Over the last three weeks Ricochet has left voicemails and sent multiple emails to the Conservative Party of Canada’s director of communications, asking whether any of the men who worked at an online store specializing in Rhodesian military gear are or were members of the party. The company was the subject of an investigation that ultimately revealed ties to several of Canada’s right-wing political parties.
Two of these men — Keean Bexte and Adam Strashok — attended a party convention in August, worked as constituency assistants in the office of Conservative MP Bob Benzen and served as executives of affiliated campus clubs.
The CPC has not responded, with operators at its Ottawa headquarters informing Ricochet that only director of communications Cory Hann is authorized to speak to the media and all that can be done is to send emails and leave voice messages for him. None have been returned.
On Friday morning a final email was sent to Mr. Hann and cc’d to Andrew Scheer’s director of communications, Brock Harrison, asking for a reply and giving a deadline of Monday morning. Neither man responded.
People’s Party of Canada also declines to answer questions
We also contacted the People’s Party of Canada in November to ask if any of these men were members of Maxime Bernier’s new party. Yanick Villeneuve, that party’s national coordinator, told Ricochet by phone to email him the names and he would respond as soon as possible.
After following up, we received the following response this week: “I said I'd forward your request to the appropriate people. I never said wether (sic) I could confirm anyone's membership or not.”
Asked if that was his official response on behalf of the party, in which case it would be published in full, he responded, “yes, go ahead.”
UCP also dodged questions about Fireforce
This comes on the heels of our reporting in November on Alberta’s United Conservative Party. At that time the party confirmed that none of the men from the military web store, Fireforce Ventures, were currently members. However, the party did not respond to questions about whether these men had ever been members.
Ricochet’s investigation into Fireforce Ventures uncovered racist posts on the company’s social media channels, alongside Rhodesian memorabilia that the New York Times has reported is used to show coded support for white supremacy, and anti-Semitic and racist posts and statements made by Strashok. A follow-up piece by Press Progress revealed more such postings by Strashok.
- 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
- Update: Rebel Media reporter worked for white supremacist web store
- Update: Kenney’s UCP won’t say if party expelled extremists
Bexte and Strashok involved in CPC
Evidence suggests that Bexte and Strashok were members of both the CPC and UCP as recently as this fall.
In August, Bexte, who is now employed as a reporter by far-right media outlet The Rebel, made headlines as a prominent supporter of an anti-immigration resolution at the CPC’s convention in Halifax, so it is a matter of public record that he was a member of the party at that time.
Like Bexte, Strashok was on the executive of the CPC’s campus club and worked in the office of conservative MP Bob Benzen. Strashok too was at the CPC’s most recent convention, suggesting that he was a party member at that time.
Both Bexte and Strashok worked on the UCP leadership campaign of Jason Kenney. Bexte described himself as a member of the UCP in a November tweet. Kenney publicly acknowledged that Strashok was a member of the UCP and promised to expel him following publication of our original report.
Bexte and Strashok have often expressed admiration for Maxime Bernier on social media, and they supported him during his unsuccessful run for leadership of the CPC. Their membership status with the People’s Party remains unknown.
Two of the founders of Fireforce Ventures, Henry Lung and Ryan Jorgensen, both members of the Canadian Forces, provided statements to Ricochet last month saying they are not currently members of any political party. Jorgensen said he has never joined a political party.
Their statements also said that all individuals identified by Ricochet for their involvement in the company have resigned or been fired, and ownership of the company is in the process of being transferred.