Military intelligence probes far-right activity in Canadian Ranger unit

The military’s counterintelligence branch took a close look at a pair of Canadian Rangers as early as four years ago over their involvement in far-right organizations, but the Department of National Defence (DND) allowed them to keep serving without interruption, CBC News has learned.

One of them, Erik Myggland, was interviewed by military intelligence officers within the last two years.

Posts and photos describing his support for two far-right groups — including one reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “treasonous bastard” — feature prominently in his social media accounts.

His former spouse Jodi Myggland, who was also a Ranger, was also on the radar of military counterintelligence, according to sources. It’s not clear whether she was interviewed.

The Mygglands belonged to the Valemount, B.C. patrol of the 4th Ranger Group. Corey Hurren — the 46-year-old Canadian Armed Forces member accused of uttering threats against the prime minister and crashing the gate at Rideau Hall with a loaded firearm July 2 — is also a member of the 4th Ranger Group. Hurren served in Manitoba and there is no evidence the three knew each other.

CBC News began an investigation of the 4th Ranger Group reserve unit after the Rideau Hall incident involving Hurren.

CBC’s investigation uncovered the Mygglands’ online support for the far-right Three Percenter movement and the Soldiers of Odin, along with a zealous culture of gun-rights rhetoric — and sometimes anti-government rhetoric — that has been left unchecked in an institution sworn to defend democratic principles.

Over the past 14 days, CBC News has requested comment from Erik Myggland through various social media accounts. 

He answered late on Aug. 17, saying he would have a response “within a day or two,” but has been silent ever since.

Myggland was still serving as a Ranger as of last week. A spokesman for the Department of National Defence said it was in the process of releasing him from the service.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he was apprised of the situation only a week ago, after CBC News started asking the department questions.

Watch: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan discusses DND plan to combat racism

Harjit Sajjan, minister of national defence, says the department will investigate not only the origin of the racist poster found at DND headquarters, but also how the incident was handled once it came to light. 1:02

Sajjan said the department has launched an investigation into how the case was handled and why Myggland wasn’t released sooner.

The Three Percenter movement is a far-right militia and paramilitary group with many offshoots that has been afflicted by infighting in recent years. Launched in the U.S. a dozen years ago, it has spread to Canada since.

Much of the Three Percenter ideology is built around gun ownership rights and survivalist training. The group claims not to be racist or to be associated with the white supremacy movement — but it has been described by experts as one the most dangerous of the far-right groups operating in Canada.

The Soldiers of Odin, meanwhile, is an anti-immigrant and white supremacist group founded in Kemi, Finland in October 2015, which has since spread to Europe and North America. Its first Canadian chapter was organized in Gimli, Manitoba; after an initial backlash, the group has attempted to rebrand itself as a community organization.

Erik Myggland, left, poses with two other unidentified Canadian Rangers in a photo posted online on Nov. 3, 2019. (Facebook/CBC News)

Facebook has banned the Soldiers of Odin from its platform. On Aug. 19, it announced it was placing restrictions on Three Percenter pages and groups under its “dangerous organizations” policy, including those in Canada.

In an email last week, Jodi Myggland said she and Erik Myggland, who have separated, are no longer active within the Three Percenter movement and claimed they quit because new people were joining who “were racist or had a different agenda.”

Jodi Myggland said she and her ex-husband were survivalists and dedicated to the community, but that the Three Percenter movement had fractured and been infiltrated.

“We as Rangers have to uphold a good image and a fair image for the people. We cannot and will not be a part of racism and false or misinformation about our government,” she said. “We are here to help and keep people safe, respect the laws and rules of our country.”

Erik Myggland’s social media accounts appear to contradict his ex-wife’s words, however.

He continued to post support online for the Three Percent movement as recently as June, and to interact on social media with its past and present members.

On June 6, Myggland posted criticism of the COVID-19 lockdowns, accompanied by a dark image of a rifle-toting Santa Claus-like figure and the Three Percent movement’s symbol.

“Ol Trudy is going to try and f–k with Christmas which will absolutely be the nail in the coffin of the economy,” he wrote. “Mark my words!”

On April 9, Myggland updated his Facebook page with a profile picture of him wearing a black leather jacket with Three Percent patches. 

Erik Myggland is seen wearing a Soldiers of Odin patch in a Twitter post on March 22, 2018. (Twitter/CBC News)

And on Jan. 1, he posted a picture of a motorcycle with the crest of the B.C chapter of the Three Percenters.

While that organization was going through a major leadership change earlier this year that saw some founding members evicted, Myggland responded to a Facebook post by the group’s leader, Kazz Nowlin, by warning that military counterintelligence was taking a hard look at the Three Percent movement.

“Kazz, don’t forget about the interview I had with CAF Counterintelligence Unit,” Myggland wrote on Feb. 17.

“They know exactly what’s up, what we’re doing and our affiliations with [founding members] Beau [Welling] and Carl [MacKay] and the eastern divisions. They’re not stupid, they know there are a few dipshits out there.”

Much of the Three Percenters’ ideology is wrapped around issues of gun rights and personal liberty — and the survivalist response to a society they see as unraveling. The group’s name is rooted in the disputed claim that only three per cent of American colonists took up arms against the British during the American Revolution.

Echoes of the movement’s rhetoric can be found in the letter allegedly seized by the RCMP following the July 2 incident at Rideau Hall that ended with Hurren’s arrest — a letter in which police say Hurren expressed anti-government sentiments and said that he feared the federal government was becoming a “communist dictatorship” under Trudeau.

