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This article was published 19/8/2019 (525 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The man who is recruiting in Winnipeg for a neo-Nazi paramilitary group holds a leadership position in the Canadian Army Reserve and is a trained explosives expert.
The Free Press has identified Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, 26, as the man responsible for the neo-Nazi propaganda posters that have been posted throughout the city in recent weeks.
The posters were part of a recruitment drive for The Base, a white supremacist network that’s active on three continents. Experts on hate groups say The Base represents the most radical, violent fringes of the extremist right.
Mathews is a trained combat engineer, which makes him an explosives expert, and is an active member of the army reserve. Combat engineers are responsible for conducting a number of construction and demolition tasks under battle conditions.
As a master corporal, he is considered to be in a leadership position and oversees and instructs privates who work under him.
The Free Press asked the Canadian Armed Forces to confirm if Mathews is a member at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. By 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a spokeswoman said she was unable to confirm if there was a member under that name since it was the weekend and access to personnel files was limited.
However, a military source confirmed Mathews is an active member who works out of both the Minto and McGregor armouries in Winnipeg and that he holds the rank of master corporal.
The Free Press also reviewed a number of photos of Mathews posted to one of his social media accounts to confirm his identity.
Attempts to reach Mathews for comment on two separate social media platforms were not successful.
The Free Press has also learned that within hours of its investigative report Homegrown Hate being published Friday evening, the military launched an investigation into whether or not they have an active hate group member in their ranks in Winnipeg.
The existence of the investigation was revealed by a military source. The military would not confirm if the Free Press story has prompted an investigation.
"While we cannot discuss any specific cases or investigations, we can say that we take these matters seriously. Hateful conduct, be it through words or actions, is completely incompatible with (Canadian Armed Forces) values and culture," a military spokeswoman said in a written statement.
"Any form of hateful conduct erodes cohesion and esprit de corps, and diminishes our authority as a force for good in Canadian society and around the world. We will not tolerate it in any form."
Homegrown Hate was the results of a multi-week effort by a Free Press reporter to infiltrate The Base after recruitment posters for the white nationalist group turned up in multiple areas of the city.
The reporter discovered The Base is a secretive network of highly radicalized neo-Nazis that is eagerly preparing for a race war. In group chats, members make anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and they idolize serial killers and mass murderers as "the saints."
The organization, which was founded in the U.S. in 2018 by a man who goes by the pseudonym Roman Wolf, is recruiting in several countries to expand its reach from the U.S., into Canada and across Europe.
In addition to Mathews’ recruitment drive in Winnipeg, there have been similar efforts documented in Saskatchewan. There’s also believed to be a cell of an unknown size operating on the East Coast. An alleged member from Montreal was revealed by anti-fascist activists last year.
While posing as a white nationalist in the group, the reporter documented the organization’s discussions in the encrypted messaging app Wire. On numerous occasions, members of The Base, including Mathews, spoke explicitly about violence.
"We’re hard targets. They want trumpeter (sic) conservatives to protest somewhere so they can mess with them and call them Nazis and get them in legal trouble. We’re real (expletive) Nazis and they can’t do s--- to us but wait for us to put em (sic) against the wall," Mathews wrote.
"The movementarians failed to act. We’re starting with action."
Mathews told the undercover reporter he had entered the military out of high school, which would mean he’s been a member for about eight years. However, he also said he planned to soon leave the military since he could no longer "serve the ZOG."
ZOG is an acronym used by neo-Nazis to refer to the conspiracy theory that a Jewish cabal secretly controls the governments of western countries. ZOG stands for "Zionist Occupied Government."
The Base is explicit about its desire to recruit people who have military experience, or those with backgrounds in chemistry and engineering, so they can pass on those skills to other recruits.
Mathews has said he travelled to the U.S. many times to participate in paramilitary training events called "hate camps", which had been organized by his comrades.
The Canadian Army Reserve is an integrated part of the army. Its members are consistently called upon to participate in domestic military operations, such as responses to natural disasters like floods or fires.
Reservists can also be called upon to "augment, sustain, and support deployed regular force members" on international missions. Since 2000, more than 4,000 reservists have been deployed on international missions in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean, among other places.
It remains unclear if Mathews has been deployed internationally during his military career. The fact he holds the rank of master corporal means he has been promoted twice.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.