October 19, 2019

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Military must root out its extremists

Editorial

The numbers don’t lie. But strategic spin can make them appear either alarming or reassuring, and how they’re acted upon could most certainly add up to the difference between life and death.

That’s why there’s only a modicum of comfort to be taken from reports the Canadian Armed Forces is involved in one of at least two ongoing investigations into the activities of an active army-reserve combat engineer behind a recruitment drive in Winnipeg for a neo-Nazi paramilitary group.

In a series of stories stemming from an investigative report that involved a Winnipeg Free Press reporter going undercover as a potential recruit to the far-right hate group known as The Base, Canadian Army Reserves Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews was identified as the individual behind the recent recruitment drive in Winnipeg.

In a followup story on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Armed Forces and the RCMP are investigating Mr. Mathews’ involvement in The Base and its recruitment activities. Late Monday evening, RCMP raided a home in Beausejour and reportedly detained Mr. Mathews before conducting a search of the premises, which resulted in the seizure of several weapons.

The numbers don’t lie. But strategic spin can make them appear either alarming or reassuring, and how they’re acted upon could most certainly add up to the difference between life and death.

That’s why there’s only a modicum of comfort to be taken from reports the Canadian Armed Forces is involved in one of at least two ongoing investigations into the activities of an active army-reserve combat engineer behind a recruitment drive in Winnipeg for a neo-Nazi paramilitary group.

RCMP raid Beausejour home of army reservist identified as neo-Nazi recruiter

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Patrik Mathews would not comment when approached by a reporter outside the home Tuesday morning. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)						</p>
Patrik Mathews would not comment when approached by a reporter outside the home Tuesday morning. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Posted: 20/08/2019 12:12 PM

RCMP officers raided the Beausejour home of a Canadian Army Reserves leader identified as a recruiter for a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary organization on Monday night, neighbours say.

Earlier Monday, the Free Press reported Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, 26, an active Winnipeg reserves combat engineer, holds membership in The Base, which represents the most violent, radical fringes of the far-right hate movement.

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In a series of stories stemming from an investigative report that involved a Winnipeg Free Press reporter going undercover as a potential recruit to the far-right hate group known as The Base, Canadian Army Reserves Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews was identified as the individual behind the recent recruitment drive in Winnipeg.

In a followup story on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Armed Forces and the RCMP are investigating Mr. Mathews’ involvement in The Base and its recruitment activities. Late Monday evening, RCMP raided a home in Beausejour and reportedly detained Mr. Mathews before conducting a search of the premises, which resulted in the seizure of several weapons.

That the covert activities of The Base — which reportedly involve recruitment efforts in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, among other locales — are being brought into public view is encouraging, as is a statement by the acting commander of the 3rd Canadian Division that alt-right activities by military personnel will be dealt with in no uncertain terms.

"Should this investigation indicate that there was a violation of our code of values and ethics, I will leverage all the tools at my disposal, including legal and disciplinary measures, to address intolerant attitudes," Brig.-Gen. David Awalt said in a written statement in response to the Free Press reports.

Less comforting, however, is the military’s assertion, in a November 2018 report, that hate-group involvement in the Canadian Armed Forces is not a widespread problem because less than 0.1 per cent of military personnel (at the time, 53 individuals, according to the report) had been identified as having hate-group connections or promoting extremist views.

The Armed Forces and the RCMP are investigating Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews’ involvement in The Base. (Free Press files)

The Armed Forces and the RCMP are investigating Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews’ involvement in The Base. (Free Press files)

A fraction of a single percentage point is, indeed, a very small number, but given that the military offers training in the use of weapons and explosives, one might be inclined to conclude any number is too large, and that in the current climate of heightened alt-right activity and increasing incidence of extremist violence, Canada’s military should be hyper-vigilant in its efforts to root out and expel any member shown to have connections to white supremacist hate groups.

"This is a big concern, and we need to see them stop pretending that it’s not," said anti-hate educator Elizabeth Moore, a former far-right extremist. "They seem to be greatly underestimating the scope of this problem, and they need to begin actively weeding these people out."

As evidenced by numerous recent mass killings in which the perpetrators were shown to have professed extreme-right connections, as well as pre-emptive arrests by U.S. authorities last week of heavily-armed extremists who allegedly planned to launch violent attacks, the time has passed in which neo-Nazi extremism can be debated at length as a philosophical notion rather than acted upon as a clear and present danger.

The numbers may be small, but they don’t lie. Canada’s military must turn its focus sharply inward, with the clear understanding that allowing even one armed and trained extremist to exist within its ranks is unacceptable.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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