New details have emerged about the circumstances that put former army reservist Patrik Mathews on the radar of Canadian national security agencies.
The 26-year-old former master corporal has been officially released from the Canadian Armed Forces, where he had been trained as a combat engineer, a military spokeswoman said Thursday.
Mathews, who was recruiting for a neo-Nazi paramilitary group in Winnipeg over the summer, has been missing since Aug. 24 and is suspected of illegally crossing the border into the United States.
While national security agencies — including the Forces, RCMP and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) — are being tight-lipped, a report from Global News Wednesday provided insight into the case.
On one of Mathews’ "frequent" trips to the U.S., officials found racist material in his truck during a random stop and search at a border checkpoint, the report said.
The material, which hasn’t been publicly identified, was so worrisome that border agents notified the intelligence unit of the CBSA, which tipped off the RCMP and the military. They began investigating Mathews, the report said.
The fact officials confirm Mathews frequently crossed the border fits with Free Press reports that revealed he was a member of the neo-Nazi group "the Base" and had travelled stateside to participate in paramilitary training at events called "hate camps."
During one of those trips, Mathews was turned back at the border, an event later commented on by an official social-media account for "the Base" on the group’s online platform Gab, an alternative to Twitter that’s popular among the far-right for its permissive speech policies.
"Recent training event in Wisconsin. One of our North Central region members was denied entry into the USA from Canada en route to the meetup — another attempt by the ZOG to disrupt. Good news is we’re growing in Canada so similarly successful events will occur there in the future," the post reads.
"ZOG" stands for "Zionist Occupied Government," a well-known acronym in neo-Nazi and white supremacist circles that refers to the conspiracy theory that a Jewish cabal secretly controls the governments of the western world.
Prior to being exposed by the Free Press on Aug. 19, Mathews had been recruiting for "the Base" in Winnipeg. He was attempting to start a small cell in Manitoba, the first task of which would be to start paramilitary training.
Experts on racist extremism said "the Base" — alongside its sister organization Atomwaffen Division — represents the most violent, radical fringes of the far-right hate movement.
One week after being publicly identified, Mathews’ family reported him missing to the RCMP. Earlier this week, the Mounties revealed they had discovered his truck abandoned in the RM of Piney near the U.S.-Canada border.
Area residents told the Free Press the area in which Mathews’ truck was found is remote and heavily forested, and has been the site of illegal and unauthorized border crossings in recent years.
Despite media reports to the contrary, Kittson County, Minn., Sheriff Mark Wilwant told the Free Press he doesn’t believe Mathews is armed. Wilwant said he was notified by the RCMP that Mathews may have hopped the border last weekend.
"I’m trying to think if it was Saturday or Sunday, but it was definitely over the weekend. I can tell you that. It was the RCMP I was dealing with up on that end... We have no reason to believe he’s armed at this time," Wilwant said.
"Right now, the level of concern isn’t at the point where we’re warning the public of this situation. If we come into contact with this guy, we’ve been told to contact border patrol, because it means he would have crossed over illegally."
On Aug. 19, hours after the Free Press identified Mathews, Mounties executed a search warrant at his Beausejour home and seized several firearms. He was taken into custody, but released a short while later without being charged.
RCMP confirmed Thursday the weapons had not been returned to Mathews. However, the Mounties declined to comment on other questions submitted by the Free Press.
Mathews took frequent trips across the border and has extensive connections to the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S.
It’s unclear how soon after he went missing that the RCMP contacted U.S. authorities to warn them he might be headed their way.
A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on Thursday when asked if the agency believes Mathews is in the country.
"The Base" was founded in the U.S. in 2018 by a man known by the pseudonym Roman Wolf. He is believed to own property in the Pacific Northwest and claims to be a veteran of the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The organization has cells operating in numerous U.S. states, as well as confirmed members in Canada and Europe. There are recent indications the group is also conducting recruitment drives in Australia and South Africa.
The RCMP, the CBSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.
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.