Military panel urged to include anti-Semitism in its focus

The Department of National Defence (DND) says there is no need to include anti-Semitism specifically as a focus of its advisory panel on racism.

Established late last year by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination is tasked with examining “systemic racism, discrimination with a focus on anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, LGBTQ2 prejudice, gender bias and white supremacy” in the Canadian Armed Forces.

In a front-page article in the Ottawa Citizen on June 7, Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, was quoted as saying the absence of anti-Semitism in the panel’s focus is “a serious omission.”

Said Farber: “Given that Jews are usually the No. 1 target of extremists, I find it odd that anti-Semitism has not been made part of what they are looking at.”

He said he met with members of the advisory panel recently, and urged them “to take a much closer look at what they are doing.”

But DND said there’s no need for that.

The four members of the panel “are well-equipped to examine various forms of prejudice, including anti-Semitism,” DND spokesperson Todd Lane told The CJN via email. “We will continue to support the panel’s important work and look forward to reviewing its final report and any interim advice.”

Asked whether the panel would expand its mandate to include anti-Semitism or whether it is satisfied that anti-Semitism comes under the rubric of white supremacy, Lane replied that anti-Semitism “is already included in the panel’s mandate to look into racism and discrimination in all their forms.”

Hateful and discriminatory beliefs, including anti-Semitism, “have no place in the Canadian Armed Forces,” Lane stated. “Our message is clear to anyone who seeks to use their role in the CAF to propagate hateful beliefs: We will find you, and you will be dealt with.”

Farber was still unimpressed.

“It would be much better” for the department “to admit it made an error in not listing the victim group most often targeted by white supremacy – Jews,” he told The CJN. “It’s important for the Jewish community and Canadians in general to know that this advisory panel is focusing as much on anti-Semitism as (it is) on the other stated forms of hate and discrimination.”

Lane said the panel includes a “diverse” group who “have lived experiences with anti-Semitism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, misogyny, and other forms of hate.”

The panel is comprised of: Capt. (Ret’d) D.L. (Door) Gibson; Maj. (Ret’d) Sandra Perron; Sgt. (Ret’d) Derek Montour; and Major-General (Ret’d) E.S. (Ed) Fitch, described in the DND statement as “a prominent member of Canada’s Jewish community.”

There have been cases of Armed Forces members openly involved in neo-Nazi organizations.

In 2019, Manitoba reservist Patrik Mathews was accused of recruiting for The Base, a neo-Nazi group. He was later arrested in the United States on firearms charges. In April, Mathews faced new charges in what was described as the ritual beheading of an animal at a paramilitary training camp in Georgia.

Late last year, the Armed Forces said it would release reservist Cpl. Erik Myggland for his involvement in the far-right groups Soldiers of Odin and the Three Percent survivalist militia.

And earlier this year, the Royal Canadian Navy said it would release Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic, who was found to be a supporter of the neo-Nazi terrorist organization Blood & Honour. Mihajlovic, who had earlier been reinstated after saying he no longer held racist views, was found to have used the neo-Nazi forum Iron March to call for a race war and offer to sell military weapons to white supremacists.

As Farber sees it, anti-Semitism animates white supremacy. “You can’t root out white supremacy on its own without understanding and identifying what feeds it—anti-Semitism.”

Identifying white supremacists before they enter the Forces would do two important things, he said. “It would give a clear message that anti-Semitism, like anti-Black racism, homophobia (and) Islamophobia, will be rooted out of the CAF, and it will protect Jewish service members, as well as Canadian Jews.

“The thought of anti-Semites being trained in military tactics by the CAF is mind-boggling.”

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