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Canadian Forces and the far-right

John Bell

August 21, 2019

Authorities are scrambling to distance the Canadian Forces from a Winnipeg army reservist who has been found recruiting for a neo-Nazi militia called the Base.

Master Corporal Patrik Mathews’ home was raided and weapons seized. He is being investigated by the RCMP and the military. Mathews was exposed after a Winnipeg Free Pressreporter went undercover into the Base. 

The Base is an ultra-violent Nazi group that holds paramilitary training camps where members like Mathews, with experience using weapons and explosives, teach their skills. They refer to these as “hate camps”. Incidentally, The Base translates to Arabic as Al Qaeda. 

“We need for all leaders to step up and take very aggressive actions to make sure these types of behaviours do not become even more prevalent, because as you know, it can lead to horrible atrocities,” Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in an interview with the Free Press.

But in an interview in the Toronto StarGeneral Jonathan Vance admitted that fascists are drawn to the military, and it is impossible to keep them out. While saying Nazis are “not welcome” in the forces, “There’s no question about it that I cannot guarantee they don’t get in.”

Proud Boys 

In fact the Canadian Forces have a long record of racist and far-right incidents.

On Canada Day in 2017, a group of 3 sailors and 1 soldier wearing the paraphernalia of the Proud Boys disrupted a Halifax drumming circle of Mi’kmaw elders. The Indigenous group was peacefully protesting a statue honouring city founder Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis established the settlement by breaking treaty with the Mi’kmaw, and is notorious for offering a bounty for scalps.

The four disrupted the event, intimidating the drummers and making white nationalist arguments. At first the Canadian Forces placed the group under probation pending investigation. After a month the Forces returned them to duty, saying no charges or discipline would be brought against them.

Last year on-line news source Ricochet published an expose on a far-right military surplus store called Fireforce, promoting racism and specializing in paraphernalia from the now defunct African state of Rhodesia. The store’s founders were 3 Calgary based active service members of the Canadian Forces. One was a military police officer.

Also involved in the store was Keean Bexte, currently working as a “reporter” for Ezra Levant’s Rebel Magazine.

The initial response from the Canadian Forces was that the soldiers had done nothing wrong. They told Ricochet: “the Chain of Command is aware of the website” and “there is no violation of the code of conduct.” When the magazine’s revelations became more and more scandalous, the soldiers were suspended.

In 1993 the Canadian Forces sent the Airborne Regiment to Somalia on a “humanitarian” mission. Sending offensive warfare specialists exposed the “humanitarian” justification for intervention as hypocrisy. And the whole fiasco revealed that the Airborne was riddled with racism and far-right personnel.

It began before the Regiment even reached Somalia. On the plane taking them to Africa, Col. Carol Mathieu is alleged to have offered a case of beer to the first trooper to kill a Somali.

When the Canadians set up their camp, Mathieu gave orders that any Somalis caught stealing should be shot. Starving Somalis were rooting through garbage, and that was considered theft. Soldiers started leaving traps–food and water–to tempt hungry locals onto the base.

On March 4 two unarmed Somalis were lured in by such a trap and shot in the back. Airborne officials accused the men of attempting “sabotage”.

Less than a fortnight later teenager Shidane Arone was similarly murdered. The soldiers who shot him took “trophy” pictures with his brutalized body.

The story leaked out, and expanded. It came out that Airborne Regiment soldiers were regularly subjected to neo-Nazi initiation rites and hazing. A Black recruit told how he was stripped and swastikas drawn on his body with markers.

The story first broke in the dying days of Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government. Replaced by Jean Chretien’s Liberals, a public inquiry was called. Rather than just put the blame on a few bad apples in the lower ranks, the inquiry started to follow the trail of right-wing sentiment toward the top echelons. When it became clear that the inquiry was going to reveal systemic racism and right-wing sentiments in the military, Chretien simply shut the investigation down, and its definitive report was never produced.

One result was that the Airborne Regiment was “disbanded”. In fact this was more a public relations ploy. The Airborne was reborn as Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), the Canadian Forces’ “elite” offensive unit.


Neo-Nazis are drawn to the military because the misogynist culture tolerates and even fosters their ideas. They know they will receive training in forms of violence that will be useful in pursuing their aims. And because the Forces rely on recruiting from the poor and poorly educated, they believe they can find recruits there.

Research in the US has shown that the incidence of far-right and racist politics is higher in male-dominated armed force and police. These groups foster a culture which elevates “camaraderie” among its initiates, and the inferiority of outsiders. Racism is endemic.

Patrik Mathews will be singled out disciplined. He will probably be discharged from the Forces reserve. Military spokespeople and academic talking heads will argue that the Forces are no more racist or prone to fascist politics than the general population. If there is a kernel of truth to this, it is not reassuring. 

But it ignores the essence of Nazi ideas and activities: violence. There is a reason why Nazis join, and recruit from, the military instead of glee clubs.

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