Army investigation into Ranger unit reveals some members ‘vulnerable’ to extremism

Army investigation into Ranger unit reveals some members ‘vulnerable’ to extremism

A Canadian military investigation into a struggling reserve unit at the center of allegations of right-wing extremism identified several members as “vulnerable” and “at risk” of being drawn into “a hate ideology.”

A partially redacted copy of the full investigation findings was viewed recently by CBC News.

Although he recognized some disturbing signs, Major-General. Derek A. Macaulay – who was until recently the Acting Army Commander – insisted that overall 4th Canadian Ranger Group (4 CRPG) does not have a problem with extremism. .

“What we are seeing, based on the summary investigation and the unit command investigation, is that there have been indications of some right-wing extremism, but there is no That’s no problem, ”Macaulay told CBC News in a recent interview, before his transfer to US Central Command in Florida.

“However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to continue our education … we also need to continue to encourage those who see right-wing extremism to come forward. and to let We know. “

The investigation did not extend to examining social media accounts belonging to members of the Ranger unit.

An anti-hate group questions the effectiveness of the investigation, saying most right-wing organizations and their supporters are rallying online.

A Facebook photo of Erik Myggland on August 24, 2019 wearing a Three Percenter patch (Facebook / CBC News)

The special investigation was ordered last fall after a CBC News investigation found that two former Rangers from the Valemount, B.C., Patrol – Erik and Jodi Myggland – had been members of two organizations of far right, the Three Percent movement and the soldiers. of Odin.

A one-page summary of the military review, obtained by CBC News early last month, said the leadership of the Ranger group – which encompasses British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Manitoba – failed to act quickly when concerns were raised.

The full investigation report shows that, aside from the Mygglands case, investigators were concerned about the existence of two other patrols in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“ Lean ” towards a “ hate ideology ”

In one patrol, the report said, personal feuds had led to charges of a racially-based smear campaign. The bad blood in that patrol was not linked to hate groups but was of sufficient concern that the investigator recommended that the chain of command intervene, according to the report. The problems of the second patrol were not specified but were cited as a source of concern for the armed forces.

The investigation team “identified 4 vulnerable and at-risk CRPG members who may lean towards a hate ideology and who exhibit disturbing behavior which may indicate an escalation of the conduct identified in the spectrum of hateful behavior”, said the report, which failed to identify members considered “vulnerable.”

The report also briefly touches on the case of another member of 4th Canadian Ranger Group: Corey Hurren, Master Corporal in Swan River, Man., On patrol who stormed the gates of Rideau Hall with loaded guns. and several rounds of ammunition in July. 2, 2020. Since the matter was under an RCMP investigation last fall, the military investigation was unable to examine Hurren or his activities.

According to an agreed statement of facts read to the court, Hurren wanted to arrest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau due to the federal government’s pandemic restrictions and his ban on assault-type firearms. He was recently sentenced to six years in prison, minus one year served.

Hurren had posted material related to QAnon’s conspiracy theory subculture online before his arrest, but previously had no known direct connections to far-right groups. In the months following the Rideau Hall incident, Hurren has been praised online by some extreme organizations.

The investigation report only acknowledged that Hurren was a member of 4th Canadian Ranger Group. Macaulay said there was no connection between Hurren and the actions of the Mygglands.

“I think in this case you are dealing with two separate incidents but both from the same patrol group,” he said.

Check out social media, says anti-hate group

Evan Balgord of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said military investigators should have taken a closer look at places where right-wing extremists congregate online.

“Any investigation that has not started with a review of an individual member’s social media account[s] is entirely deficient, ”said Balgord.

“Even just kind of a shallow start. We’re not saying they have to befriend these people and sneak into their private posts and do that kind of deep dive. Just type in their names on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and take a quick peek. “

Macaulay disagreed, saying there were limits to what the military can do without a complaint or expression of concern pointing to an individual member’s online post.

“In the Canadian Army, we take the privacy of our soldiers very seriously,” he said.

“That said, what we do in the Canadian Army is that if we are made aware of social media that is against our ethics, our values, our conduct and in the vein of hateful behavior, we let’s act accordingly. But we don’t. get into the habit of combing through all social media accounts and if we did, it would require legal advice. “

Retired Lt. Col. Rory Fowler, a military lawyer now in private practice, said there were relatively few constraints on the military’s ability to view posts on its members’ open-source social media, as long as they do not enter the territory. an undercover investigation.

“This information is publicly available,” he said. “What may have triggered their concern is the general and broad view that the Canadian Forces do not conduct intelligence operations against Canadian citizens.”

In some respects, the military’s investigation of 4 CRPG stumbled across a jurisdictional line.

It is up to the counterintelligence branch of the Canadian Forces – not the military itself – to formally and regularly investigate threats to the force, including reports of right-wing extremism. This is what the counterintelligence branch did in the case of Erik Myggland, who was discharged from the military in March after a lengthy release process.

The report says that in its investigation of 4 CRPG, the military looked at how the chain of command responded to reports of right-wing extremism in the ranks, as well as the climate and administration. within the unit.

The investigation found that the leadership of 4 CRPG had not reacted quickly enough to deal with the Mygglands activities when police reported it in London, Ont. in 2017.

Last fall, senior defense sources also told CBC News that separate concerns about the couple had been raised by a foreign intelligence service through the Five Eyes intelligence exchange alliance, which includes Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The current commander of 4th Ranger Group will be replaced in June.

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre listens to speakers during a Canadian Army change of command parade on Parliament Hill Tuesday August 20, 2019 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

The former army commander and current acting chief of the defense staff, the lieutenant-general. Wayne Eyre, issued specific instructions last fall directing troops to report incidents of racism and discrimination. He warned that failure to do so would make any spectator “an accomplice.”

But part-time and reservist members can only be held accountable for what they say on social media while on duty – not what they post as private citizens.

Either way, Macaulay said, the military expects some decorum.

“They represent Canada and their personal actions reflect Canada,” he said. “And so they have to understand that everything they do is a reflection of the organization, a reflection of the military and a reflection of Canadians.”

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