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June 20, 2019
Those of us who are monitoring hate groups in Canada could hardly believe our eyes.
This week, a 2018 report titled, “White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in the Canadian Armed Forces” written by Canadian Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section was made public through the Access to Information Act.
It raises serious concerns but you wouldn’t know it from the report’s conclusions. Despite finding that between 2013 and 2018, there were 53 Canadian Armed Forces members connected to hate groups or hate activity, apparently there’s no reason for worry.
“At this time hate groups do not pose a significant threat to the CAF/Department of National Defence,” reads the MPCIS report. “Less than 0.1% of the total CAF population were identified as part of a hate group or engaging in racist/hate motivated activity.”
Say what now?
This at a time when government and police authorities are saying they recognize right-wing extremism as a serious threat and Canadians are calling on them, and waiting on them, to take meaningful action. Tragically, recent events in North America and around the world have once again demonstrated that white supremacy isn’t just hateful words, but murder and terrorism.
We know how potentially dangerous even a single well-trained person can be when radicalized to violence. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh, an American white supremacist and a Gulf War veteran with explosives training, planted a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, which led to the murder of 168 people, amongst them 19 children in an adjoined daycare centre. Another 680 others were wounded.
More recently, American Coast Guard Lieutenant, former marine, and white supremacist Christopher Hasson was arrested this past February for plotting the assassination of politicians and journalists. This came after research and information undertaken in the United States indicating the real presence of white supremacists and neo-Nazis within its military.
In Canada in the early 1990s an investigation by the Security Intelligence Review Committee against white supremacist leadership in Canada showed, Eric Fischer, a former corporal in the Canadian Airborne Regiment who became a security chief in the violent neo-Nazi Heritage Front was “actively recruiting within the military” for recruits to white supremacy.
The investigation further revealed ‘that leading racists believe that the military is good recruiting ground.’”
In 1993 a special government commission was called after soldiers from the First Airborne Regiment (the same division that Eric Fisher was a part) tortured and executed 16-year-old Shidane Abukar Arone, during a 1993 peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In the end it led to the disbandment of the division.
From research undertaken at the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, we know that Canadian neo-Nazis encourage their fellow travellers to join the military to “learn to kill” and take that skillset back to teach their comrades. Other respected researchers of Canadian white nationalism such as Dr. Ryan Scrivens agree noting that “…right-wing extremists have historically joined the Canadian military and…they are currently in the ranks.”
It’s time for some urgent questions.
Why are 30 of those members identified in the military document still reportedly serving in the Canadian Armed Forces?
On what basis were members of hate groups within the CAF determined not to be a threat?
Is the report stating they aren’t a threat to the combat readiness of the CAF, or towards Canadians in general?
Does the CAF find it concerning that they are training and providing access to military weaponry to members of hate groups?
At a time when North America has seen an extraordinary increase in white supremacist activity and innocent people have been murdered by right wing extremists on our streets and in our houses of worship, it’s incumbent on the Canadian military to not ignore or diminish the potential danger we face. How is it possible that government leaders and military authorities have remained so passive in the face of these threats?
If we were talking about ISIS supporters within the ranks, surely we would see immediate action by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Canadian Defence Staff.
It must be crystal clear by now that all such groups are a threat to public safety, and that individuals who are connected to extremists, hate groups and hate activity should be dishonourably discharged.
This is not a time for inaction. Our Veterans fought the scourge of Nazism and hatred. Failure to act devalues their heroic efforts and leaves Canadians vulnerable to violent acts of terrorism and hate.
Editor's note: The 2018 report acknowledges that members of hate groups go to some length to hide their views. The sources of the data in the report seem to suggest that the reported numbers are based on incidents and information brought to the attention of the Canadian Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section, rather than proactive investigation to identify members of hate groups within the ranks. In short, the real number is likely higher.
Bernie M. Farber is the Chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.