CDS statement on extremism and hateful conduct in the Armed Forces

General Jonathan J.H. Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff. Photo: Corporal Anthony Laviolette

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On Thursday, August 22, 2019, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance participated in a media scrum following the Military Personnel Command Change of Command Ceremony. In his statement, General Vance addressed recent concerns about extremism and hateful conduct within the Canadian Armed Forces:

What I want to do is ensure that you heard very clearly what I said in my Change of Command address pertaining to extremism and hateful conduct in the Armed Forces. Just to reprise that a little bit, we are at the beginning of a journey. We’re going to have to take steps appropriate to the enormity and the scale of the challenge to rid ourselves of anybody who acts on hateful conduct in the Armed Forces. We’re at the early stages of that. And I’ve issued initial guidance, I’ve had discussions, and I assure you that we will take this as seriously as Canadians would expect us to take it. But it’s going to take some time for us to think about how to do it right. We’ve learned a lot about how to grapple with institutional challenges as we went through Operation Honour. We learned a lot. We’ve got to take those lessons, we’ve got to understand how to make this right and how to get it right the first time. So that’s point number one I wish to make.

Number two, as I said in the speech, the Armed Forces is not a pathway for people to practice their vile ideology. This is not a playground for people to learn to do something that they want to do after the Armed Forces. We’re a serious institution that do serious things to protect Canadians, protect this country, protect our way of life. We are not a place for sick hobbyists to practice their vile ideology, and we won’t stand for it. We will react. And where we can be proactive, we will be. But I assure you we will react.

The last point I’d like to make is on the current situation with regard to Master Corporal Mathews. I want you to know that this was a signal we did not miss. The Canadian Forces National Counterintelligence Unit had already begun to deal with him by the time that story broke. He underwent his first contact with the chain of command in April. I’m happy to say we didn’t miss a signal. Now, perhaps we miss other signals, and perhaps we need to learn more and how to have the chain of command respond better. We’ll look at all of it. But I can assure you the Canadian Forces National Counterintelligence Unit was on this, along with other security partners. It was not unknown and not missed. I’m not doing a victory lap on this. To tell you the truth, it saddens me that this has even happened. But I am grateful for the great men and women who do the counterintelligence work to protect us against terrorism, sabotage, extremism, of which Master Corporal Mathews falls into.



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