Canada's Defence Minister Meets with FSWC, Commits to Reforms to Confront White Supremacy and Extremism in the Armed Forces

August 26, 2020

Media Statement

Toronto (August 26, 2020) - During a Zoom meeting today with Rabbi Meyer H. May, Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, Director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center's (FSWC) Campaign Against Antisemitism, to discuss the organization's concerns over white supremacists and other extremists in the armed forces, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, expressed his commitment to reviewing the Canadian Armed Forces' procedures for responding to hate within its ranks and creating long-term reform to ensure there is zero tolerance for white supremacy or other forms of extremism in the military.

Today's meeting came one month after FSWC sent a letter to the defence minister demanding an investigation into the Royal Canadian Navy's decision to reinstate a Calgary-based sailor with neo-Nazi ties.

During the meeting, Rabbi May and Kirzner-Roberts outlined numerous proposals to Minister Sajjan, including creating a military body that proactively investigates potential cases of white supremacist activity in the military; introducing a new policy that requires alleged cases of white supremacist activity to be immediately sent to military police or RCMP and only be subject to administrative/disciplinary action once police have investigated and determined whether criminal charges are necessary; and ensuring anyone found guilty of participating in white supremacist activity is released immediately from the military in addition to facing any applicable criminal charges.

Minister Sajjan shared with Rabbi May and Kirzner-Roberts his longstanding concerns about structural racism and antisemitism in the armed forces and that it is a priority for him to address these issues in a meaningful and lasting way.

"We were very impressed by Minister Sajjan's clear and unequivocal commitment to bringing about structural changes and reforms in the armed forces to ensure there will be no tolerance for white supremacist and extremist members as well as no room for any forms of hate," said Rabbi May.

“A clear message must be sent to all Canadians, including our diverse communities within and outside the armed forces, that white supremacists will not be tolerated under any circumstances in our military," said Kirzner-Roberts,  "The mandate of the Canadian Armed Forces is to protect Canadians, including our rights and freedoms, and maintain peace at home and abroad. The views of white supremacists and other extremists do not align with this mandate."

Two weeks ago, FSWC also met with the Navy's commander, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, who has been undertaking a "command-level review" of the Navy's investigation into the sailor's actions and decision to reinstate him to ensure the Navy "handled this matter appropriately and in accordance with the latest Departmental guidance on hateful conduct."

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