Ricochet’s investigation into Calgary-based company Fireforce Ventures is a finalist in the online media category of the 2018 Canadian Association of Journalists awards. Winners of the awards, which honour the country’s best journalism, will be announced at a ceremony on Saturday, May 4, in Winnipeg.
The investigation unmasked the identities of several pseudonymous operators of the company, which specializes in reproduced Rhodesian military gear. Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, was a British colony that broke away in order to maintain white-minority rule over the indigenous African population. The former pariah state has been embraced by white supremacist movements, which use its insignia as a coded symbol of their beliefs.
“Over the past several years the focus of my work has been the far right, and I’ve covered the rise of extremism for everyone from Ricochet Media to the Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette,” said Jon Milton, one of the authors of the investigation. “What I’ve learned is that objectivity when reporting on the far right is neither possible nor desirable. There are not two sides to the question of whether people of colour, or of a different religion, are human beings.”
The investigation into Fireforce Ventures revealed connections between the company, the military, and mainstream political parties including Alberta’s United Conservative Party, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the People’s Party of Canada.
It also made national news. The Canadian Armed Forces suspended the involved soldiers and launched investigations into their conduct, and the federal minister of defence said he was monitoring the situation. Ultimately all four soldiers were reinstated, with one of them under remedial measures for the next year.
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The United Conservative Party, Conservative Party of Canada, and People’s Party of Canada were questioned by media about the membership status of Fireforce personnel and their approach to dealing with white supremacists in their ranks. Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney publicly expelled a former senior campaign worker from the party who was identified in the Ricochet investigation as a Fireforce staffer with a history of racist commentary. Kenney also promised to introduce new procedures to screen party members.
These developments were tracked in several follow-up articles penned by Erin Seatter and Ethan Cox. The series of five articles, and authors Jon Milton, Erin Seatter and Ethan Cox, are collectively nominated for the award.
“We’re thrilled to be nominated,” said Erin Seatter, co-author of the investigation. “We hope it brings attention to the reporting this outlet has done on the far right — and the very real threat posed by the rise of the far right in Canada. Mainstream outlets are starting to catch up, but for years the work of investigating and exposing those who peddle racial hatred has fallen to independent researchers and the few outlets that make it a priority.”
“One of the greatest threats we face as a society is the rise of far-right extremism,” added Cox. “From Quebec City to Christchurch, from Charleston to the Tree of Life, we see the horrific effects of mainstream media and politicians flirting with a newly emboldened far right for cheap votes and clicks. We have interviewed experts who tell us that membership in white supremacist groups is growing exponentially here in Canada. The consequences of that reality are all too tragically predictable.”
“Reporting on the far right, exposing their identities, their networks and their strategies for recruitment and organizing, has never been more critical. Yet this new crisis arrives at a time when few media outlets have the budget to engage in the long-term investigations required.”
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You can read the original investigation and follow-up pieces at the links below:
- 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: Soldier who appeared on white nationalist podcast reinstated by Canadian Forces