This past February saw Canada’s first black captain command a Royal Canadian Navy ship as it sailed to West Africa. In March, the Canadian Forces’ Aboriginal Entry Program held it’s first graduation parade in Halifax.
Seeing a man or woman run off a ship into the arms of their same sex partner isn’t unusual anymore. Gay Pride flags are flown on bases across Canada and military members are encouraged to attend gay pride parades in uniform as they celebrate who they are.
The Minister of National Defence is a Sikh.
I’m not going to suggest the Navy has come a long way from what it was when I joined in 1981 because I wouldn’t know; I’m not a gay man on a ship or an indigenous woman sitting in a trench somewhere doing combat drills.
But in some ways, the Canadian Forces appears to have taken issues around harassment and racism seriously. A DND survey on harassment in the military indicates that more than 98 per cent of military members are aware that there is a harassment policy in place and 79 per cent recall having participated in harassment awareness training. That training may or may not have helped, but it most undoubtedly removes the chance of anyone in uniform pleading ignorance.
In 2012, the Canadian Forces issued an email in response to a story in the Ottawa Citizen about white supremacist groups infiltrating the military. The email notes, “The beliefs held by white supremacist groups are not compatible with the ethics and values of the CF.”
“The men and women of the Canadian Forces are held to high ethical standards and the Canadian Forces has a zero tolerance for white supremacist or otherwise racist behavior,” the email stated. “Any reports of members being associated with white supremacist groups would be thoroughly investigated.”
Sadly, there are still people who, for some reason, sign up despite having values that aren’t even close to reflecting those of the CF, let alone Canada. You can’t be in the Canadian military and belong to a white supremacist hate group. Period.
That’s not to say people aren’t doing it, they obviously are, it’s just that some are better at hiding it than others.
This past Canada Day five men in Halifax attempted to disrupt, antagonize, and ridicule an indigenous ceremony honouring missing and murdered indigenous women. The ceremony was held in Cornwallis Park. Cornwallis, as in the October 1749 Scalping Proclamation whereby he had the Crown pay a few dollars to anyone who hunted down, murdered, and scalped any Mi’kmaq man, woman, or child. That guy.
The ceremony was being conducted by descendants of the Mi’kmaq people Cornwallis tried to commit genocide against. They were standing by a statue of Cornwallis when the five men, wearing matching black shirts with yellow strips (the newest fad in skinhead right-wing goon attire), approached them singing “God Save the Queen” before reminding the First Nations people gathered that Canada is a British colony.
Think how those men and women felt hearing something like that given the history Canada has towards indigenous people? How utterly damn ignorant!
Some of the men gave their names. All five of them are now confirmed members of the Canadian Forces. They pissed off a lot of people who found out quite quickly who they are.
The five men have also identified themselves online as being members of a misogynist, anti-masturbation (I know right, wtf?) men’s club called the ‘Proud Boys.’ The Proud Boys identify as being pro-western (that’s the latest doublespeak for white supremacist) and chauvinistic (i.e. – they look down on and/or opening despise/hate women).
So long as the Canadian Forces is open to every person in this country who wants to serve, these men can’t be in those jobs. I guarantee their service records will show they’ve had all the training they’ll ever need to be better people. Whatever the reason, they’ve chosen not to be. That’s on them.
A long time ago at C.F.B. Halifax,, I stood at attention on parade in a drill shed while some Admiral announced women were going to be serving on ships and if anyone didn’t like it the CF would help them transition to civilian life as fast as possible. A lot of cowards were standing on that parade square that day. Men who stood there angry at this development and figured they’d just take that hate out on women later on down the road.
Orders mean nothing without leadership. We should have left that parade square terrified at the prospect of being a sexist asshole. Instead, it was left up to women to prove we were.
Women, First Nations People, POC, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, trans-gender people,… anyone who chooses to serve Canada often does so at great personal risk. They deserve better than to be in the field or on the seas with men like this.
They deserve to be in the military they signed up for.
A more important thing than five racists turning up at an anti-colonial ceremony is the ceremony itself. CBC coverage is here: Cornwallis protest held amid Canada Day celebrations.
If you can, please to donate to support the ongoing grassroots Mi’kmaq struggle against Alton Gas. Send an etransfer’s to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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