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Last week, Commander, Lt.Gen. Wayne Eyre presided over the annual army council meeting. Although the sessions were held in Ottawa, the majority of the attendees participated virtually because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Reaching out directly to 450 top- to mid-level army officers, Eyre outlined to his chain of command a new set of explicit directions that will expedite the removal from the ranks of right-wing extremists or racists.
Eyre's message was clear “If you have those types of beliefs — get out. We don't want you.”
Most Canadians would find it startling that our army would have any such alt-right fascists in the ranks, let alone enough to warrant such a strong statement from the commander.
However, in recent months there have been a number of separate high-profile cases reported in the media wherein members of the Canadian Forces were not only affiliated with right-wing extremists, but also involved in committing alleged illegal activities.
Former Combat Engineer Patrik Mathews generated headlines when it was revealed that he was recruiting for a white supremacist group while still serving in the Canadian Forces.
When the story broke, Mathews bolted across the border and now faces weapons and other charges in the U.S.
On July 2, Corey Hurren made international news when he drove his pickup truck onto the grounds at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Hurren was armed at the time and he had threatened to harm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
What was even more startling was the fact that Hurren is still a serving member of 4 Ranger group in the CAF. Hurren also promoted right-wing ideology on his social media platforms. He now faces multiple criminal charges.
The Hurren incident prompted a CBC investigation into 4 Ranger group where reporter Murray Brewster was quick to uncover another right-wing sympathizer. Erik Myggland had been flagged by Canadian military counter-intelligence and interviewed about his membership in two separate right-wing organizations in 2016. Despite his affiliation with these groups, Myggland was allowed to continue serving.
When that story broke Eyre had stated that Myggland was allowed to remain in uniform because he was a reservist and he had only pursued his rightwing interests during his own time. According to Eyre, when he was in civilian mode Myggland was not subject to military discipline.
It was also pointed out that the legal administrative process to remove undesirable members from the payroll is a lengthy one.
This latest “explicit direction” issued by Eyre is to be commended and I hope that it is echoed across all the other service branches.
However, one still has to wonder what would compel individuals with right-wing extremist views to enlist in a military that prides itself in having defeated Hitler's Nazi regime?
Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the results of a recent poll out of the U.S. that revealed nearly two-thirds of young adults had no idea that six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. Nearly a quarter of the survey respondents thought that the Holocaust was a myth while nearly one in 10 actually believed that the Jews perpetrated the Holocaust.
While one would like to presume that Canadian schools do a better job of teaching about this horrific chapter in mankind's history, the reality is that we need to do better ourselves.
Such widespread ignorance of the Holocaust creates the vacuum into which the rightwing anti-semites are able to rewrite history. One would think that Canadian military units would be best situated to teach their members about the Holocaust, because it was those units' forefathers that helped destroy Hitler's murderous regime.
Knowing what the Nazi's did should help soldiers to drive out any of their comrades who share such right-wing ideology, with or without explicit direction from the army commander.