Canadian military not doing enough to detect and prevent extremism in the ranks: report

A scathing new report on racism in the Canadian military says the military is not doing enough to detect and prevent the infiltration of white supremacists and other violent extremists into its ranks.

The report, released on Monday by Defense Minister Anita Anand, also accused the military of failing to take action in line with dozens of previous studies and surveys of racism in the ranks over the past two decades.

The report follows a year-long review by a group of retired military personnel and follows a spate of incidents linking some military personnel to violent extremism and hate groups, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

It also coincides with concerns about a growing gap between Canada’s predominantly white male military and the rest of the country’s population.

White men make up 71 percent of the Canadian military, but only 39 percent of the country’s civilian workforce. The report notes that First Nations, visible minorities and women are significantly underrepresented in the Canadian military.

The group, in its report, describes the alleged presence of extremists in the military as “an urgent moral, social and operational issue” as such members pose a threat to the unit’s cohesion and Canadians’ credibility in the institution.

It found that despite a zero-tolerance approach, efforts to detect extremists were “scattered and ineffective” and the extremists themselves were better at avoiding detection.

“The need to educate and train leaders at all levels of the defense team was repeatedly emphasized during the consultations of the advisory group,” the racism report says.

“Funding, experience and human resources are currently insufficient to meet the imperative that every leader should be the first line of defense, ensuring that members of these groups do not join or leave the defense team.”

Anand said on Monday that the government has allocated more than $200 million to change the culture of the military, but she did not outline any specific new measures.

Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defense staff, said the military needs to strike a balance between being concerned about privacy and remaining vigilant when it comes to things like monitoring members’ social media posts.

“The real problem we have with a lot of these organizations is that they tend to transform as soon as they are covered, when they get the spotlight,” Eyre added during a virtual press conference with Anand and members review groups.

“We have to be very, very vigilant and keep learning what these signs and symbols are.”

The issue of right-wing extremism in the Canadian Forces first became public in 2017 following an incident in Halifax in which a group of sailors linked to the Proud Boys disrupted an Indigenous ceremony.

A military intelligence report later linked dozens of military personnel to extremist groups and warned that such organizations were actively recruiting or otherwise trying to infiltrate the military for training, experience and equipment.

In one high-profile case, a former Manitoba reservist who was a member of a neo-Nazi group was sentenced in the United States to nine years in prison for what investigators called a violent conspiracy to provoke a “race war.”

The Panel was critical of what they believe the Armed Forces have not followed through on hundreds of previous recommendations and reports aimed at addressing some of these issues.

“Over the past 20 years, reports from 41 polls, panels, councils, climate studies and surveys have produced 258 recommendations on diversity, inclusion, respect and professional behavior,” retired Maj. Sandra Perron said at a press conference.

“When this advisory group attempted to measure progress on these recommendations, it became immediately clear that many of them were poorly implemented, shelved, or even abandoned.”

Anand acknowledged these setbacks and suggested that it was finally time to act, noting the creation of several working groups and other bodies, as well as new monitoring and reporting mechanisms, to deliver results.

This includes not only fighting racism within the ranks, but also an upcoming report by retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor on military sexual misconduct and a separate report from last year on military justice reform.

“As Secretary of National Defense and a racist woman, I am strongly committed to building institutions that include, welcome and empower Canadians of all backgrounds,” she said.

— Lee Berthiaum, Canadian Press.