Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday he would look into whether “further action” was needed to deal with the involvement of Canadian Armed Forces members in hate groups.
“While the vast majority of our members adhere to the highest level of professionalism and personal conduct, members who engage in these types of activities undermine the confidence Canadians have bestowed in them,” Sajjan said.
“I continue to monitor these issues closely in the Canadian Armed Forces and will look at further action to address the serious nature of this report,” the minister said in the statement issued by his office.
The minister commented after Global News reported that an internal review had found that 16 armed forces members were linked to hate groups, and 37 were alleged to have engaged in racist or hate-motivated conduct.
The seven-page report by the Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section, “White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in the Canadian Armed Forces,” examined the years 2013 to 2018.
It linked regular armed forces members and reservists to six “hate groups”: Proud Boys, Atomwaffen Division, La Meute, Hammerskins Nation, III% and Soldiers of Odin.
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But it said the members in question represented less than 0.1 per cent of the military population, and concluded that hate groups did not represent a significant threat to the Canadian military.
Of the 16 associated with hate groups, 9 remained in the military, it said. Meanwhile, 21 of those alleged to have engaged in racist or hate-motivated behaviour were still serving members.
In a letter to Sajjan on Tuesday, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said the report “raises serious concerns” and asked why most of the members in question were still in the military.
“The report is, in our respectful view, dismissive of the issue of hate group members in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said the letter signed by the group’s chair, Bernie Farber.
He said far right groups encouraged their followers to join the military in order to get training and pass on what they learned to fellow extremists.
“We recommend that those currently identified as belonging to white nationalist and supremacist groups and/or those who have engaged in extreme hateful activities be removed from active service pending an immediate investigation.”
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Sajjan’s statement did not address the potential public safety risks that arise when military personnel are affiliated with extremist groups.
“We will not tolerate racism and discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces,” the statement said.
“Anything less than a positive and inclusive environment for all of our women and men is unacceptable. Canadians expect all members of our Canadian Armed Forces to uphold Canadian values.”