The Canadian military has suspended four of its active members as it looks into allegations that they are running an online army-surplus store catering to white supremacists.
The Canadian Forces said in a statement on Friday that, as of Wednesday of this week, all of the soldiers who are behind Fireforce Ventures, a Calgary-based operation that sells the clothes and memorabilia of foreign militaries, have been “relieved from the performance of their duties” pending the outcome of an investigation.
The suspended men include reservists Henry Lung, Ryan Jorgenson and W. Taylor, as well as Kyle Porter, who is a full-time member of the military. All are stationed in Alberta.
“This decisive action is necessary due to the severity of the allegations and the potential impact on unit morale and cohesiveness,” the military said in the statement. “Racist conduct, be it through words or actions, is completely incompatible with our values and culture.“
While Fireforce Ventures sells military clothes from a number of different countries including Germany, Sweden, Israel and Russia, it specializes in merchandise related to the short-lived and white-ruled state of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe.
Fireforce’s website says it was “founded by a few guys from Canada who initially just wanted to get their hands on some Rhodesian brushstroke camouflage.”
But Fireforce was a military tactic used by the Rhodesian security forces during the Rhodesian Bush Wars in which the government tried to suppress the black-led militias and maintain a segregationist state.
And, in recent years, Rhodesia has become a symbol of the white-supremacist movement in the United States. Dylann Roof, who killed nine black people in a racially motivated attack on a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, had been photographed with a Rhodesian flag on his jacket.
A disclaimer on the site says Fireforce does not attempt to make any political or racial statements with its products and it reserves the right to refuse sales to customers who are members of an identifiable hate group.
When the Canadian Forces learned in April that Private Lung and Corporal Taylor were involved in the online surplus store, it conducted an investigation and concluded that its code of ethics had not been breached and the two men were merely operating a legal business during their civilian hours.
But, in late October, the military was informed by Ricochet, an online media organization, that Pte. Lung had allegedly participated in a podcast that holds white-supremacist views. That prompted an additional investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service as well as an internal summary investigation.