Posted on January 20, 2023

U of A Professor Recruited to Assess White Supremacy in Canadian Armed Forces

Geoff McMaster, University of Alberta, January 11, 2023

The Department of National Defence has awarded a grant to a University of Alberta professor to gauge the extent of white supremacy in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Political scientist Andy Knight will assess just how entrenched radicalization, antisemitism, xenophobia and anti-Black sentiments are in Canada’s military and come up with suggested policy to respond.


“White supremacists seem to be infiltrating the military in Canada, and this poses a serious threat to Canada’s national security,” wrote Knight in his successful proposal for a Targeted Engagement Grant from the DND’s Mobilizing Insights in Defence & Security Program (MINDS).


After Knight gave a presentation to DND officials last fall, in which he drew attention to racism in their ranks, they encouraged him to submit a proposal.


In a letter to Knight, one official wrote, “Your overview of key actions which contemporary militaries should take to successfully mitigate systemic racism provided a valuable context for considering Canadian priorities in this area moving forward,” adding that he highlighted “important considerations for Canadian defence and culture change.”

Individual cases of racism are not the main problem, says Knight.

“It lies in institutional racism as an embedded culture. You have to question, why is it that some people are attracted to the military?”

In one sense, the military “gives them a kind of cover to pursue their white supremacist ideas” in a culture that “privileges white, predominantly male ‘warriors.’”

Knight will therefore investigate the social construction of “whiteness” in the armed forces and the “privileges this may bestow on certain people,” he says.

Also at work in Canada’s military culture is what Knight calls xeno-racism, directed at new immigrants to Canada or those considered separate from “us who we have to defend.”

“{snip} It has a lot to do with stereotypes that existed when the military was first created in Canada. Equity, diversity and inclusion are difficult to achieve because they “disrupt the tradition of the military,” says Knight.