MONTREAL (May. 18)
Reacting to news reports that neo-Nazis have infiltrated the Canadian army, the government has indicated it will act to weed racists out of the military.
The allegations against the army were made most recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. program “Prime Time News,” which reported that a number of Canadian military personnel were affiliated with organized neo-Nazi groups.
Canadian Justice Minister Kim Campbell said she would undertake “a review of the policies of the Department of National Defense, particularly the policies of recruiting.
“I believe it is totally inconsistent for members of the Canadian armed forces to belong to groups which profess (racist) attitudes.”
However, officials appeared unsure about exactly how to accomplish the goal of eliminating white supremacists and neo-Nazis from the army.
Initial signs of trouble in the military ranks came in March when a surgeon stationed in Somalia, Dr. Barry Armstrong, wrote a letter to his wife alleging that a Somali man was murdered by Canadian soldiers for racist reasons.
The Canadian Airborne Regiment has members there as part of a peacekeeping force sent in to stabilize the situation in the region.
One member of the contingent, Cpl. Matt McKay, was seen in a photograph published last year in a Winnipeg newspaper dressed in an Adolf Hitler T-shirt, standing underneath a swastika and giving a Nazi salute. The photo was shot three years ago at McKay’s army barracks in Winnipeg.
Campbell, currently the front-runner in the race to succeed Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as leader of the Conservative Party, was accused of covering up the story of the slain Somali at the time.
MERELY ‘A YOUTHFUL FOLLY’?
In Winnipeg last week,’ Campbell created another stir when she said she was comfortable with McKay remaining in Somalia as part of the force, despite his past support for the Ku Klux Klan.
“He described his involvement in the KKK as a youthful folly,” Campbell said. “And his commanding officers did inquire into it and were satisfied that this was not the sort of attitude that he was bringing into the service.”
Opposition critics were outraged and demanded McKay’s immediate recall. “There are millions of Canadians whose families, whose relatives and whose loved ones died under the banner of the swastika,” said Liberal member of Parliament Brian Tobin.
“When a swastika is hung, I don’t regard it as a childish or youthful prank. I regard it as a terribly upsetting incident,” said Tobin.
The Canadian Jewish Congress was equally disturbed. Deeming the military’s apparent consent of white supremacist activity among its members “frightening and unacceptable,” CJC President Irving Abella demanded that Campbell “immediately remove and recall from active service any suspected white supremacists, pending the findings of the called-for government inquiry.”
Hal Joffe, co-chairman of CJC’s National Community Relations Committee, said from Calgary, “It is inconceivable that white supremacists could show the level of respect of the Somali population that their mission demands and which the Canadian public expects.”
He also noted that Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists and other members of certain religious groups have been exempted from “certain peacekeeping duties or aspects of these duties in the recent past.”
During the Persian Gulf War, a Jewish serviceman was turned down for a position as an aide to the commander of Canada’s contingent stationed in the Arab emirate of Qatar.