Canadian Armed Forces Members Face Expulsion Over 'Alt-Right' Protest

Screengrab of footage showing members of the Proud Boys alt-right group confronting protesters at a Canada Day demonstration at a statue of Admiral Cornwallis in Halifax. screengrab

Five members of the Canadian Armed Forces who staged an alt-right counter-protest to a demonstration of indigenous activists in eastern Canada face expulsion from the military.

On Saturday, the men, wearing black polo shirts and calling themselves the Proud Boys, confronted First Nations and other activists at a Canada Day protest at the statue of Admiral Cornwallis in Halifax, Novia Scotia.

A former British governor of Nova Scotia credited with founding Halifax in 1749, Cornwallis issued a bounty for the scalps of Native Americans and remains a controversial figure in the province. Activists have demanded the removal of his name from public buildings and monuments.

At the counter-protest, the Proud Boys members carried a Red Ensign flag, the predecessor of the current Canadian maple leaf flag, and accused the protesters of disrespecting Cornwallis. Several were subsequently confirmed to be Canadian Armed Forces members.

General Jonathan Vance, chief of defense staff, said in a statement to CBC Tuesday night that the men involved in the protest had been removed from training and duties as the military reviews the case.

"Their future in the military is certainly in doubt," he said.

"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," said General Vance.

On its social media page, the Proud Boys describes itself as a "fraternal organization of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world." It has been described as the "military arm of the Alt-Right," a movement of white nationalists and anti-establishment conservatives.

Members must reportedly undergo frat-style violent initiations, and have clashed with anti-fascist group members at protests. The group, which declares itself as anti-racism on its Facebook page, describes Cornwallis as its "Proud Boy of the Month." In a post on Wednesday, it thanks the First Nations leader at Saturday's protest for "making us famous," and links to a report on the protest.

The group was started last year by Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice magazine turned right-wing provocateur.

A member of the group of Proud Boys protesters, Dave Elridge, told CBC that the group believed the protest was anti-Canada, and left soon after learning this was not the case.

When contacted by Newsweek, the Proud Boys issued the following statement: "We are a multi-racial, inclusive fraternal organization. We have members from all races, religions and sexuality. We are not racists. We are not white supremacists. We do not speak to the media because you are fake news, you lie and you misrepresent facts to fit a factually incorrect narrative. If you refer to us as racists, we will not hesitate in considering legal action."

After the protest, Mi'kmaq chief Grizzly Mama shaved her head and placed her locks at the foot of the Cornwallis statue, to symbolize the scalping of Native Americans under the orders of Cornwallis.