Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have condemned the recent antisemitic desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.
Ottawa police are searching for a man they say carved hateful graffiti at the National War Memorial. Police say the man used a sharp object to etch graffiti onto the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the memorial at Wellington and Elgin streets.
It happened around 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, police said.
“The antisemitic desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is completely unacceptable, and I strongly condemn this hateful act, Trudeau stated in a tweet. “I urge anyone with information regarding the perpetrator’s identity to contact Ottawa Police.”
The vandalism was “despicable,” tweeted Sajjan. “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the gallantry and the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom. On Remembrance Day, we’ll come together to recognize our veterans.”
Police described the man as white and wearing a light-coloured sweater, dark pants, a dark toque and carrying a black back pack. He was riding a mountain-style bike, police said.
The graffiti were removed within 24 hours, said Ottawa police spokesperson Const. Amy Gagnon. “We don’t know yet what motivated this person,” she added.
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay called it a “disgusting act.”
“This was not the vandalization of public property – it was the desecration of a site that stands as a permanent reminder of the memories and sacrifices of every single person who has fought and died in services of Canada,” he said in a statement.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called it an “insult and disgrace to our war dead and veterans. If anyone recognizes this lowlife, please contact police,” Watson said in a tweet.”
In a statement, Royal Canadian Legion dominion president Thomas Irvine said it’s “unthinkable that anyone would deface this sacred place…we strongly condemn this criminal act.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact a Hate Crime Investigations Unit detective at 613-236-1222 extension 5453 or to leave an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers.
Another racist has been unmasked in the Canadian military, this time in the army.
Army commander Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre has promised that Canadian Ranger Erik Myggland will be out of the armed forces “within weeks.”
According to a recent CBC report, Myggland has a history of involvement with the white supremacist group Soldiers of Odin.
The army’s commitment to rid itself of another racist in uniform was welcomed by Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
“We support and appreciate this decision by the Canadian Army to finally remove an individual involved in far-right activity and hateful conduct from its ranks, a decision that sends a message that those who are involved in hate groups and activity are not welcome in the military,” FSWC president and CEO Michael Levitt said in a news release.
“We commend leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces, including Army and Navy commanders, as well as [Minister of National Defence Harjit] Sajjan for speaking out against extremism in the military and taking steps that show it will not be tolerated.”
The action against Myggland follows the revelation last year that a navy reservist in Calgary was a long-time supporter of the racist website Iron March, and once offered to arrange the sale of military grade weapons to another group.
Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was suspended after that revelation but was reinstated in July after saying he had been rehabilitated and no longer held racist views.
That decision to reinstate him is being subjected to a “command level review” by navy commander Vice-Admiral Art McDonald.
The Myggland decision comes two weeks after FSWC leaders met with Sajjan, who promised to drive racists and white supremacists out of the Canadian Forces.
In a statement following that meeting 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.”
Several courses of action have been suggested to military leaders. FSWC recommends a zero-tolerance policy and quick dismissal of any members found to be involved in extremist activity.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (of which CJR publisher Bernie Farber is chair) has urged restoring Section 13 of the federal Human Rights Code, which allowed individuals to pursue groups espousing hate speech.
The section was removed by the previous Conservative government, which said it restricted free expression.
Anti-hate activists have also urged Canadian law enforcement to make better use of Criminal Code provisions against hate speech.
Under the current system, provincial attorneys general must sign off on turning a charge into a hate crime – something too many have been reluctant to do for fear of constraining free speech.
Activists have also claimed the military has a habit of side-stepping such issues by slapping the wrists of members caught making racist statements or being involved in demonstrations.
That’s what happened in 2017 when five Canadian sailors were identified as part of a crowd that disrupted a Native protest in a park named for Lord Edward Cornwallis. A founder of Halifax, the British officer is also the author of a policy of genocide against the area’s Indigenous population.
Four sailors faced probation but were returned to active duty. The fifth left the military.
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 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.