At least two investigations are underway into the extremist activity of Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, an active combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserves in Winnipeg who holds membership in a violent neo-Nazi hate group.
The investigations — one conducted by the armed forces and the other by the RCMP — come in the wake of a Free Press report identifying Mathews, 26, as the man behind the recent recruitment drive in Winnipeg for a neo-Nazi paramilitary group called The Base.
Posted: 19/08/2019 6:00 AM
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.
A report on Mathews has also been filed with the provincial Chief Firearms Officer, the official responsible for administering gun licences. Mathews is known to possess several firearms, including multiple long guns and a pistol.
The organization for which he was actively recruiting in Winnipeg represents the most violent, radical fringes of the far-right hate movement.
The Winnipeg Police Service did not respond when asked if it was conducting an investigation into the case.
On Monday, the armed forces confirmed Mathews holds a leadership position with the army reserves and that an investigation into his conduct is underway.
He joined in 2010 and serves as a combat engineer. Members who hold this position are trained as explosives experts who carry out construction and demolition tasks in combat conditions.
Brig.-Gen. David Awalt, the acting commander of the 3rd Canadian Division, issued a written statement Monday in response to the Free Press reports.
"I am aware of serious allegations against a member of 38 Canadian Brigade Group that may be involved in an organization that promotes hate... I am ensuring we move forward to explore what immediate actions can be taken and will continue to support the ongoing CAF investigation," Awalt said.
"Should this investigation indicate that there was a violation of our code of values and ethics, I will leverage all tools at my disposal, including legal and disciplinary measures, to address intolerant attitudes, which could include the release from the Canadian Armed Forces."
The armed forces have declined interview requests on the case, instead opting to issue written statements.
The Free Press revealed Mathews is a member of The Base after a month-long investigation into the group’s activities in Winnipeg.
A reporter posed as a white nationalist, passed through a multi-tiered vetting process and successfully infiltrated the notoriously secretive organization, which conducts paramilitary training at undisclosed locations across North America called "hate camps."
The fact a member of the military has been outed as an active militant in a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary group is not an isolated incident.
In November 2018, an internal military report said 53 members were identified as being in a hate group or promoting extremist views in the past four years. In at least one case, a member was found to be a militant in the violent neo-Nazi outfit Atomwaffen Division, which serves as something of a sister organization to The Base.
The military points to the fact this represents less than 0.1 per cent of the total armed forces population as evidence it is not a widespread problem. However, that position is criticized by a number of experts on far-right extremism.
"This is a big concern and we need to see them stop pretending that it’s not, that it’s just some guy who has some literature in his bunk. They seem to be greatly underestimating the scope of this problem and they need to begin actively weeding these people out." – Anti-hate educator Elizabeth Moore
Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the armed forces does not know the scope of extremist activity within its ranks, since it doesn’t proactively attempt to identify the individuals and weed them out.
"I take it at face value when the CAF says they don’t want this in their ranks. Members of the armed forces don’t want to serve next to these kinds of (people). But the issue is they’re not doing enough to keep it out," Balgord said.
"Their report on this seems to conclude it’s not a large number and so it’s not as significant. There needs to be an understanding that this is serious, just as serious as if there were Islamist terrorists in their ranks. This is about terror."
Posted: 19/08/2019 6:36 PM
Manitoba's political party leaders were disturbed by Free Press reports over the weekend about a neo-Nazi group's attempt to gain a foothold in Winnipeg, but had little to offer Monday to stamp out home-grown hate.
Asked about the stories Monday morning, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister initially described The Base's campaign as "deplorable and an insult to the intelligence of thinking people."
Balgord said the military needs to begin educating its leadership to recognize signs of right-wing extremist radicalization and activity, so it can shift to a more proactive approach. He also suggested the military has a duty to be more transparent about what steps it is taking to address the problem.
"We need to hear from them that actions are being taken and they need to discuss what those actions look like, because right-wing extremism is killing people. It’s killing people and we’ve seen it here," he said.
Anti-hate educator Elizabeth Moore, a former far-right extremist who has since left the movement, echoed those comments.
"This is a big concern and we need to see them stop pretending that it’s not, that it’s just some guy who has some literature in his bunk. They seem to be greatly underestimating the scope of this problem and they need to begin actively weeding these people out," Moore said.
"What is statistically insignificant to the military could still cost people their lives, because as we’ve seen, it only takes one."
The Base, which was founded in the U.S. in 2018 and is currently conducting a recruiting drive in Canada and Europe, among other countries, explicitly seeks individuals with military experience or backgrounds in chemistry and engineering.
Since the Free Press exposed Mathews as the individual behind the recent recruitment campaign in Winnipeg, a number of acquaintances and friends have stepped forward to speak about him.
Their accounts paint a chilling picture of a social outcast who has long held "strange ideas," but who took a noticeable turn to a darker place during the past year.
In his private life, Mathews has reportedly begun to increasingly "go off" on racist and homophobic "rants" that seem tinged with underlying threats of violence, according to people who have known him for years.
Despite these red flags, however, the acquaintances said they had no idea his views had gotten so extreme and did not realize he was active in a neo-Nazi hate group.
During the Free Press investigation into The Base’s activities in Winnipeg, Mathews spoke on multiple occasions about committing acts of racially motivated violence and sabotage.
Attempts to reach Mathews for comment on two separate social media platforms have been unsuccessful.
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.
Updated on Monday, August 19, 2019 at 7:58 PM CDT: Fixes typo.