Defence Minister Pledges Action on Racists in Military

Sept. 2, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

Canada’s Minister of National Defence is promising to drive white supremacists and racists out of the country’s armed forces.

Harjit Sajjan made the commitment Aug. 26 in a Zoom meeting with leaders of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

The meeting followed the unmasking of a Royal Canadian Navy reservist in Calgary with a long history of involvement in white supremacy groups.

In a news release, Los Angeles-based FSWC executive director Rabbi Meyer May said he was impressed by Sajjan’s “clear and unequivocal commitment to bringing about structural changes and reforms in the armed forces to ensure there will be no tolerance for white supremacist and extremist members as well as no room for any forms of hate.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of the Canadian FSWC’s Campaign Against Antisemitism, added: “A clear message must be sent to all Canadians, including our diverse communities within and outside the armed forces, that white supremacists will not be tolerated under any circumstances in our military.”

In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson for Sajjan said, “There is no place for hate in Canada, and membership in organizations that promote hate goes against everything that Canadians value, and what the Canadian Armed Forces stand for.”

Sajjan said he had a “productive” conversation with the FSWC, and wanted to assure Canadians that the Forces treats these matters “with the utmost seriousness.”

May and Kirzner-Roberts proposed creating a body to investigate potential cases of white supremacist activity in the military; requiring allegations to be sent immediately to military police or the RCMP, and to be subject only to administrative/disciplinary action once criminal charges have been ruled out; and ensuring that anyone found guilty of participating in white supremacist activity is released immediately from the military, in addition to facing applicable criminal charges.

The meeting came one month after FSWC sent a letter to Sajjan demanding an investigation into the Royal Canadian Navy’s decision to reinstate a Calgary-based sailor with neo-Nazi ties, and two weeks after meeting with the commander of the Navy.

In the latter meeting Vice-Admiral Art McDonald promised a “command-level” review of the Forces’ decision to readmit the sailor to ensure the Navy handled the matter “appropriately and in accordance with the latest departmental guidance on hateful conduct.”

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (of which CJR publisher Bernie Farber is chairman) and the FSWC demanded action after Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was revealed to be a member of an online neo-Nazi hate group.

Concern intensified after Mihajlovic was accused of trying to sell military-grade weapons to another hate group. There is no evidence a deal was ever completed and he was later reinstated after claiming he was rehabilitated and no longer held racist views.

In 2019, Kurt Phillips, now a director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, was among the first to raise the alarm about the alleged arms deal.

“The big concern here is the Forces and their reaction to this,” Phillips said in an interview. “Our concern now is, what is the Canadian military doing about this?”

Mihajlovic’s racist activities were first revealed by the alnertaive media site Unicorn Riot and by CBC in December. CBC reported his hate group activities included serving as an administrator of the now-defunct Iron March forum, a neo-Nazi website. He was also involved with Blood & Honour for at least four years and its armed branch, Combat 18, a group the Canadian government identified last summer as a terrorist organization.

Mihajlovic told CBC he hasn’t been involved with such groups since Iron March shut down in 2017 and now he realizes he was wrong and rejects racist views.

For Phillips, words like that are a good start, but have to matched with action to show Mihajlovic has truly recanted his former views – such as a sincere apology to the communities he offended and helping law enforcement identify and deal with other groups and extremists.

Separately, Patrik Mathews, a former Forces combat engineer, has been in custody in Maryland since January, along with two other alleged co-conspirators. They face trial on a variety of charges relating to their alleged desire to trigger a race war in the United States.

Mathews vanished from Beausejour, Man., last year following media reports alleging he was a recruiter for a white-supremacist group called The Base.

*See related story today, B’nai Brith Hails Justice for Alleged Neo-Nazi.