Sol­diers dis­ci­plined over al­le­ga­tions they catered sur­plus store to racists

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - GLORIA GALLOWAY

The Cana­dian mil­i­tary has sus­pended four of its ac­tive mem­bers as it looks into al­le­ga­tions that they are run­ning an on­line army-sur­plus store cater­ing to white su­prem­a­cists.

The Cana­dian Forces said in a state­ment on Fri­day that, as of Wed­nes­day of this week, all of the sol­diers who are be­hind Fire­force Ven­tures, a Cal­gary-based op­er­a­tion that sells the clothes and mem­o­ra­bilia of for­eign mil­i­taries, have been “re­lieved from the per­for­mance of their du­ties” pend­ing the out­come of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The sus­pended men in­clude re­servists Henry Lung, Ryan Jor­gen­son and W. Taylor, as well as Kyle Porter, who is a full-time mem­ber of the mil­i­tary. All are sta­tioned in Al­berta.

“This de­ci­sive ac­tion is nec­es­sary due to the sever­ity of the al­le­ga­tions and the po­ten­tial im­pact on unit morale and co­he­sive­ness,” the mil­i­tary said in the state­ment. “Racist con­duct, be it through words or ac­tions, is com­pletely in­com­pat­i­ble with our val­ues and cul­ture.”

While Fire­force Ven­tures sells mil­i­tary clothes from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent coun­tries in­clud­ing Ger­many, Swe­den, Is­rael and Rus­sia, it spe­cial­izes in mer­chan­dise re­lated to the short-lived and white-ruled state of Rhode­sia, which is now Zim­babwe.

Fire­force’s web­site says it was “founded by a few guys from Canada who ini­tially just wanted to get their hands on some Rhode­sian brush­stroke cam­ou­flage.”

But Fire­force was a mil­i­tary tac­tic used by the Rhode­sian se­cu­rity forces dur­ing the Rhode­sian Bush Wars in which the govern­ment tried to sup­press the black-led mili­tias and main­tain a seg­re­ga­tion­ist state.

And, in re­cent years, Rhode­sia has be­come a sym­bol of the white-su­prem­a­cist move­ment in the United States. Dy­lann Roof, who killed nine black peo­ple in a racially mo­ti­vated at­tack on a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, had been pho­tographed with a Rhode­sian flag on his jacket.

A dis­claimer on the site says Fire­force does not at­tempt to make any po­lit­i­cal or racial state­ments with its prod­ucts and it re­serves the right to refuse sales to cus­tomers who are mem­bers of an iden­ti­fi­able hate group.

When the Cana­dian Forces learned in April that Pri­vate Lung and Cor­po­ral Taylor were in­volved in the on­line sur­plus store, it con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and con­cluded that its code of ethics had not been breached and the two men were merely op­er­at­ing a le­gal busi­ness dur­ing their civil­ian hours.

But, in late Oc­to­ber, the mil­i­tary was in­formed by Ric­o­chet, an on­line me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion, that Pte. Lung had al­legedly par­tic­i­pated in a pod­cast that holds white-su­prem­a­cist views. That prompted an ad­di­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Cana­dian Forces Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice as well as an in­ter­nal sum­mary in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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