An explosive report, showing wide-ranging links between Canadian soldiers and a myriad of far-right organizations, confirms the infamous American neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division was in the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces. The group is considered a domestic terror organization by American racism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
The report, an official Canadian Armed Forces document, is an affirmation of reporting by VICE Canada showing how neo-Nazis and other far-right actors openly sought military training from the CAF. VICE received a copy of the report from the CAF after it was first distributed to Fabrice de Pierrebourg of Montreal radio station 98.5 FM, then reported on by Global News.
Titled “White Supremacy, Hate Groups, and Racism in The Canadian Armed Forces" and dated to November 2018, the report was produced by the Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section, which found that sixteen members of the CAF had bonafide connections to six hate groups since 2013.
Despite the alarming number of Canadian soldiers with verified links to a handful of the most well known far-right groups—beyond Atomwaffen Division that includes; the criminal neo-Nazi organization the Hammerskins Nation, the far-right groups Proud Boys, Quebecois nationalist group La Meute, a paramilitary militia known as the III% and the anti-immigrant collective Soldiers of Odin—the CAF doesn’t consider it a broader problem within the military.
“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.”
Fifty-three members in total were found to have either been connected to a hate group or “made statements/took actions deemed to be discriminatory in nature." Of the 16 that were found to be connected to the six hate groups, the report states the majority of them remain within the CAF.
“Of those 16 members, nine remain in the CAF (six regular force and three reserve force members,” the report said.
In a statement Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan told VICE he is monitoring the issue closely and "anything less than a positive and inclusive environment for all of our women and men is unacceptable." "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," said Sajjan. "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."
While the CAF is downplaying the threat of far-right organizations within the military, in its very own report it admits that hate groups knowingly use the CAF.
“Many white supremacist groups tend to be para-military in nature; conducting weapons and other training exercises. Drawing on their training and deployment experience, current and former military members find that their skills are valued by these groups. Further they provide structure to these organizations therefore affording them the ability to gain positions of leadership," says the report.
That matches up with a 2018 VICE investigation exposing online chatter among militant neo-Nazis saying they wanted to join the CAF to learn militaristic skills they could use to advance their own white nationalism in the future.
“I plan on joining the Army's reserves while I'm in college, so I can get some combat training under my belt,” said a Canadian member of IronMarch—a now defunct neo-Nazi forum once linked to a wave of violence.
Members of hate groups tend to keep their associations hidden and their activities covert and thusly are difficult to track. This is especially evident within members who join the armed forces in North America. The member of Atomwaffen who VICE investigated went to extreme lengths to divorce his identity from his beliefs and affiliations. The CAF acknowledge the difficulty of tracking the far-right within their ranks in the report.
"As hate groups tend to be secretive, and given the CAF's strong stance on such associations, CAF members involved with such groups would most likely try to hide their associations and take steps to prevent their Chain of Command or co-workers from becoming aware of any such affiliation," reads the report.
The US military has faced similar issues with ProPublica exposing members of Atomwaffen DIvision as active-duty servicemen, while a neo-Nazi coast guard lieutenant was arrested in April for plotting mass murder of media and political figures. Historically, white supremacists have flocked to the ranks of the US military.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network penned an open letter to Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan following the initial reporting on the report. In their letter they state they feel the report downplays the extent of far-right extremists within their ranks, writing that they believe the report is “dismissive of the issue of hate group members in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
“Like you, we know how potentially dangerous a single person or small group of trained individuals can be when radicalized to violence,” reads the letter. “In fact it only takes one person with the hateful will and intent to cause havoc."
This story has been updated with comment from Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan.