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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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RWE-CAF Research Network Blog

  • February 2021: Highlighting the Need to Understand the Presence of Right-Wing Extremism Within the CAF
    Highlighting the Need to Understand the Presence of Right-Wing Extremism Within the CAF

    Written by Dr. Barbara Perry & Dr. David Hofmann

                Although right-wing extremism within the Canadian military is not a new phenomenon, Canadians’ attention was drawn to the issue on Canada Day in 2017, when five members of Proud Boys disrupted an Indigenous protest at a Cornwallis statue. Among them, three were later identified as active Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel. Two years later, in 2019, Manitoba reservist Patrik Mathews was found to be actively recruiting for The Base, a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary group. After fleeing Canada, he was arrested in the U.S. on weapons charges related to apparent plans to provoke a civil war. Shortly after, on July 2, 2020, Corey Hurren – a Ranger reservist – rammed his truck through gates at Rideau Hall, the home of the Prime Minister and his family. He was armed with at least 4 guns, and claimed he wanted to “speak with” the Prime Minister. His social media history showed recent engagement with far right conspiracy theories. In February 2021, Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was released from the military as a result of his previous membership, indeed leadership, of the neo-Nazi forum Iron March, and the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour. These series of escalating events involving CAF members who hold right-wing extremist views begs the question: are these extreme outliers within the CAF, or indicators of a deeper, wider problem?

                This very question was one of the prime motivations that led to the development of the Network for Research on Hateful Conduct and Right-Wing Extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces (RWE-CAF Research Network). To date, we have very limited insights into the extent to which former and active military personnel are engaged with the far right in Canada. An MPCIS in 2018 identified 53 individuals who had either perpetrated some form of hateful conduct, or had some level of involvement with extreme right-wing groups. Recent media reports have followed examples like those noted in the opening paragraph. Active far-right groups frequently make claims that they are actively recruiting former and active military personnel.  In fact, La Meute, a Quebec ethno-nationalist group, was founded by two former CAF members. However, to date, no systematic efforts have been made by academics to uncover the extent of the problem. That is a lacuna in knowledge that the RWE-CAF Research Network hopes to correct within the coming years.

                As noted above, the CAF has drawn public attention in the past couple of years due to several media reports that have uncovered white supremacist and right-wing extremist (RWE) beliefs among members of the Regular and Reserve Forces. Although the number of known cases of CAF members holding RWE beliefs is likely comparable to the general population, there is a real and pressing public concern over soldiers who embrace extremist beliefs. This is driven, in part, by the need to hold soldiers to a higher moral and ethical standard than the general public, given the expertise and training that are instilled in CAF members. Without this public trust, the CAF cannot operate efficiently as an active military force, and as an organization that employs 100,000 Canadians. Moreover, there is public concern about how the CAF has responded to those members identified as engaging in hateful conduct and right-wing extremism. Although strides have been made by CAF leadership to begin addressing this issue, it is not entirely clear what policy frameworks are currently in place that are specific to the sorts of phenomena included under this rubric. Our research focused network will allow us to assess both the risk of radicalization to right-wing extremism in the CAF, and to identify gaps in extant policy. Both are important starting points in building effective remedies.

    To this end, the core research questions for the network are:

    • Who among CAF members may be at increased risk of embracing RWE views?
    • How are RWE views disseminated through members of the CAF?
    • What is the extent of the links between members of the CAF and established RWE groups active in Canada?
    • Are CAF members more at risk of embracing RWE views when compared to the general population? If so, why?
    • What kind of empirically-grounded initiatives, resources, training, or information can the CAF use to prevent, identify, and combat the adoption of RWE views among its members?

                We have been fortunate to bring together a remarkable core of Canadian scholars bringing interdisciplinary expertise to the question of right-wing extremism in the CAF. It is led by Dr. Barbara Perry (Ontario Tech University) and Dr. David Hofmann (University of New Brunswick). The other team members come from coast to coast: Dr. Aurelie Campana (Universite de Laval); Dr. Samuel Tanner (Universite de Montreal); Dr. Leah West (Queen’s University); Dr. John McCoy, Dr. David Jones, Dr. Michael King (University of Alberta); and Dr. Garth Davies (Simon Fraser University). We are also happy to host Dr. Philip McCristall and Dr. Carmen Celestini (Ontario Tech University) as Post-Doc Fellows. The team consists of some of Canada’s leading methodological and substantive experts across multiple disciplines. Among the partners, no less than eight academic disciplines are represented, comprising criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, legal scholars, public policy scholars, political scientists, and security/terrorism scholars. Network members also possess expertise with the dominant qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methodological approaches, as well as facility with cutting-edge methodologies such as social network analysis.

                The events of January 6, 2021 in Washington DC underscore the importance of enhancing our understanding and acknowledgement of the intersection of right-wing extremism and military service. Estimates suggest that as many as one in five of those arrested for their participation in the “insurrection” have a current or former record of service. The violence that characterized that day points to the dangers of combining military training, arms and extreme right ideologies. It is our aim to shed light on similar dynamics at home in Canada so that we are in a better position to predict, deflect and respond to parallel threats.