Politics

Sailor with white supremacist past to be let go by the navy

The navy is cutting ties with a Calgary reservist who at one time was the online administrator of neo-Nazi web site. Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic will be released from the military following a command level review, the commander of the navy has said.

Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was readmitted to navy after being suspended for links to neo-Nazi forum

Boris Mihajlovic, centre, who went by the alias Moonlord in the neo-Nazi forum Iron March, is promoted to leading seaman at the HMCS Tecumseh, a Navy Reserves division in Calgary. The photo, found on the division's Facebook page, was posted on April 2018, after Mihajlovic claimed to have left his extreme ideology behind. The Navy says it was not aware of his racist past until this year. (HMCS Tecumseh/Facebook)

The Royal Canadian Navy has reversed course and now intends to release a Calgary reservist who was identified by CBC News as the former administrator of a neo-Nazi forum.

The decision to sever ties with Sailor First Class Boris Mihajlovic was made following a command level review of his case and the decision by the leadership of the HMCS Tecumseh Naval Reserve base to readmit him.

In a statement circulated throughout the navy Tuesday afternoon, Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, the new commander of the maritime force, announced Mihajlovic's departure and reaffirmed the military's commitment to fighting hateful conduct.

In December 2019, a CBC News investigation identified Mihajlovic as Moonlord, one of the former administrators of Iron March, a notorious neo-Nazi hate forum that gave rise to the terror group Atomwaffen Division. 

The site was closed down in 2017.

Contacted at the time by CBC News, Mihajlovic said he regretted his actions and had turned his life around.

In the wake of the story, the reservist was suspended and sought counselling with a group that helps extremists recover, and volunteered with an immigrant support organization.

Mihajlovic was, however, readmitted to the navy last summer after a review and the officer in charge, Cmdr. Joseph Banke, said he believed in rehabilitation over retribution, and that it was time for the "member" to return to work.

'We need to do a better job': Baines

Some of his comments upset other sailors at the reserve unit and that's when the former commander of the navy, now the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Art McDonald instituted the command review of the decision to readmit Mihajlovic.

"During the conduct of this review, deficiencies were identified with respect to precision in the exchange of information," between the reserve unit and the military's career development branch, said Baines in his statement Tuesday.

The navy has faced criticism — both externally and internally — for readmitting Mihajlovic and for the way it handled the case.

Baines said it was treated with "procedural fairness" and followed all the relevant policies, but he acknowledged the criticism.

"I want to assure you all that concrete measures are being implemented to ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has the ability to appropriately handle cases pertaining to hateful conduct in the future," he said.

"We are also cognizant that we need to do a better job of addressing issues of systemic racism more holistically as an institution, and we are committed to doing so."

The message, which was sent to every naval installation and ship's company, said racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and discrimination exist and sailors need to "acknowledge this and commit to fixing it."

One human rights group that has been pushing for the navy to action reacted with relief to the decision.

"We commend the Navy and Canadian Armed Forces for finally coming to the decision to release this sailor," said Jaime Kirzner-Robert's, the policy director for Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies. 

"Military members who engage in hate activity bring shame upon our Armed Forces, our veterans and our country. There are real reasons for optimism that we have turned an important corner and that those who espouse hateful or extremist ideologies will find no sanctuary in our military."

About the Author

Murray Brewster

Defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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