Editor’s Corner article

Chalk up a win for the Proud Boys
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Sep 7, 2017

At first, I was satisfied that the Canadian Armed Forces had done their due diligence and properly disciplined five members of the CAF who had disrupted a peaceful Mi’kmaq protest. No criminal charges were laid, which is proper as no criminal activity was engaged in (it was all bluster), but I was wrong in assuming they would receive more than a stern warning. The Mi’kmaq prayer circle was protesting the statue of Nova Scotian Governor Cornwallis who, shortly after founding Halifax in 1749, issued a proclamation offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person. It doesn’t really matter what ideology either side was promoting, a peaceful protest was physically and verbally interrupted for a sustained amount of time, and that is how violence can start. That such a display of intolerance could be perpetrated by members of the Canadian Armed Forces was of particular concern, and embarrassing to all Canadians.

Edmund Burke, an Irish politician and philosopher who lived in the 1700s, so famously stated: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” He also said: “Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none.” 

These musings could not be more relevant today, as we see evidence that tolerance is being used as a tool against those who truly strive to embrace all of humanity’s complexities, from race and colour and religion to gender and sexual orientation and disability. We should be accepting of all differences, not merely “tolerating” them. 

Ideology is a tricky one. The young men disrupting the Mi’kmaq gathering were members of the “Proud Boys”, a group of self-proclaimed “Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world.” They decided that the memory of Cornwallis, a military officer, needed to be defended – despite his embrace and furtherance of the mentality of the time, which was to eradicate indigenous people. 

Although our laws do not protect those who advance messages or actions of “hate”, we contradict that, albeit grudgingly, by trying to ignore those same messages, under the guise of allowing “freedom of speech”. 

The tolerance of intolerance by officials in authority has repeatedly been interpreted as acceptance, and this must re-examined. At a news conference in July, Rear-Admiral John Newton explained to reporters that he “told the young people that they had crossed a line where their personal beliefs, their personal ideology which they’re allowed to have, got into the public domain.”

At best, this can be interpreted as a lukewarm admonishment (particularly since the offenders were returned to active duty with a warning and probationary period); at worst, an acceptance of an ideology that honours a man who used the government to institutionalize the genocide of indigenous people. In fact, the facebook page of the Proud Boys Canadian Chapter wasted no time in boasting: “We win, our brothers the Halifax 5 are returning to active military duty with no charges, let the SJW tears pour. Proud of our boys.” This victorious message is not far removed from David Duke’s praise of Donald Trump for “condemn[ing] the leftist terrorists”, and I am not at all happy that my tax dollars are paying the salaries of young men who publicly espouse an ignorant ideology of so-called “Western chauvinism”. 

I never could have imagined a day when our leaders would allow angry young men to represent the Canadian Armed Forces.