Four of the five Canadian Forces personnel who said they were members of the group the Proud Boys and disrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax on July 1 have been allowed to return to their regular duties.
Rear-Admiral John Newton said following the military police’s investigation no charges would be laid against the members, who served in both the army and navy.
He said one of the five members has since left the military of his own accord, a process that started before the Canada Day incident and was unrelated to it.
4 members on probation
Newton said the four remaining members are now being monitored and are on probation, which they must pass to continue with the military.
He wouldn’t spell out the exact disciplinary measures the members have faced but said they were removed from their workplaces and weren’t allowed to handle classified material. He said they are experiencing professional setbacks and personal consequences in their units and the community.
None of the men received demotions or were moved as a result of the harassing behaviour. Newton said being on probation limits what they can accomplish professionally.
Speaking to reporters, Newton defended the military’s actions, saying “this is not lightweight punishment. These non-commission members who are early in their career, have remorse.”
“This is a permanent mark on a member’s record,” he said Thursday afternoon. “Any trespass against those conditions, any repeat leads to their release from the Canadian Armed Forces, or it’s good potential depending on those circumstances, will lead to their release.”
Millions spent on training
Newton said he interviewed the men personally and “saw their acknowledgement, their desire, their intent to adhere to the conditions.”
He also said the four are expected to learn from their “monumentally poor judgment.”
“I don’t have a huge surplus of people in the Canadian Armed Forces who we’ve already spent million of dollars training, who in their mistake and in this learning … will work to restore the trust between them and the chain of command. They will be a good investment in the long term.”
Their side of the story ‘means nothing’
On Canada Day, dozens of people were gathered around the statue of Edward Cornwallis in downtown Halifax to mourn the atrocities committed against Indigenous people when a group of five men clad in black polo shirts approached.
The off-duty members were carrying a Canadian Red Ensign flag and announced they were members of “The Proud Boys, Maritime chapter.”
Cornwallis, a governor of Nova Scotia, was a military officer credited by the British for founding Halifax in 1749. Later that year, he issued a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq people. There has been ongoing debate over the use of his name on public parks, buildings and street signs.
“I have heard [the men’s] side of a story,” Newton said. “It means nothing. What was perceived by the public is what matters …. No matter what they thought they were doing, or what was going to occur, it was not what occurred, and that they have to bear responsibility for, and they do.”
Had been suspended
Following the incident, five members were relieved of their duties and assigned other jobs during the military investigation into their conduct.
The defence minister and Canada’s top general denounced their behaviour.
At the time, Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, called their actions “deplorable” and apologized to Canada’s Indigenous people for the “behaviour of a few.”
Met with Mi’kmaw adviser
The investigation was completed in mid-August, but the military didn’t release the results until Thursday.
Newton made the announcement on his last full day in the position as the head of the navy on the East Coast.
Since the Canada Day incident, Newton said he met with Chief Grizzly Mama and consulted with a Mi’kmaw adviser to discuss increasing the work the military does with Indigenous communities, including recruitment efforts.