Another member of the federal Conservative party and Alberta’s United Conservative Party has been exposed for their involvement in the Calgary company selling Rhodesian and apartheid South African flags and war memorabilia, symbols used by white supremacists.
Since publication of Ricochet’s initial investigation into Fireforce Ventures, four of the company’s partners have been suspended from the Canadian Forces, and a staffer had his membership in Alberta’s United Conservative Party revoked.
Now Ricochet has identified Keean Bexte, a reporter with the far-right Rebel Media, as the Fireforce employee behind the pseudonym “Anton.”
- Original investigation: Meet the Canadian soldiers behind a white supremacist military surplus store
- Update: Canadian Forces investigating soldiers behind white supremacist company
- Update: Jason Kenney expels former senior campaign operative from party
- Update: Rhodesia nostalgia ‘screams out extreme hatred,’ say Zimbabweans
- Update: Canadian Forces suspend soldiers behind white supremacist web store
Readers help identify ‘Anton’
After publication of the original investigation into Fireforce Ventures, readers suggested that a photo of “Anton” posted on the company’s Facebook page was Bexte.
Ricochet identified Bexte, whose grandfather’s middle name is Anton, by linking his username in Fireforce’s Discord server to other social media accounts he uses.
When asked for comment, Bexte said that he had worked at the company “doing graphic design and shipping orders” until resigning “a few months ago.”
He also said that Rebel Media and his prior employer Conservative MP Bob Benzen were unaware of his involvement with Fireforce.
A candidate to ‘fight the stigma of firearms’
Bexte attended the University of Calgary with Adam Strashok and Henry Lung — two individuals Ricochet previously identified as running Fireforce.
Strashok, who ran Jason Kenney’s call centre during the politician’s bid for leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, recently had his party membership revoked after Ricochet and PressProgress revealed his virulent online racism and anti-Semitism.
Lung and Strashok started a gun club at the University of Calgary, and as president of the club, Lung endorsed fellow gun enthusiast Bexte in the 2015 student union election. Lung cited Bexte in a Facebook post as a candidate who would allow the club to “fight the stigma of firearms on campus, and beyond.” Bexte’s bid for vice-president of operations and finance was ultimately unsuccessful.
Bexte and Strashok appear to be good friends, with photos of the two on social media dating back years. They were members of right-wing campus clubs together, and both went on to work in the office of Conservative MP Bob Benzen. They are listed as constituency assistants in a Canadian government directory.
Bexte served as vice president of the Conservative Party of Canada’s campus club for over two years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and attended that party’s convention last spring. Linked to MPs and officials in mainstream conservative parties, he is a member of Alberta’s United Conservative Party and has posted to social media while attending Manning Foundation events. Most recently, he has been an ardent supporter of Maxime Bernier, whom he has described as the “Albertan From Quebec.”
Scandals follow Bexte
Bexte’s involvement in right-wing scandals has frequently landed him in the news. Recently, he defended a United Conservative Party member’s speech comparing the rainbow pride flag to a swastika — threatening on Twitter that he and 600 party members who attended the Rebel Media conference where the speech occurred would desert the party if leader Jason Kenney kicked out the speaker.
He has since deleted the tweet, although Kenney did ultimately decline to expel that speaker from his party.
In the summer, Bexte led the argument for a controversial motion at the federal Conservative convention in Halifax to bring an end to birthright citizenship — a policy which, if implemented, would mean that a person born on Canadian soil would no longer be guaranteed citizenship. He suggested Canada suffers from a drain on services caused by “birth tourism” — a problem that experts agree has no basis in reality.
Recently Bexte has voiced support for President Donald Trump’s plan to end birthright citizenship in the United States, despite the guarantee included in the U.S. constitution.
Ending birthright citizenship has long been a medium-term goal of the white nationalist movement in North America, which views it as a realistic policy change that can pave the way towards their end goal of a whites-only ethnostate.
‘Radical anti-feminist piece of human garbage’
It’s become dangerous to be a Conservative in Canada, Bexte said at the recent Rebel Media conference, where he was one of the featured speakers. He went on to argue that the “fake news” mainstream media were determined to label Conservatives as racists and fascists.
“My name is Keean Matthew Bexte, and I am unashamedly a cultural conservative,” he said to introduce himself. Cultural conservatism is often defined as a form of conservatism whose focus is the preservation of the heritage of a nation or of a shared culture. It is often associated with discriminatory attitudes towards other races and cultures.
“You might have heard of me in the fake news media. If you’re even a cursory reader of the University of Calgary fake student newspaper, in which I have been featured no less than 26 times, you would have heard that I’m a fascist, confederate-supporting, radical anti-feminist piece of human garbage.”
“I am not a fascist,” he clarified with a grin as the audience applauded. “I am not a fascist.”
Bexte makes clear in his speech that his goal is to push mainstream conservatives further to the right, particularly on issues of diversity.
Criticizing the executive director of the United Conservative Party for driving Kenney towards the centre, he said Janice Harrington has “been in charge of the bumbling, embarrassing and unfair nominations that the United Conservative Party has seen over the last while. You know, the ones where the implicit rule is ‘may the most diverse candidate win.’”
“It doesn’t matter what the left calls us, it doesn’t matter if the mainstream media have a conniption because we talk about fighting globalism for a little bit, or that maybe we should reduce immigration by a little bit. It doesn’t matter.”
Strange times in university
Bexte ran into trouble as a university student.
There was the strange saga of his time in the Wildrose on Campus club, when he was accused of sabotaging it from the inside.
Bexte’s support of Jason Kenney in the United Conservative Party leadership race put him at odds with those who supported former Wildrose leader Brian Jean.
While Bexte and Strashok were on the executive of Wildrose on Campus, an email stating that “feminism is cancer” was sent out by the club to promote a movie about anti-feminist “men’s rights activists.”
Both Kenney and the Wildrose criticized the move, and Bexte blamed a figure named Robert McDavid, said to be the club’s communications director. But an investigation by the Gauntlet, the University of Calgary’s student newspaper, could find no evidence of McDavid’s existence, other than a recently created Facebook profile.
After the email controversy, Bexte resigned from the club and had to withdraw from his role as a youth delegate at Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership convention.
A growing problem
Members of the alt-right speak openly about their desire to infiltrate mainstream conservative parties and work to push them towards extremism. Bexte, in his speech at the Rebel event, seems to have a similar focus on fighting to move the Conservative Party of Canada and the United Conservative Party to the right.
It remains to be seen whether Bexte’s association with a company that markets memorabilia from white ethnostates and that posted racial slurs to social media will cost him his new job with Rebel Media or his membership in the Alberta and federal conservative parties.
But it underlines a growing problem for mainstream conservative political movements, increasingly beset by scandals like those involving Strashok and Bexte. How can they grow their ranks while keeping out members with ties to the far right?
In the wake of the Strashok revelations, the United Conservative Party announced a new screening process designed to prevent “extremists” from joining. But questions remain about how effective such a process can be in large parties with tens of thousands of members.