Rear admiral John Newton speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the Halifax Dockyards.
The Proud Boys have shamed Canada’s military.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, rear admiral John Newton apologized
for the behaviour of Armed Forces members who disrupted an Indigenous protest on Canada Day.
“I’ll stand here in front of you and apologize
to the Aboriginal community, to anybody, the entire public community,” Newton said. “We can do better as a system.”
Four of the men are members of the Royal Canadian Navy. One is a member of the Army. All of the men are now facing administrative and military police disciplinary action because of this past weekend’s incident.
The self-described “Proud Boys” showed up to Cornwallis Park on Canada Day
, Red Ensign flag in hand, to disrupt an Indigenous ceremony that was being held to commemorate the genocide of First Nations peoples.
Newton says he was made aware of the incident by those who contacted him directly over social media, as well as from the outcry of his Indigenous friends and fellow Armed Forces members.
The head of the Navy on the east coast says he had a “one-way conversation” with the men, during which he told them the Armed Forces was taking the matter very seriously.
“I looked each and every one of them in the eye...and I told them what would happen to them.”
Although Newton says the men have a right to their beliefs, those ideologies have to get “parked” when you join a bigger organization
like the military.
“I just told the young people that they had crossed a line, where their personal beliefs...got into the public domain,” he said. “For that, they will have to face the consequences.”
The Armed Forces members could be looking at a military police investigation to determine if their affiliation with the far-right extremist group poses a security risk to operations.
The Proud Boys were founded by VICE Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes as a masturbation-abstaining, militant right-wing fraternity that praises "Western chauvanist
" values. As Coast columnist Chris Parsons wrote this morning
“Their attempts at humour and freshmen understanding of intellectual history are childish and boring and they’re more of an annoyance than truly offensive...[but] the danger lies in formations like the Proud Boys using irony to normalize
right-wing street politics, using irony to cover truly dangerous political positions and recruiting teenage jokesters into a fascist milieu where more extreme and less cowardly organizations
Whatever the Proud Boys represent, Newton says their values run counter to those of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We all should not be polarized
in our thinking,” the rear admiral said while praising the military's emphasis on inclusion and diversity.
Tuesday marks the second apology Newton has had to make in recent weeks due to Navy members disrespecting First Nations peoples. In late May, Newton apologized
during a graduation ceremony for participants in the Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal entry
program on the HMCS Fredericton for a sailor who two weeks earlier had made a “war cry.”
Newton says he hasn’t spoken directly with local Indigenous leaders about the Proud Boys,
and isn’t sure if they’ll be consulted for any disciplinary matters. He remains hopeful the men involved can learn from their mistakes and, given time, sincerely apologize
to the public themselves.
National Defence minister
Harjit Sajjan has also issued a statement about the Proud Boys on Facebook.
“To members of Halifax’s Mi’kmaq community and to Chief Grizzly Mamma, I am sorry for the pain this incident has caused,” Sajjan writes. “These disrespectful actions do not represent the Canadian Armed Forces members I serve as Minister of National Defence.”