OTTAWA — Canada’s public safety minister says he has raised concerns with top law enforcement officials about white supremacists and other extremist groups recruiting local and federal police officers to their causes.
Bill Blair told reporters Friday he has raised those concerns directly with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and local police chiefs across the country. It is believed to be the first time a senior Canadian official has acknowledged there could be extremists within police ranks.
Blair said he has “great confidence that the overwhelming majority” of police officers reject extremist ideology.
“But unfortunately we know that there are some that may be attracted to it, and that is a concern,” he said.
“And I think (it is) the source of action both in law enforcement and in the Canadian military to make sure we scrub the hatred from the ranks. It has no place certainly in policing or in the Canadian military.”
Infiltration of law enforcement, security agencies and the military has long been a goal of militant far-right, white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations. Membership in those institutions gives extremists access to training, tactics and potentially even weaponry to further their violent causes.
The phenomenon has been well documented in the United States, as well as in countries like Germany, where far-right extremism appears to be on the rise.
Comparatively little is known about extremist infiltration in Canadian law enforcement, which makes Blair’s admission Friday “stunning,” according to extremism researcher Barbara Perry.
“My reaction is, ‘Wow.’ I’m stunned that they’ve admitted it,” said Perry, a professor at Ontario Tech University and one of Canada’s leading experts on far-right extremism.
“That’s got to be something happening internally, because there’s nobody on the outside that has really looked at this in any detail.”
Perry has been commissioned by the Department of National Defence to research white nationalism and extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces. The CAF’s branches have all recently issued orders to crack down on “hateful conduct” within the ranks, after years of media reports that exposed members with ties to extremist groups.
But Perry said she hasn’t heard anything — either from other academics or from the government — of similar probes into extremism and policing in Canada.
ABC News reported in March that a four-year FBI investigation concluded that white supremacists “very likely seek affiliation” with police and the U.S. military to further their ideologies. Citing an internal FBI intelligence assessment issued in February — one month after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building — the network reported that the FBI’s San Antonio office expected racially motivated violent extremists would be able to have careers in the military and law enforcement, and “almost certainly will gain access to non-public tradecraft and information.”
The FBI report says the new generation of extremists has been influenced by “Siege,” a publication by American neo-Nazi James Mason that advocates for lone-wolf attacks against U.S. government targets to bring about societal collapse and a race war.
On Friday, Blair announced that Mason — along with a neo-Nazi organization, a far-right militia group, and an Islamic State affiliate — would be added to Canada’s list of prohibited terrorist entities.
The other groups included the Aryan Strikeforce, an international neo-Nazi organization the Southern Poverty Law Center suggested has been “faltering” over the last year; the Three Percenters, a quasi-militia group that provides “security” at Canadian far-right rallies; and an ISIS affiliate in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Public Safety Canada officials said the listings — which make it illegal to participate in or contribute to these groups — send a “strong message that Canada will not tolerate this type of activity and will do everything in its power to counter the ongoing threat to Canada’s national security and its citizens.”
By Alex BoutilierOttawa Bureau