January 18th, 2021

Canada’s outgoing military commander sounds alarm over threat of xenophobia


By The Canadian Press on January 13, 2021.

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – The outgoing commander of the Canadian Armed Forces is sounding the alarm over the re-emergence of xenophobia in Canada and elsewhere, describing it as a destabilizing force that has sparked many wars in the past.

Gen. Jonathan Vance made the comments in one of his final interviews as Canada’s chief of the defence staff before turning command of the military over to Vice-Admiral Art McDonald on Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said one of McDonald’s top priorities in the job will be rooting extremism and systemic racism from the ranks of the military, which has been battered by revelations of some members’ links to right-wing groups.

Vance says he realized the military had a problem in July 2017, when several Royal Canadian Navy sailors who were members of the right-wing Proud Boys group were caught on video interrupting a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax.

Vance says the incident coincided with a growing realization that xenophobia was on the rise and revealed gaps in how the Armed Forces deals with hate and racism.

While Vance says progress has been made in clamping down on such behaviour, he acknowledges more work will continue to be needed to ensure the Armed Forces reflects the values that Canadians expect.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021.

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