At least one former member of Canada’s military is a known member of a far right group that promotes violence and terrorism.
Former Canadian Forces reservist and trained combat engineer Patrik Mathews was arrested in the United States Jan. 16, 2020 after fleeing Canada following reporting by Ryan Thorpe of the Winnipeg Free Press.
He exposed Mathews as a member of The Base.
APTN Investigates spoke with Thorpe and he said Canadians should be concerned, especially given Mathews’ training.
“I’ve spoken to combat engineers through my reporting,” he says. “And they say that explosives work is the bread and butter of the field. So in addition to having firearms training, knowledge of military tactics, he also knew how to construct and detonate explosives.”
Barbara Perry of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism says the number of hate groups are on the rise.
She estimates there are around 300 active far right groups in Canada based on current research.
A study done in 2015 found about 100 hate groups.
Perry says military training is sought after in these groups.
“So we’ve seen with “Three Percenters” for example, how heavily armed they are,” she says. “So heavily armed, able to use them, trained to use them and tinged with xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment. That’s a really dangerous combination.”
It isn’t known how many active police officers and soldiers are in these extremist groups, but groups like The Base want to see a race war that results in a “white ethno-state”.
The RCMP says it needs criminal activity to investigate.
“The RCMP does not investigate movements or ideologies, but will investigate the criminal activity of any individuals who threaten the safety and security of Canadians,” says Cpl. Caroline Duval.
If it’s only ideology then it is free speech according to many, but Perry sees more.
“We have thick and visible lines around hate speech,” she says. “And much of what we hear in these sorts of hate speech rallies I think crosses that line. And they’re not held accountable.”
It is a criminal offence to promote hatred according to section 319(2) of the Criminal Code.
It says, “Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty.”
Perry says the standards to levy charges can be onerous, nonetheless getting a conviction.
“I think the legislation is limited because most of our legislation is around promotion of hatred,” she says. “Unless you say, I want to go out an kill all Jews, police aren’t going to touch it.”
And the police cannot lay charges for this crime with approval from higher up.
“So there’s an additional stumbling point, “ Perry says. “The burden of proof is really high. These are also one of the very few kinds of offences that have to go to the Attorney General’s office for permission to proceed as well.”