Four members of the Canadian Forces who were identified in a Ricochet investigation last week as the operators of a web store selling Rhodesian memorabilia have been suspended from the military.

Ricochet has also learned that Henry Lung, one of the owners of Fireforce Ventures and a reserve private in the Canadian Forces, was employed as a high school teacher with the Calgary Catholic School Board up until last week.

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“We did come under attack from a number of slanderous articles accusing us of racism in the past week,” Lung said yesterday on a new podcast released by Fireforce. “We’re all collectively facing some pretty dramatic professional and personal consequences.”

At least three people identified in the original investigation have since left the company, according to Lung.

The investigation revealed ties between Fireforce personnel and the far right, including an appearance by Lung on a white nationalist podcast, where he extolled Rhodesia’s system of white minority rule over a Black majority.

“The media’s already made up its mind about us,” he said on the Fireforce podcast.

“Perhaps most grotesque, they have actually gone ahead and slandered the reputation of the Rhodesian security forces.”

Neither Lung nor any other representative of Fireforce has responded to Ricochet’s repeated requests for comment by phone and email.

Canadian Forces suspend soldiers

The soldiers involved in Fireforce Ventures “have been relieved from the performance of their duties” as of Nov. 7, according to an email from Anne Génier, a military spokesperson.

“This decisive action is necessary due to the severity of the allegations and potential impact on unit morale and cohesiveness. Racist conduct, be it through words or actions, is completely incompatible with our values and culture … and is not tolerated in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Génier.

The suspensions will remain in effect pending the outcome of two distinct inquiries into the soldiers’ conduct being carried out by the military in response to Ricochet’s revelations.

All expressed concerns about him holding this position and having influence over students.

The Canadian Forces initially said that Fireforce’s activities did not violate their code of conduct. After Ricochet provided further information, including a podcast interview and social media posts in which company operators used racist language, the military stated they would look into the matter further.

An earlier military investigation of the company in the spring was uncovered last week by Ricochet. It found no violation of the military code of conduct.

The military appears to be taking the issue more seriously this time, perhaps at the urging of minister of defence Harjit Sajjan, who has said he is closely monitoring the situation.

That’s consistent with a nationwide general order issued by the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces in February. That order states that “discriminatory conduct is incompatible with the military ethos and with effective military service” and warns that “such conduct will not be tolerated.”

School district had employed company leader

After publication of Ricochet’s original investigation, several readers emailed to say that Lung was a teacher. All expressed concerns about him holding this position and having influence over students.

Ricochet confirmed that Lung was a religion teacher at Bishop McNally High School in Calgary and sent messages to his school email address and to the principal, none of which received a response.

“No lawyers really want to touch this controversy.”

Lung “is no longer teaching at that school,” Tania Van Brunt, a representative for the Calgary Catholic School District, said by phone.

He was employed on a short-term contract, which was scheduled to end last week.

The school district “had not been made aware of any of these concerns until they were brought forward in the last week or two,” said Van Brunt, declining to provide further details on Lung’s employment for legal reasons.

GoFundMe shuts down campaign

Also this week, a crowdfunding platform shut down a campaign set up by Fireforce Ventures to raise funds to sue Ricochet for its reporting.

The crowdfunder, which failed to attract much support in the week it was up, was found to be in violation of GoFundMe’s terms of service.

“We have removed the campaign and all donors have been refunded,” said a GoFundMe spokesperson by email.

Lung spoke of the difficulties of pursuing legal action on the Fireforce podcast.

“We’ve attempted to raise some funds to legally defend ourselves,” he said.

“However, no lawyers really want to touch this controversy, and the GoFundMe page actually got pulled down this morning for reasons unknown.”

PayPal and other online service providers banned Fireforce Ventures earlier this year, also citing terms-of-service violations.

Fireforce loses personnel

Lung noted on his new podcast that “Alexei,” whose real name is Adam Strashok, was never formally an owner with the company and “now has no official ties at all to Fireforce Ventures.”

Strashok is the former call centre manager who worked on Jason Kenney’s campaign for leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party. He has been tied to numerous racist online posts by both Ricochet and PressProgress.

“Willy” and “Kurt” — whose real names are Wesley Taylor and Kyle Porter, respectively — “have both formally resigned from Fireforce Ventures for personal reasons,” said Lung.

“Jorgy and I are kind of hanging on by a thread in our personal lives or what’s left of them,” he added. “Jorgy” is a pseudonym used by Ryan Jorgensen for Fireforce business.

Taylor, Porter, and Jorgensen are all members of the Canadian Forces along with Lung. Taylor and Jorgensen are corporals in the reserves, and Porter is a corporal in the regular army.

Company leader responds

Charges of racism are “ridiculous,” said Lung on the Fireforce podcast, citing the fact he is Chinese Canadian, one of his colleagues is married to a Sikh woman, and another former colleague is Hispanic.

He emphasized that his company’s intent is to “sell history, not politics,” but seemed particularly offended by the characterization of Rhodesia as a racist state, emphasizing that its armed forces included a large contingent of “native African soldiers from the Shona and Ndebele tribe(s).”

In the original investigation Ricochet explored why Chinese Canadians may be attracted to alt-right politics, and in a follow-up piece earlier this week Zimbabweans and academics spoke about the reality of life for Black people in Rhodesia, including the context of Black enlistment in the Rhodesian military.

“You can only get doxxed once.”

“There are erroneous reports of us taking part in some defunct neo-Nazi podcast,” Lung stated. “They took quotes I made on actually on another podcast out of context about political fallacies and attributed racial overtones when really there were none.”

Lung was referring to This Hour Has 88 minutes, a defunct Canadian white supremacist podcast that was mentioned in Ricochet’s original investigation. A follow-up story by Global News misreported that he had appeared on that podcast.

In fact, Lung was a guest on a U.S.–based white nationalist podcast that belongs to a large network of white supremacist podcasts, and quotes from that appearance featured in the investigation. Because that podcast is still active, Ricochet did not name it.

As for what the future holds for his company, Lung is defiant.

“You know what they say: you can only get doxxed once,” he said. “We’re going to be laying it all out, telling history exactly as it was meant to be told. Whether it be scary Rhodesia or Soviet Russia, these are the stories that deserve to be told.”

Nov. 10, 2018, 7:05 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to clarify that Lung’s contract with the school district was scheduled to end last week. When first reached for comment, a representative of the school district stated that Lung’s contract “was ended” by the school district. The school district has since said that they misspoke.