May 27, 2019 4:44 pm
Updated: May 28, 2019 3:44 pm

Canadian Armed Forces members linked to six hate groups: internal report

The interruption of an Indigenous protest by Canadian Armed Forces members representing the "Proud Boys" organization has many wondering who the "Proud Boys" are and what their presence means in Canada.

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Canadian Armed Forces members have been linked to six hate groups since 2013, according to an internal report that said the issue was damaging the military’s image.

The report by the Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section said 16 members of the armed forces and reserves had been associated with hate groups.

They were active in the Proud Boys, Atomwaffen Division, La Meute, Hammerskins Nation, III% and Soldiers of Odin, said the report obtained by Global News.

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“All of the groups identified fall under the far-right spectrum of political discourse and beliefs, specifically anti-Islam and/or white supremacy,” according to the Nov. 29, 2018 document.

READ MORE: ‘Proud Boys’ return to active military duty, face no criminal charges

The report was written amid growing concern about right-wing extremism. The military has launched investigations into a handful of members who have been publicly tied to racist groups.

The Military Police Intelligence Section also reviewed the scope of the problem and outlined its findings in the report titled, ‘White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in the Canadian Armed Forces.’

It said that many racist groups were “paramilitary in nature,” and conducted weapons training and other exercises, making members of the military prized recruits.

“Drawing on their training and deployment experience, current and former military members find that their skills are valued by these groups,” the report said. “Further, they provide structure to these organizations, therefore, affording them the ability to gain positions of leadership.”

But it said while 16 members of the armed forces had been linked to hate groups, and another 37 were alleged to have engaged in racist or hate-motivated conduct between 2013 and 2018, that represented only 0.1 per cent of the military population.

“At this time, given the extremely small number of CAF members identified as belonging to hate groups and/or being involved in possible hate-motivated incidents, hate groups do not pose any significant threat to the CAF/DND,” it concluded.

Of those affiliated with hate groups, six regular members and three reservists remained in the military, it said. Twenty-one of the members alleged to have “made statements or taken actions” motivated by hate were still active members.

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Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said he was troubled that the military did not appear to view the numbers as alarming. “I would tell them that one is a significant threat.”

He said hate groups had encouraged their followers to join the armed forces in order to obtain training, and it was dangerous to allow those who had been active in far-right groups to stay in the military.

“Their service should be ended immediately,” he said.

Recalling the Somalia Affair, in which members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment were linked to racist activities, he said he was surprised the military was “taking this so cavalierly.”

Farber said he would be asking his board of directors to send a letter to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan expressing “deep concerns” about the report.

The document was obtained under the Access to Information Act and was first reported on by Fabrice de Pierrebourg of Montreal radio station 98.5 FM. The military subsequently provided a copy to Global News.

Overall, the report found that 53 members had been singled out since January 2013, and 30 of them remained in the military. The total military population is 68,000 regular members and 27,000 reservists.

“Less than 0.1% of the total CAF population were identified as part of a hate group or engaging in racist/hate motivated activities,” it said.

Hate-motivated incidents also account for less than 0.1% of incidents reported to military police.

While the numbers increased between 2013 and 2017, the review attributed that to a single incident in which five Canadian forces members took part in a Proud Boys rally in Halifax. But it said the numbers had otherwise remained stable.

The widely reported Proud Boys incident “contributed to a negative view” of the armed forces, it said. Military police “will continue to monitor white supremacy, racism and hate group activities, providing updated assessments as required.”

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A military spokesperson said the Military Police section that produced the report was responsible for “investigating and analyzing security threats” against the Canadian Armed Forces and National Defence.

The analysis helped inform the Provost Marshal of “various threats in order to ensure the best possible use of the available police resources to protect the institution,” Jessica Lamirande said.

“Every single CAF member has a responsibility to act and report any instance of discriminatory conduct. Any complaint that is submitted is promptly reviewed and addressed,” she said.

The outcome could range from counseling, recorded warnings, or probation to a lowering of rank, release from the military or charges under the National Defence Act.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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