White supremacists in Canada’s armed forces pose an “active counter-intelligence threat” and national defence officials are “limited” in their ability to root them out, the country’s national security watchdog says.
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) reported concerns Monday that the Canadian Armed Forces’ counter-intelligence unit is “limited” in their ability to proactively identify white supremacists in the ranks.
“The presence of white supremacy within the Canadian military has been well documented. White supremacist groups actively seek individuals with prior military training and experience, or conversely, encourage individuals to enlist in order to gain access to specialized training, tactics and equipment,” the report reads.
While the “responsibility for addressing this threat cannot fall uniquely” on the Forces’ counter-intelligence unit, NSIRA said, the agency reported concern the unit “may not be fully utilized to proactively identify white supremacist across” the Department of National Defence.
White supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the Canadian Armed Forces has been a growing concern for a number of years, and increasingly a preoccupation of for senior officials.
The heads of the Forces’ three branches – the army, navy and Air Force – released specific directives against “hateful conduct” within the ranks last year.
But NSIRA’s report casts doubt on the Forces’ ability to actually identify white supremacists within their ranks.
In fact, NSIRA found that Forces’ counter-intelligence and security units “have been organized into narrowly focused vertical silos that do not work together in an integrated manner.”
The counter-intelligence unit looks at a “narrow” set of security threats that are above standard discipline and security screening issues, but below the threshold of criminal investigations. Their investigations are lengthy, and delays “run contrary” to its mission of safeguarding DND assets and personnel.
A larger NSIRA report into the counter-intelligence unit is currently being censored for public consumption, and expected to be released next year.
The Department of National Defence said in the wake of NSIRA’s review, it will be committing more resources to the counter-intelligence unit to “optimize use of its lawful investigative capabilities.”
“We will be clarifying the (counter-intelligence unit’s) role within the context of the broader DND/CAF response to ideologically motivated violent extremist. As we have said before, hateful conduct – be it words or actions – is completely incompatible with the Canadian Armed Force’s values and culture, and will not be tolerated in the CAF,” wrote Forces spokesperson Daniel LeBouthillier in a statement to Global News.
“The Chief of Defence Intelligence recognizes that, as Canada’s first line of defence, intelligence is fundamental to the success of DND/CAF activities and operations. We will continue this important work with integrity and pride.”
The issue of white supremacy and neo-Nazi infiltration of the Canadian Armed Forces is not new. In the early 1990s members of the now-defunct Canadian Airborne Regiment tortured and murdered a Somali teenager, Shidane Arone, while on a UN peacekeeping mission in that country.
The episode led to a major overhaul of how the Forces’ professional standards and education for recruits. But “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” – a term used by Canadian intelligence to signify far-right and racially motivated domestic extremists – have long viewed the military as an institution to find new recruits to their causes.
The most recent high-profile example was Patrik Mathews, an ex-reservist, who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a violent plot to provoke a race war in Virginia. Mathews was a member of The Base, a militant white supremacist organization, who fled his Manitoba home to link up with the group’s members in the U.S.