Four of the five members of the Canadian Armed Forces who disrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax are set to return to their regular duties, according to a statement from the military.
One of the five members has since left the military, though a military official said he had been in the process of leaving the Armed Forces before the July 1 incident occurred.
WATCH: Four of the five members of the Canadian Armed Forces who disrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax are set to return to their regular duties, according to a statement from the military.
Rear Admiral John Newton, Commander, Joint Task Force Atlantic and Maritime Forces Atlantic, issued the statement on Thursday.
“The investigation has now been completed, and no criminal charges will be laid,” wrote Newton in the statement.
“Any further inappropriate behavior could result in their termination from the Canadian Armed Forces.”
This will be one of Newtown’s final acts as Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, he’s set to take a new position next week with Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
He has previously apologized for the actions of the five members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“I just told the young people that they had crossed a line where their personal beliefs, their personal ideology which they’re allowed to have, got into the public domain,” Newton said during a press conference in July.
“In fact, their personal beliefs whether it’s religious, about political or whether it’s even white supremacy, whatever the ‘Proud Boys’ represent is not a shared value of the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Halifax’s poet laureate and Mi’kmaq activist Rebecca Thomas said the decision by the military is disappointing.
“I thought more would of come of this,” said Thomas, who also attended the July 1 ceremony. “It’s an excellent teaching moment about reconciliation. It’s about creating space where Indigenous people feel like they’re represented well within the Armed Forces.”
She said the incident and resulting decision has created a sense of unease when it comes to “official representation” within Canada, including the Armed Forces.
The Proud Boys Canadian Chapters’ Facebook page called the decision by the Canadian Armed Forces a “win.”
“We win, our brothers the Halifax 5 are returning to active military duty with no charges, let the SJW tears pour. Proud of our boys,” read the post.
Individual members were not immediately able to be reached for comment.
Still on probation
On Thursday, Newton told reporters the men’s actions were a “huge breach of trust” to the Forces, to their combat units, and both the Forces and the Navy’s policies on inclusivity and diversity.
The five men represented the navy and at least one member was part of the Canadian Army.
Newton said that while they are returning to duty, the men still faced probationary periods with conditions, hearings for the conditions and expectations that are monitored.
“Having interviewed them I saw their acknowledgement, their desire, their intent to adhere to the conditions,” he said. “This is a permanent mark on a member’s record and if you don’t adhere to the conditions, you are subject to release.
“If they fail, they are gone. This is not lightweight punishment.”
In response to people’s concerns the consequences weren’t going far enough, Newton argued they are “very serious.”
He said the men have caused a “failure” in the relationship with members of their respective units, and as the incident creates a permanent record, any repeat actions would lead to a potential of dismissal from the Armed Forces.
Asked why the men deserve to stay in the military given the issues Newton cited, he said the “mistake” shouldn’t derail their careers.
“There’s many reasons we all have failings in our life,” he said. “They hit a matter of personal poor judgement that they have to learn from and I think, because I don’t have a huge surplus in the Canadian Armed Forces who have already spent millions of dollars training that in their mistake and in this learning … that they will work to restore the trust in their chain of command.
“What we are doing doesn’t solve all of the issues, but it is as good an outcome as I can strive for. You have the conviction of the leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces to continue to lead with integrity in Aboriginal relations and inclusivity and diversity.”
WATCH: Rear Admiral John Newton said that the “mistake” on the part of the so-called Proud Boys in disrupting a First Nations ceremony in Halifax shouldn’t derail the millions of dollars spent training them.
Disruption and reaction
The five men, who said they were associated with “The Proud Boys, Maritime chapter,” were filmed during an encounter at a ceremony to mourn the atrocities committed against Indigenous Peoples by Edward Cornwallis.
Cornwallis, as governor of Nova Scotia, founded Halifax in 1749 and soon after, issued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in response to an attack on colonists.
One of the men carried a Red Ensign, which was the national flag until it was replaced by the Maple Leaf in 1965.
The incident was condemned by government officials and Canada’s top military official.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Facebook post he had been made aware of the incident and stressed that “this kind of behaviour is not tolerated in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance also issued a statement calling the incident in Halifax “deplorable.”
“Canadians should rest assured my senior leadership is seized of the matter,” Vance said. “The members involved will be removed from training and duties while we conduct an investigation and review the circumstances. Their future in the military is certainly in doubt.
WATCH: Rear Admiral John Newton decried Thursday what he called a “huge breach of trust” from the so-called “Proud Boys” who disrupted a First Nations ceremony in Halifax earlier this year.
Newton also said Thursday that in his overall work on the incident, he met with Chief Grizzly Mamma who was involved in the Indigenous ceremony on July 1, as well as an advisor and Mi’kmaq leader Hon. Capt. Donald Julien, to learn how he could work with the community to increase what the Forces do.
Asked about the consultation, Thomas told reporters that she doesn’t think enough has been done.
“It doesn’t seem as though there is a recognition of the significance of this, that it is important that our ceremonies are taken as seriously as say a Catholic mass or if this was a disruption of a Remembrance Day ceremony, so on and so forth,” she said. “This is just as significant to disrupt it in such a disrespectful manner, but it isn’t viewed in that same light.”
The Proud Boys
In a blog post on their website, the Proud Boys describe themselves as a “fraternal organization of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world.”
They are in favour of minimal government, against political correctness and the war on drugs, pro-free speech, against “racial guilt” and wish to “glorify the entrepreneur” and “venerate the housewife.”
The same post notes that they do not discriminate based upon race or sexuality.
“The West is the Best,” says the author in the same paragraph.
— With files from Leslie Young