Montreal police have issued an arrest warrant for Gabriel Sohier Chaput, Ricochet has learned. Sohier Chaput, who for years was a leading neo-Nazi ideologue using the pseudonym “Zeiger,” has been charged under a section of the criminal code relating to the willful promotion of hatred, according to a spokesperson for the Montreal police. The single charge listed on the warrant carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
The warrant, issued on Oct. 30, lists Sohier Chaput’s address as “unknown.”
In May, a Montreal Gazette investigation identified Sohier Chaput — an independent IT contractor — as the person behind an online persona known as Zeiger. At the time, local anti-fascists provided journalists — including this author — with a cache of messages from a closed chat room, as well as independent research, which allowed Zeiger to be identified.
After the Gazette series was released, Zeiger appeared on a white supremacist podcast in France and admitted to being Gabriel Sohier Chaput. He complained that his life was ruined after his neo-Nazi activity was exposed. Shortly after the investigation’s release, an anti-fascist demonstration was held outside Sohier Chaput’s home, which appeared to be empty. Zeiger had listed the address in his leaked neo-Nazi chatroom, and Sohier Chaput’s IT business was registered to the same address.
“We believe Zeiger has gone into hiding and may have moved,” explained Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “He’s been very quiet since being exposed by Montreal anti-fascists and the Montreal Gazette.”
A pioneer of internet hate
Zeiger was known as the second-in-command at the Daily Stormer, an archetypal alt-right website that pioneered the use of internet culture to spread neo-Nazi ideology. The site’s leaked style guide includes tips on how to cloak racism and anti-Semitism in a veil of irony, writing that “the uninitiated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not […] This is obviously a ploy and I actually do want to gas k***s. But that’s neither here nor there.”
Zeiger was also a key figure behind Iron March, a now-defunct neo-Nazi web forum. In his time as an administrator there, Zeiger took credit for creating the first digital copy of Siege, a manifesto by American neo-Nazi James Mason that advocated for the far right to engage in random acts of terrorism and assassinations. Iron March was also the meeting ground for the Atomwaffen Division, a far-right terrorist group behind multiple murders and bomb plots in the United States — and a group that Zeiger vocally supported for a time.
Venkman, one of the anti-fascists who provided the information that led to Sohier Chaput being identified, spoke to Ricochet on the condition of anonymity. Though “gleeful to see Nazis in any kind of trouble,” Venkman is not convinced that the police are taking the issue seriously — or that “appealing to police or criminal courts should be a focus of grassroots, militant anti-fascist organizing” at all.
“We consider police and the judicial system to be fundamentally oppressive institutions that mainly serve to uphold some of the gross inequalities on which the fascist project is founded,” Venkman said.
A six-month wait for charges
On a practical level, Venkman says that in the immediate aftermath of Zeiger being publicly identified as Sohier Chaput, the Montreal police “were more interested in going after anti-fascists” than neo-Nazis.
After Sohier Chaput was exposed, anti-fascists put posters around his neighborhood with his name, face, and address, as well as a brief description of his pseudonymous neo-Nazi activity. At the time, the Montreal police described the posters as “incitement to hatred.” The hate crimes division of the Montreal police has also publicly stated that it is investigating anti-fascists.
Asked for comment on the six-month delay in issuing an arrest warrant against Sohier Chaput, Venkman said they believe it took high-profile incidents like the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh for the Montreal police to take symbolic action against purveyors of hate. The anti-fascist also pointed out that while Sohier Chaput has all but disappeared from the far right since being exposed, there remains an active neo-Nazi movement in the province.
“Why don’t they investigate these guys, who are still very much active, rather that ride on our coattails six months after the fact?”
The Montreal police would not comment on the six-month delay between the initial complaint and the issuing of the arrest warrant, citing rules regarding the privacy of complainants.
Balgord told Ricochet his organization “welcomes these charges against the alt-right neo-Nazi propagandist known as Zeiger. We provided information to the SPVM in May and stand prepared to offer additional information and assistance.”
“We need more legal tools available to deal with individuals who spread hate propaganda,” continued Balgord. “We used to have a tool called Section 13, which was taken away by the Harper Conservatives. S 319 of the criminal code needs to exist, yes, but we need more flexible tools that have the trade-off of a less serious penalty but a faster route to accountability for hatemongers.”