By Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A Manitoba army reservist accused of being a neo-Nazi remains unaccounted for two months after he was first reported missing, sparking concerns the police and military are not treating the case with the requisite urgency.
Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, a combat engineer with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group in Winnipeg, disappeared at the end of August as he was being fast-tracked out of the military for his alleged links to a right-wing extremist group.
His truck was found abandoned on a rural property in Piney, in southern Manitoba near the U.S. border, prompting speculation the 26-year-old had entered the United States.
At the time he disappeared, Mathews was being investigated by military-intelligence officers for his alleged ties to the extremist group while the RCMP were reportedly conducting their own investigation.
RCMP previously seized a number of weapons from a house in Beausejour, about 60 kilometres east of Winnipeg, where Mathews lived.
On Monday, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said officers were continuing their search here and have been in touch with U.S. counterparts.
Manaigre would not comment on any investigation into Mathews, but noted police have not issued an arrest warrant and that his disappearance is being treated like any other missing-persons case.
“He’s not wanted by the RCMP right now, he’s missing,” Manaigre said. “Our American counterparts obviously are very aware of what we are doing and we’ve also provided them with information.”
The Department of National Defence referred questions back to the police.
The fact Mathews is still missing didn’t sit well with Bernie Farber, chairman of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, who has raised alarms about the presence of neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists in the military.
“He seemed to slip right through their fingers and he’s — poof — gone,” Farber said Monday, adding if Mathews had been suspected of links to the Islamic State group instead of neo-Nazis, “I think this would have been resolved in the space of 15 minutes.”
While the vast majority of military personnel have no affiliation to right-wing extremists or hate groups, Farber has worried senior officers are not doing enough to address those few service members who do harbour such views.
A military-intelligence report last year said 30 active service members were known to belong to a hate group or made statements that were discriminatory or racist, but the Defence Department has been hard-pressed to say what happened to them.
That is despite chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance and others having promised a zero-tolerance approach to hate and discrimination in the ranks.
Some extremist groups have encouraged their members to seek military training and recruit service members.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has asked Canada’s military ombudsman to investigate racism in the Canadian Armed Forces and provide recommendations on ways to eliminate it.