Military's response to 'Proud Boys' clash at Mi'kmaq protest is 'a great step forward': activist
Published Wednesday, July 5, 2017 2:33PM EDT
The Canadian Armed Forces’ swift condemnation of its members who disrupted an Indigenous protest in Halifax is “a really great step forward,” says a Mi’kmaq activist and poet who witnessed the incident.
Rebecca Thomas said she and other people at the Canada Day demonstration were “nervous” when the men identifying themselves as members of the “Proud Boys,” a U.S.-based ultra-conservative fraternity-like group, showed up.
“To see this group of young men show up, completely unabashed in what they were doing, it’s definitely nerve wracking,” Thomas told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
As people gathered to mark the mistreatment of the Mi'kmaq people under Halifax’s controversial founder Edward Cornwallis, a group of men dressed in matching black and yellow polo-style shirts approached the Indigenous demonstrators and debated their claim to the land on which the protest was held.
Five men captured on video at the event were identified as Canadian Armed Forces members. They have since been removed from duty and training while the military conducts an investigation into their conduct.
Canada’s top soldier has apologized to the Indigenous community, saying the men’s actions don’t represent the military.
"I detest any action by a Canadian Armed Forces member that is intended to show disrespect towards the very people and cultures we value in Canada," Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, said in a statement Tuesday.
"We are the nation's protectors, and any member of the Canadian Armed Forces who is not prepared to be the defender we need them to be will face severe consequences, including release from the Forces,” he said.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also said there will be consequences for military personnel who "express intolerance while in -- or out -- of uniform."
Thomas said the military’s response is “very hopeful to see,” but she wants to see “more community involvement” in how the men’s actions are dealt with.
“It’s one thing to discipline somebody within a system that is very familiar to them and it’s another to have them face Indigenous communities’ restorative justice process and for them to really understand why what they did was wrong,” she said.
With files from The Canadian Press