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Defence minister asks military watchdog to investigate racism in the ranks

Last Updated Aug 14, 2019 at 2:33 pm MDT

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks at Canada's global defence & security trade show in Ottawa, Wednesday May 29, 2019. Sajjan is asking Canada's military ombudsman to investigate racism in the Armed Forces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is asking Canada’s military ombudsman to investigate racism in the Armed Forces.

The unprecedented request follows several troubling incidents and reports linking some service members to right-wing extremism and hate groups, including white-supremacist organizations.

Sajjan’s request comes on the eve of a fall federal election in which racism and identity politics are expected to figure prominently.

Sajjan says his request is “absolutely not” motivated by politics.

He also says it does not mean he lacks confidence in the military’s ability to deal with racism in the ranks.

Sajjan says commanders have done a good job responding to incidents on a case-by-case basis but an independent investigation is needed to get a handle on the scope of the problem and identify ways to prevent it.

The Canadian Press