The Canadian Army is investigating active members of the Canadian Forces who run an online army surplus store that sells symbols linked to white supremacy.
Fireforce Ventures is a website that sells flags, equipment and other memorabilia “inspired by the legendary Fireforce soldiers of Southern Africa, and operators from all around the world,” according to the site. The items offered included the apartheid-era South African flag and the Rhodesian flag.
Rhodesia was the name of Zimbabwe when it was ruled by the white minority. The short-lived state was founded in 1965 and sparked the beginning of a bloody civil war that ended in 1979.
The apartheid-era South African flag represents the government that used a system of racial segregation in South Africa until 1991, the same year Nelson Mandela was elected president.
Both flags are known to be linked to the white supremacist movement. They even appeared on the clothing worn by Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, who killed nine people when he targeted the predominantly black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
In a statement, the 3rd Canadian Division said it previously looked into its members, Pte. Henry Lung and Cpl Wesley Taylor, who run Fireforce Ventures in April 2018, but found the army’s code of ethics wasn’t violated.
But after Ricochet Media identified Lung as a guest on the now-obsolete Canadian podcast This Hour Has 88 Minutes, army officials earlier this week ordered a second investigation into potential criminal activity or ethics breaches.
(According to the Anti-Defamation League, “88” is a white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.”)
“If you’re into the political stuff, get yourself a flag, because normies don’t know what that flag means, the Rhodesian flag,” said Lung — using the pseudonym Hank — on the podcast in December 2017, according to Ricochet Media.
LISTEN: Journalist Jon Milton joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss finding out about Strashok, Fireforce Ventures, and the connection to the alt-right
The members’ actions are again under review, said Brig.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu, commander of the 3rd Canadian Division, in an email to Global News. If the investigation shows that any member of the forces violated the code of ethics, the member will be removed from the army, he said.
“In response to recent allegations that a member of the Canadian Army has violated this trust by spreading hateful messages on social media, I have asked the National Investigation Service to review available information and investigate potential criminal activity, while also ordering the completion of an administrative investigation,” Cadieu said.
Ricochet also identified Cpl. Ryan Jorgensen, and Cpl. Kyle Porter, two other members of the Canadian Forces, as being owners of Fireforce. Another civilian member, Adam Strashok, was also named.
Strashok, who was a member of the Alberta United Conservative Party, has since had his membership cancelled by leader Jason Kenney after reports surfaced.
Defence Minister Harjet Sajjan said he was monitoring these issues “very closely.”
“We need to make sure that when we focus on our people, we create a very positive, inclusive environment for all members to succeed,” Sajjan said Monday. “And any type of behaviour like this, it diminishes the ability for the Canadian Armed Forces to function.”
While Fireforce Ventures hasn’t replied to a request for comment from Global News, its website has a disclaimer about the content it sells.
“We do not attempt to make any political or racial statements with the products we list on our website. Fireforce Ventures is comprised of a diverse team from many different races, religions, political and sexual orientations. We reserve the right to refuse service and sales to customers for any reason, including being the member of an identifiable hate group.”
But the fact that Lung used the term “normies” on the podcast shows otherwise, said Simon Frankel Pratt, a post-doctoral researcher at Georgetown University specializing in terrorism and national security.
“Rhodesian memorabilia are part of a culture of fetishizing the Rhodesian military as a sort of elite force suppressing Communist blacks,” he explained.
“Presumably, they mean that we won’t understand that the flag indicates allegiance to, or appreciation of, a militaristic vision of apartheid. So the flag isn’t just a piece of somewhat obscure memorabilia, but a declaration of political aspiration and allegiance.”
Along with selling memorabilia of the former country Rhodesia, the Instagram account for Fireforce has posted pro-Rhodesia pictures with tags like, “Make Zimbabwe Rhodesia again” and “Rhodesians never die.”
One also refers to “slotting floppies,” which are terms previously used in 1970s Rhodesia: slotting means shooting and a “floppy” was a racist derogatory term used by the white Rhodesian military.