Politics

Ranger unit failed to deal with extremist members, says army investigation report

A troubled Canadian military reserve unit failed to promptly address hateful conduct by two of its members who were associating with far-right extremist organizations, according to a military investigation report obtained by CBC News.

Report is sharply critical of how 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group was run

The army investigation of the Ranger unit was launched after CBC News revealed that Erik Myggland, a member of 4CRPG, had social media posts supporting the Sons of Odin and the Three Percenter groups. (Facebook/CBC News)

A troubled Canadian military reserve unit failed to promptly address hateful conduct by two of its members who were associating with far-right extremist organizations, according to a military investigation report obtained by CBC News.

It also found that the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4CRPG) failed to be proactive in dealing with unit members associating with extremist organizations.

CBC News obtained a two-page summary of the army investigation's findings and methodology, prepared for the chief of the defence staff, the deputy minister of defence and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. CBC News has independently verified the report as authentic.

The report says the presence of far-right sympathizers in the western-based Ranger group was modest; the investigation concluded it could only identify two members of the unit who had been associated with extremist organizations.

The names of those two members were blacked-out in the version of the report viewed by CBC News.

The summary report is dated Nov. 27, 2020

The investigation was launched last year after CBC News revealed that Eric Myggland, a member of 4CRPG, had openly posted support online for two far-right groups — the Soldiers of Odin and the Three Percent survivalist militia movement.

Members of the Three Percent movement were among those arrested in the wake of January's attack on the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

Myggland's posts included one that referred to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a "treasonous bastard" and others that expressed support for gun rights and were highly critical of the Liberal government's firearms legislation.

Myggland's ex-wife was also a member of 4CRPG. She acknowledged in an email exchange with CBC News last year that she briefly supported her ex-husband in his association with the two groups but quit them after seeing racist activity.

The summary of the army's investigation makes no reference to Master Cpl. Corey Hurren, the member of 4CRPG who was sentenced recently to six years in prison after he crashed his truck into the gates of Rideau Hall in July with loaded firearms and multiple rounds of ammunition.

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Hurren wanted to arrest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the federal government's COVID-19 restrictions and its ban on assault-style firearms.

Hurren, who served in Manitoba, was known to have subscribed to QAnon-based conspiracy theories.

Corey Hurren, who rammed his truck into the gates of Rideau Hall last summer, was also a member of 4CRPG. (Corey Hurren/LinkedIn)

In mid-December, Sajjan announced the creation of a four-member advisory panel to investigate incidents involving hate or racism in the Canadian military and to examine "systemic discrimination, unconscious bias (and) white supremacy."

"The uncomfortable truth is that racism and discrimination exist in this country and the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recognize that they are not exempt," Sajjan said in a media statement.

A few days after he received the report, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan set up an advisory panel on hateful conduct in the Canadian military. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He pointed to the recently assembled anti-racism advisory panel, saying it will help the military decide "what more can be done to eliminate these views" from the ranks.

While he didn't address the report's findings specifically, Sajjan said the Armed Forces "has already taken a number of steps to ensure greater engagement and oversight over the Canadian Rangers to ensure that all understand their obligations in upholding the values of the Canadian Armed Forces."

The summary report obtained by CBC criticizes the way 4CRPG handled the threat of far-right extremism in its ranks and makes several recommendations.

'Vulnerable' patrols

"4CRPG must initiate UDI's (unit disciplinary investigations) when allegations of Hateful Conduct incidents are brought to their attention," the authors of the report wrote, pointing out that the unit's leadership did not promptly address the two cases identified by the investigation.

The report also called for better training.

"Formal training must be provided to 4CRPG Staff and Canadian Rangers with regard to the Hateful Conduct Policies and Directives and be a priority for Patrols identified as vulnerable," the report says. "Control measures must be put in place to ensure all Canadian Rangers understand their obligations with regard to Hateful Conduct Policies and Directives."

The report does not define what could make a patrol "vulnerable".

While the unit informed its members about the Canadian Armed Forces' Hateful Conduct policy in an e-mail in July 2020, it needs to go further and develop "a set of socially and culturally relevant vignettes to complement the existing Army Hateful Conduct training package," the report said.

No 'hands on' system for weapons verification

The report's criticisms of 4CRPG's leadership are sharper.

The report found the unit conducted no formal training in the military's Code of Values and Ethics and had no formal promotion program for diversity and inclusion. It concluded there was no system in place for "hands on/eyes on" weapons verification by patrol commanders and said that patrol commanders were unable to find standard operating procedures.

The unit's administrators "are woefully lacking in up to date procedures and processes" and membership is "at a critically low level in both BC Coy [company] RI [Ranger Instructor] staff and all three COY ORs [Company Orderly Rooms]."

The investigation found one case of 4CRPG ordering "administrative/disciplinary measures related to an ethical incident." The report does not reveal the nature of the "ethical incident" or make any recommendations related to it.

In January, the military announced that Lt.-Col. Russ Meades, who had led 4CRPG for several years, would be replaced in June.

Myggland was ordered released by the army, but as of the end of March his release status remained unclear.

Although contacted multiple times by CBC News, Myggland has declined to answer questions. He did say in an email last fall that he believed the media coverage of his case had been biased.

Myggland did speak to his hometown publication, The Rocky Mountain Goat. In that interview he insisted that he had done nothing wrong, that he is not racist, that he left the two organizations after unsuccessfully trying to change them and was not being given credit for his years of community service.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said hateful conduct erodes unit cohesion and esprit de corps, and diminishes the military's standing in Canadian society.

"All aspects of the Summary Investigation into allegations of hateful conduct within 4CRPG are complete," said Dan LeBouthillier in a media statement.

"The findings have been accepted by the Canadian Army and the Canadian Armed Forces, while the Canadian Army is in the process of planning and implementation of the Summary Investigation report's recommendations."

Barbara Perry, director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, questions why the summary report doesn't indicate the investigation looked at the social media accounts of 4CRPG Rangers. (CBC)

Barbara Perry, director of Ontario Tech University's Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, said she wonders why the summary investigation report talks about conducting interviews but makes no reference to going through 4CRPG members' social media accounts.

"If they didn't look at social media, I would be shocked," she said. "And I would say that's not a fulsome investigation, given that this is where the movement lives ... online.

"You have to have a sense of where people are engaging, where your members are engaging with these groups. That would have been a starting point for me."

Perry, whose group has been hired by DND to work on hateful conduct and right wing extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces, said she was also surprised by the investigation's conclusion that only two members of 4CRPG had associated with extremist organizations.

"I'm hearing informally from other sources that there were a lot of folks engaged, whether it was formally engaged with groups or sympathetic or engaged online," she said. "Sometimes it's passive consumers rather than contributors."

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca

Murray Brewster can be reached at murray.brewster@cbc.ca

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Thompson

Senior Reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

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