VANCOUVER - Two Lower Mainland men who police say are in a neo-Nazi group are facing assault charges in connection with disturbing attacks on minorities.
The B.C. Hate Crime Team announced the charges against Robertson De Chazal, 25, and Shawn MacDonald, 39, at a news conference in Vancouver Friday.
The team, a joint RCMP-municipal police unit, conducted reviews of four assault files dating back to 2008 and unearthed new evidence that led to the charges against De Chazal and MacDonald, who police say are linked to an international hate group called Blood and Honour.
"Through the course of these investigations, we've been disruptive in this organization and its membership has dwindled," New Westminster Det. Const. Terry Wilson, a member of the team, told reporters.
In the most disturbing case, a Filipino man was set on fire near Commercial and 5th Avenue in October 2009 after the victim fell asleep on a discarded couch.
"Three men were observed by a witness allegedly lighting the victim on fire," said Wilson. "The suspects allegedly fled the scene before the arrival of police. The victim sustained burns to his arms, neck and head. The initial investigation was unable to surface suspects at the time."
Wilson said the Hate Crime Team was able to identify De Chazal as a suspect and the Vancouver man has now been charged with aggravated assault. A second man has also been arrested in relation to the attack, but has yet to be charged.
De Chazal has also been charged with assault causing bodily harm in connection with a September 2009 assault at the same location on a black man that rendered him unconscious, Wilson said.
A July 24, 2010 assault on an aboriginal woman and her Hispanic boyfriend, in which MacDonald is charged, also occurred at Commercial and 5th.
MacDonald is also charged in a Dec. 12, 2008 assault on a black man near Oak and King Edward.
Wilson said MacDonald "is also allegedly a member of the group Blood and Honour."
Online photos of MacDonald show him wearing a "Blood and Honour Canada" T-shirt with both words tattooed on his forearms.
Both accused have been released on undertakings until their next court appearance on Dec. 23 in Vancouver Provincial Court.
MacDonald has been convicted of both assault causing bodily harm and assaulting a peace officer. He was given a 12-month probation in one case and a $300 fine in the other.
At the news conference at RCMP headquarters, police displayed white supremacist and neo-Nazi flags and shirts seized by the hate crime unit, though not directly connected to the assaults in which charges have been laid.
Wilson said Blood and Honour, founded in England in 1987, is one of two white supremacist groups police have identified in B.C. Each has memberships of 15 or fewer.
He said membership in hate groups is not illegal in itself in Canada, but if group associates incite violence, it is a criminal offence.
If the accused in this case are convicted, the Crown could ask for a hate crime designation, potentially meaning a longer sentence.
Wilson said the B.C. Hate Crime Team is the only one of its kind in Canada.
"If you belong to an organized hate group in B.C. we will know about you, and if you commit crimes, we will come and get you," Wilson said.
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