A Canadian military reservist whose membership in two far-right groups is being investigated by the army has spoken publicly about the matter for the first time, telling a local print and online publication in British Columbia that the allegations against him are “rubbish.”
Erik Myggland, who belongs to the Canadian Ranger Valemount, B.C. patrol, spoke recently to The Rocky Mountain Goat, a weekly publication, about the military’s effort to release him from the service.
A CBC News investigation last month chronicled Myggland’s prolific online support for the Three Percenter movement — a survivalist organization originally from the U.S. that conducts military-style training — and the Soldiers of Odin, a group with white supremacist roots in Europe.
Myggland was interviewed by the military’s counterintelligence branch, which is charged with keeping tabs on possible threats within the service.
He is still serving as a Ranger, although his own unit recommended he be removed more than a year ago. The army is now investigating to learn why he hasn’t been ejected from the Rangers to date. Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, commander of the Canadian Army, said recently that Myggland is not expected to be formally released until later this fall.
“I’m fine with being released, but it absolutely matters why,” Myggland told the newspaper, adding that he “can’t stand for” being publicly linked with hate groups.
CBC News reached out to Myggland — who has posted anti-government screeds online and described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “treasonous bastard” in one social media post — on several occasions before its first story on him was published in late August. He initially agreed to talk but then went silent.
After publication of his recent interview with the local weekly, CBC News again reached out to Myggland to verify his remarks and again offer him the opportunity to comment on his online posts and involvement with both groups.
Myggland refused to be interviewed by CBC News. In an email, however, he claimed that coverage of his story has been biased and has failed to cite his years of community service, working with troubled teenagers and teaching self-defence courses to women, and his work with the Rangers and the local volunteer fire service, which he said included 400 emergency responses and life-saving calls.
“You see you have no interest in these things. You have no interest in the truth,” he wrote. “You are more interested in trying to destroy a good man that has done NOTHING wrong!”
His email did not address his involvement in either right-wing group and did not answer questions related to his case.
In his interview with The Rocky Mountain Goat, Myggland did address the military counterintelligence investigation of his activities.
The media outlet quotes him saying that he was asked by his commanding officer to meet with counterintelligence officers and insisting that he “promptly complied and fully briefed them on his past activities with the Soldiers of Odin and his current activities with Three Percenters in B.C.”
‘We weren’t doing anything wrong’
The army launched a summary investigation after a CBC News investigation reported that the Canadian military counterintelligence branch interviewed Myggland about his affiliations but allowed him to continue serving.
There was no mention of Myggland’s social media posts in The Rocky Mountain Goat article, although it does quote him strenuously insisting he is not racist.
“The most intriguing question [asked by CBC journalists …] in that article was why did the Armed Forces allow me to serve for two years after being investigated? It’s a pretty simple answer: because we weren’t doing anything wrong,” the article quoted Myggland as saying.
The story also paraphrased his patrol commanding officer, Clayton Gee, as saying Myggland did not preach hate or try to recruit other Rangers while serving.
Myggland vehemently denied being “racist or hateful” in his interview with the weekly and claims that, as a Facebook administrator for the Three Percenters of B.C., he would call out those who displayed such behaviour.
He said the Three Percenter movement is all about teaching survival techniques and preparing people for the collapse of society — something which its members believe is inevitable.
Myggland is quoted as saying the B.C. Three Percenters would practice with firearms at a local firing range and “conducted military drills with Airsoft rifles.”
Section 70 of the Criminal Code of Canada gives the federal government the power to prohibit assemblies without lawful authority for the purpose of conducting military exercises.
Barbara Perry is an expert on far-right groups at Ontario Tech University, in Oshawa, Ont. She said she was surprised to see a case of suspected far-right activity within the military handled so “nonchalantly, or so informally.”
A counterintelligence investigation should have sounded the alarm all the way up the chain of command to 4th Canadian Ranger Group headquarters and beyond, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“It really needs to be communicated to every level of commanding officer in the Armed Forces that membership in a hate group is anathema to serving in the Forces,” Balgord said.
The Department of National Defence (DND) would not comment on Myggland’s public statement, saying that in light of the army’s investigation, “it would be inappropriate for us to publicly discuss further.”
It also refused to discuss “the sensitive nature of its intelligence work,” adding that information collected during an investigation by counterintelligence officers is protected under the Privacy Act and needs to be safeguarded to protect current and future investigations.
“That being said, we can firmly say that the entire institution remains unwavering in its commitment to fighting hateful conduct,” said Dan Lebouthillier, DND’s head of media relations.
“We will not tolerate racist or harmful behaviour in our ranks or among our civilian personnel.”
Myggland pointed out in his interview that neither the Three Percenters not the Soldiers of Odin are on any state lists of terrorist organizations.
That’s true, said Perry — but even a simple Internet search five years ago would have revealed the anti-Muslim rhetoric being traded among members of the Three Percenters in the U.S., and the blatant white supremacy and anti-immigrant commentary dominating the discourse among Soldiers of Odin organizers, especially in Europe.
“You would have to have been willfully blind” to claim ignorance about those groups because of the “explicitness of the narratives” at the time Myggland joined, said Perry.
Even before the recent introduction of the anti-racism policy framework, Canadian military policy officially barred members from joining groups “that they knew or ought reasonably to have known” would promote violence and hatred.