Last week, four Canadian Forces members who disrupted a Mi’kmaw ceremony in Halifax on Canada Day resumed their regular duties.
A fifth member has since voluntarily left the military, a move that was apparently unrelated to the Canada Day incident. No charges were laid against the remaining four, who claim to be members of a group called the Proud Boys. Instead, they have been placed on probation for a move that Rear-Admiral John Newton called “monumentally poor judgment.”
News of the Halifax incident has been swallowed up somewhat by bigger incidents, but like Charlottesville in the U.S. these Proud Boys were staging a counter-protest against a group of Indigenous activists who were conducting a ceremony near the statue of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis, who established the policy of genocide against the Mi’kmaq people.
The Proud Boys are a right wing group espousing white supremacist views, though they claim not to. Along with calling themselves “Western Chauvinists” and using mottos like “We cherish free speech” and “We love our guns,” becoming a Proud Boy includes taking a beating from other proud boys while naming five breakfast cereals.
Are these are the type of people that the Canadian Forces deems acceptable? The fact that the military feels probation is enough punishment is a sad testament to a lack of understanding of how serious and wrong their actions were.
The Armed Forces should be the epitome of Canadian ideals, both those ensconsed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our general values of fair play and the desire to create a just society. These five men showed by their actions and membership in this racist group that they don’t share those ideals; they may be remorseful about their actions, but doubtless not about their beliefs.
By not taking action, the Armed Forces has tacitly supported their beliefs. Now that is “monumentally poor judgment.”