The RCMP executed a search warrant at a home in Manitoba on Monday in connection with allegations that a Canadian Armed Forces member was involved in an organization that promotes hate.
Multiple sources tell Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson that a number of firearms were seized during the search, which occurred at around 10 p.m. in the town of Beausejour.
While it’s unclear whether the CAF member accused in the military investigation resides at the home, sources say it is related to the investigation.
The Winnipeg Free Press first reported on Monday the allegations that Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews was recruiting for white supremacist network The Base.
The CAF issued a statement about the situation, saying it was investigating and exploring potential “immediate actions” to take. Few other details were provided at the time.
Brigade commander Col. Gwen Bourque told reporters Tuesday that no arrests had been made in the case.
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She said Mathews last worked with the unit in May and was due to return in September. He is still considered an active member.
Mathews is employed at a CAF base in Winnipeg as a combat engineer.
According to the report, Mathews put up Nazi posters across the city for The Base. He also allegedly expressed admiration for serial killers and mass shooters, such as Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. Members of The Base also consider the alleged Christchurch shooter “a saint,” the report said.
“He wants to recruit young white men for a race war,” it alleged. “He thinks one is coming and can’t wait for it to get here.”
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Bourque said Mathews had no access to weapons or explosives and had some “leadership experience” but “rudimentary” training.
She said there are a number of possible consequences he could face, including termination, should he be found to be involved in the group.
She said the investigation is ongoing and the RCMP have not made an arrest.
In Beausejour, on a quiet, dead-end street, neighbours told Global News they were jolted by the sound of sirens late Monday night and ran to their windows.
“I heard them asking him to come out of his house on the megaphone at around 10:30,” said Sarah Lockhart, who lives about three houses down from the home RCMP raided.
“I called my husband because my house was surrounded by a SWAT team, by police officers. There had to have been 15 vehicles.”
Lockhart said she saw officers walking down the street with a man in handcuffs about 10 to 15 minutes later.
The RCMP have not confirmed who, if anyone, was taken away in handcuffs.
“I’ve never seen him in my life until last night, actually. I think he either keeps a very low profile or he doesn’t live there, I’m not sure,” she said.
Another neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, told Global News that she’s only ever seen a vehicle drive to and from the home but never noticed anything suspicious.
Lockhart said RCMP vehicles were there until the early hours of the morning.
“They were taking stuff out of the house, I believe. That’s what it sounded like,” she said. “I couldn’t see what it was.”
Back in May, an internal report spanning from 2013 to 2018 linked 16 CAF members to six hate groups. The report was written amid ongoing investigations into members who have been publicly tied to racist groups. It said the issue was damaging the military’s image.
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Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre said the CAF will act “decisively and not rashly” when laws are broken.
“We have absolutely no time for those that do not hold the values of the Army and the Canadian Armed Forces and the values of Canada close to their heart,” he told Global News.
Brian Levin, a criminologist and attorney at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said allegations like the one against the Canadian military member are yet another example of how the “normalization of white supremacy and Nazism” is growing.
He said the spread “occurs across the spectrum.”
“Canada actually had a decline last year after hitting a record in 2017. The bottom line is we’re seeing hate expressed in hate crimes and we’ve seen increases in recent years, including Canada, which just came off a record,” he said.
“South of the border, it’s the same news cycle. We’re seeing kids do a Nazi salute in a sporting team event.”
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Ran Ukashi from B’nai Brith Canada said The Base is among the most extreme alt-right groups.
“When they are inciting violence or when they are promoting the idea of ‘we should attack group X, Y and Z,’ the way you do that is through violent means, so they see it as advantageous in having military training of all sorts in order to facilitate that, which makes it all the more serious and all the more dangerous,” Ukashi told Global News.
Levin pointed to the “rabbit hole” of content online as a factor in the spread of hate.
“It’s a worldwide, international trend, and that’s what is so head-scratching for our Canadian friends, who are a tolerant society,” he said.
“Bottom line is, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum.”
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According to Christian Leuprechet, a professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, this type of material can be difficult for the Canadian Forces to track down.
He says with an organization as large as the Canadian Armed Forces, employers have to trust that employees are adhering to the code of conduct.
He says because of the size of the organization and scarce resources, often these types of incidents are tracked retroactively after a complaint is filed.
“Inherently when you have tens of thousands of people, you’re always going to have a very small proportion of people who for one reason or another either have always been off the rails or have gone off the rails. So I think that’s unavoidable,” he said.
“What we need to make sure is we have the right mechanisms to identify and detect and we have the right mechanisms to remedy such behavior or to dismiss as appropriate.”
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Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said Canada’s defence minister and the military need to do more to inform Canadians about how it handles members associated with hate groups.
“I would like to ask the minister of defence straight out, what are you doing about neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the Military? Tell the Canadian people,” Farber said. “Don’t tell us that you’re investigating, don’t tell us that you don’t stand for racism – that’s great – what are you doing about the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the military?”
He said it is up to the minister of defence to tell Canadians what action is being taken to provide a “level of comfort.”
“Right now I have no level of comfort,” he said. “I’ve been involved with dealing with neo-Nazis and white supremacists for three decades. To me this is the most dangerous and scariest kind that I can ever recall.”
-With files from Hannah Jackson