuendo the police levelled at their press conference after charges were laid.
"Such stunts as displaying a Nazi flag and speaking of an 'international white supremacist organization... linked to violent incidents worldwide' should be seen for what they are: completely unfounded, highly prejudicial, and fundamentally contrary to the spirit of our legal system."
Sutherland was referring to a press conference held two weeks ago where the B.C. Hate Crime Team displayed white supremacist and neo-Nazi flags, shirts and literature seized by the unit, though they said the items weren't directly connected to the assaults in which charges have been laid.
De Chazal was also charged with assault causing bodily harm in connection with a September 2009 incident in which he allegedly assaulted a black man until he was unconscious.
Det.-Const. Terry Wilson, of the B.C. Hate Crime Team, said membership in white supremacist groups is not illegal in itself. But if they incite violence, it is a criminal offence.
Blood and Honour is a loosely knit white supremacist group with around 15 followers on B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Det.-Const. Wilson said.
On its Canadian website, the group describes itself as a "nationalist organization and European cultural group" that has a legitimate interest in its members "European cultural identity under one common banner."
"Blood and Honour Canada is a secular organization promoting intelligence, common sense and self-preservation while encouraging a broader understanding of all the religions which have been crucial in the founding of our great European Identity," the website says.
None of the three accused are in police custody.
With files from The National Post