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Ontario Tech faculty member helping military battle right wing extremism

Dr. Barbara Perry recruited by the Canadian Armed Forces to weed out right wing extremism in the military

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

An Ontario Tech University researcher is joining forces with the Department of Justice to fight right-wing extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Dr. Barbara Perry of the university’s faculty of social sciences and humanities has been recruited by the Canadian military to weed out right wing extremists.

Perry and her team received funding from two sources, the first from the Targeted Engagement Program which is worth $50,000.

“We will hire a post-doc fellow who will focus predominantly on policy analysis and development in this context,” she says.

This means they will look at existing policies in the armed forces in terms of their ability to be used in the field.

They will also be looking at other nations to see how they’re managing “hateful conduct” in their militaries.

Then they will help to develop policy tools in the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as training tools for leadership.

“That’s sort of a short term project intended to really get developing more effective ways for identifying and then responding to such incidents and engagement with far right groups,” she says.

The other funding from the Department of National Defence’s MINDS program is larger and is providing $750,000 over three years.

“That is really intended to develop a research based network for exploration of the far right and hateful conduct in the armed services,” she says.

Perry says they’ve developed a “large network” across the country, and the co-lead on the project is Dr. David Hofmann from the University of New Brunswick.

There are also partners in British Columbia and Quebec, says Perry.

“It’s a very interdisciplinary network with folks from criminology, sociology, criminal science, and policy studies,” she explains.

She notes the intent of the program is to develop research protocols to “get at” the dynamics, the nature, the extent, and the depth of hateful conduct and right wing extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Perry says she became involved with the Canadian Armed Forces because of her work that began in 2012.

“In 2015 we published the first comprehensive Canadian academic study of the far right and the Canadian context,” she says. “That got us a lot of attention in the media and amongst stakeholders.”

She says the Canadian Armed Forces reached out to her team some time within the last two years due to a number of cases of right wing extremism coming to light within the armed forces.

“The chief of defense actually reached out to us seeking input and some guidance as to how they should respond,” she says.

Perry explains right wing extremism is “pretty far ranging” in Canada. She says when her team did their initial research in 2015, they had a conservative idea that there were just over 100 active groups across the country.

Perry explains these groups could range from three or four members up to several hundred.

“Since 2016 in particular, after the [President Donald] Trump election, we’ve seen dramatic growth, and a dramatic increase in visibility associated with the far right. So we’re estimating probably closer to 300 active groups now,” she says.