As the search for Canadian Forces reservist Patrik Mathews stretches into its sixth day, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network is calling out law enforcement for allowing him to slip away in the first place.
Social activist Bernie Farber says he’s convinced if Mathews — who was identified by the Free Press as a member of a neo-Nazi paramilitary group — had been an Islamist militant, the situation would have been handled much differently by authorities.
"I’m actually quite amazed and relatively astounded by the fact that while the RCMP tells us they’ve been watching him and keeping an eye on him that somehow he’s been able to disappear. It makes no sense to me," Farber said.
"My feeling is that if Patrik Mathews was a suspected ISIS terrorist, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now."
Mathews has served as a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserves since 2010 and has the rank of master corporal. The military has relieved him from his duties and announced he will be formally released in the coming weeks.
Hours after the Free Press exposed Mathews as the man behind a recent neo-Nazi recruitment drive in Winnipeg on Aug. 19, the RMCP raided his Beausejour home and seized several firearms. He was reported missing Aug. 26.
“To me, this is all part and parcel of what we’ve been seeing for a while now. Whether it’s the military or the police, they seem to take situations with the extreme right a little less seriously than other terrorist situations." — Bernie Farber
Farber believes Mathews’ disappearance speaks to a larger issue with how authorities treat extremists in Canada. Mathews was recruiting for a Winnipeg branch of The Base, a paramilitary group advocating for a "race war" representing the most violent, radical fringes of the far-right hate movement.
"To me, this is all part and parcel of what we’ve been seeing for a while now. Whether it’s the military or the police, they seem to take situations with the extreme right a little less seriously than other terrorist situations," he said.
"Given our history here for the last few years, they’re breathing down the wrong necks. We’ve seen what has happened. We’ve been murdered in our mosques and our synagogues and even in our streets by right-wing extremists."
Mathews was last seen by his family Aug. 24. Repeated attempts to reach him, by family, friends, police and the military have reportedly been unsuccessful.
There are no warrants for his arrest and he has not been charged with a crime. The RCMP is investigating his disappearance as an active missing person’s case.
However, there is a secondary RCMP investigation underway into his involvement in a hate group. The Free Press has learned this investigation involves the Mounties' national security unit.
"He’s alleged to have been involved with one of the most violent of these hate groups and it’s just astonishing to me that this situation has been allowed to unfold in the way it has," Farber said.
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.