He also denounced the lack of parliamentary sittings and new federal firearms legislation.

“With the firearms ban and seeing more of our rights being taken away, on top of bankrupting the country, I could no longer sit back and watch this happen. I hope this is a wakeup call and a turning point,” Hurren wrote, according to a source who has seen the letter.

Corey Hurren faces 22 criminal charges — including one of making threats against the prime minister. (Corey Hurren/LinkedIn)

Those sentiments — particularly regarding gun rights — appear to be commonplace in the 4th Ranger Group, which oversees individual patrols in rural B.C., northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The unit’s former honorary colonel — writer, outdoor enthusiast and television personality Jim Shockey — posted an essay online attacking the Liberal government’s overhaul of gun legislation, Bill C-71, in the fall of 2018. 

Posing beside an empty House of Commons chair, Shockey denounced Liberal MPs for not meeting with him to discuss the legislation.

“It sure seems to me like this group can’t be bothered to explain to a concerned, patriotic, law-abiding firearm owner and citizen of Canada, how they thought my family or any family is made safer by them making even more complicated rules to do with my already highly regulated and controlled and restricted firearms,” Shockey wrote (he also stood for photos with then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer).

The former honourary colonel of the 4th Canadian Ranger Group posted an online essay on Nov. 5, 2018 attacking the federal government’s recent firearms legislation — an apparent violation of DND rules. (Facebook/CBC News)

“Honestly I’m a pretty common sense guy, who like most hunters prefers to avoid conflict and live and let live, but I have to admit, I’m getting frustrated with some of the decisions our various Canadian governments have been making lately.”

While Shockey’s remarks wouldn’t be cause for concern for any private citizen, they appear to violate Chapter 3 of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces Code of Values and Ethics. That section of the ethics code requires even honorary members of the Canadian Forces to refrain from public criticism of the government and from “any political activity that could impair or appear to impair the objectivity and impartiality of the DND employee.”

CBC News reached out to Shockey via Facebook, but has not received a response.

CBC News asked to interview the commander of the 4th Ranger Group, Lt.-Col. Russ Meades, about both Myggland’s activities and Shockey’s remarks. CBC News also requested an interview with the commander of the military intelligence branch, Rear-Admiral Scott Bishop. Both interview requests were turned down.

Dan LeBouthillier, DND head of media relations, insisted Myggland has not been a presence within the organization for at least a year.

“The member in question has not been an active participant within the unit since 11 June 2019,” LeBouthillier said in an email statement.

But in three separate Facebook posts in November 2019, Myggland posted pictures of a Rangers uniform, a photo of himself in a Rangers uniform (taken during a June 2016 exercise) and a picture of himself taking part in a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) exercise.

In March 2018 — well before DND claims he ceased to be active in the Rangers — Myggland posted on Twitter his support for both the Three Percenters and the Soldiers of Odin, along with a photo of him wearing the symbols of both organizations on his clothes.

On April 9, 2018 — when he would have been still actively serving in the Rangers — Myggland responded to a tweet from Prime Minister Trudeau honouring veterans.

“We don’t want or need your tribute, you treasonous bastard! Might be more than you can afford,” he wrote in reference to remarks Trudeau made about compensation for injured veterans.

A tweet by Erik Myggland responding to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Vimy anniversary tribute on April 9, 2018. (Twitter/CBC News)

But the military has so far refused to explain why a CAF member who openly supported two far-right groups — one of them (Soldiers of Odin) described as an “anti-Muslim hate group” by the independent nonprofit Canadian Anti-Hate Network — was allowed to continue to serve, and what the military’s counterintelligence branch hoped to accomplish by interviewing Erik Myggland. 

Sajjan — who was noticeably upset by CBC News’ reporting on Myggland — vowed to get to the bottom of the matter.

“My view has been very clear — any type of behaviour like this is totally unacceptable,” Sajjan told CBC News, adding that the military doesn’t want people who support such ideologies in its ranks.

“One — we don’t want you to join. Two, if you have these viewpoints, please quit, and if you are investigated, you will be dealt with through the appropriate process. We don’t want people like that.”

DND also has refused to disclose what sort of disciplinary action — if any — was taken by the leadership of the 4th Canadian Ranger Group, which comprises units in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said allowing Myggland to stay was a huge mistake.

“It’s our belief that the default response should be for them to fire the individual,” he said. “Perhaps there’s an exceptional circumstance in which an individual truly apologizes to the community, not just the Forces, but the wider community.”

The Canadian military released a new policy framework this summer to address hateful conduct and a growing number of reports of members affiliated with extremist groups.

But Balgord and Barbara Perry — director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, in Oshawa, Ont. — said the defence department’s reflex response to those reports has been to try to keep them behind closed doors.

That’s not going to work any longer, they added.

“In our conversations with DND, there is, in fact … an internal mechanism for responding. The almost default reaction is to rehabilitate the individual, trying to bring them back in the order,” said Perry, who was asked recently by DND to study incidents of hateful conduct in the ranks.

She said that, judging by Myggland’s social media activity and his attempts to warn Three Percenter leadership about military counterintelligence, any attempts to rehabilitate him did not work.

“I wonder if he was asked to step away, but the fact that he was not discharged or asked to leave outright is really surprising, given that there’s such a history and that he is so visible,” she said. “There’s no attempt there to sort of code his language. There’s no attempt there to downplay his engagement with these groups.”

 



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