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Farber: Extremists in our ranks

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June 6 was the 75th anniversary of D-Day – the operation that finally helped destroy the evil of Nazism.

And yet, last month, a 2018 report titled, White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in the Canadian Armed Forces, which was written by Canadian Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section, was released to the public. It found that between 2013 and 2018, there were 53 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who had connections to hate groups or were alleged to have been involved in hate-motivated activities.

“At this time hate groups do not pose a significant threat to the CAF/Department of National Defence,” reads the report. “Less than 0.1 per cent of the total CAF population were identified as part of a hate group or engaging in racist/hate motivated activity.”

I was stunned. 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 Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which led to the murder of 168 people, including 19 children in an adjoined daycare centre. Another 680 were wounded.

Similarly, in Canada during the 1990s, Eric Fischer, a former corporal in the Canadian Airborne Regiment and a security chief in the violent neo-Nazi Heritage Front, was “actively recruiting within the military for the (World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group) … investigations against the white supremacist leadership in Canada revealed ‘that leading racists believe that the military is good recruiting ground,’ ” according to a 1994 report by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

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In 1993, a special government commission was called after soldiers from the Airborne Regiment tortured and executed 16-year-old Shidane Abukar Arone during a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In the end, it led to the disbandment of the division.

More recently, in February, American Coast Guard lieutenant, former marine and white supremacist Christopher Hasson was arrested for plotting the assassination of politicians and journalists. This came after similar reports to what we saw here in Canada uncovered white supremacists and neo-Nazis within the U.S. military.

Research by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which I chair, has shown 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.

We need to start asking the military some serious questions, such as:

Why are 30 of those who were identified in the report still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces? Why does the military think they don’t pose a threat to the combat readiness of the CAF, or Canadians in general? And does the CAF’s leadership find it concerning that it is training and providing weaponry to members of hate groups?

At a time when much of the world has seen an extraordinary increase in white supremacist activity and when innocent people have been murdered by these types of 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 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 hate groups and extremism should be immediately dishonourably discharged.

This is not a time for silence. Our veterans fought the scourge of Nazism and hatred. Our government’s failure to act devalues their heroic efforts and leaves Canadians vulnerable to violent acts of terrorism and hate.

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