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Right-wing extremism not welcome in Canadian Armed Forces — but ‘clearly, it’s in here,’ says top soldier

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In a three-part series, the Star looks at the rise of white nationalist and right-wing extremist groups in Canada, and what authorities are doing to identify and suppress these threats. This is part 2. To read the first part, click here.

OTTAWA—Canada’s top soldier frankly acknowledges there are members within the Canadian Armed Forces who harbour right-wing extremist and white supremacist beliefs.

It’s obvious Gen. Jonathan Vance has given the issue much thought.

“Clearly it’s in here,” Vance told the Star.

Over a 40-minute interview at National Defence Headquarters, Vance repeatedly stressed that nobody holding extremist beliefs is welcome in the Canadian Forces.

“(But) what a lot of these folks don’t realize, (is) they may be able to find a couple of confreres among the tens of thousands of people that we have, but it’s not the norm.”

As the Star reported Sunday, there has been an alarming rise of right-wing extremist and white supremacist groups active within Canada in recent years.

In the United States, research into the far right suggests extremist groups have made a concerted effort to infiltrate police forces and the military to gain access to training, experience and potentially even weapons.

Less research has been done on whether extremists have made similar attempts in Canada. But as far as Vance is concerned, it’s simply a fact.

He compared the presence of far-right extremists in the Forces to the military’s recent experience dealing with sexual harassment and assault. As a traditionally male-dominated institution, the Forces were just not sensitive enough to the scourge of sexual harassment within its ranks, Vance said.

Could that mean that, as a traditionally white institution, the forces aren’t sensitive enough to the issue of white supremacy?

“It’s not just possible; it’s probable,” Vance said.

“It is entirely possible that we are not sufficiently aware of the indicators or the insidious, corrosive effect of having extremism in our ranks. I think we’re academically aware, like technically aware. But from a practical basis, how do you know for sure?”

Over the past two years, the Canadian Forces have had to respond to three high-profile incidents of soldiers or sailors associated with far-right groups.

On Canada Day in 2017, five Canadian Forces members — members of the “Proud Boys” movement who proudly proclaim their “Western chauvinism” — disrupted an Indigenous protest in Halifax.

This year, Vice Canada reported an army reservist in Nova Scotia was a member of a much more dangerous group. Vice alleged that Brandon Cameron, a 25-year old former soldier, was associated with the Atomwaffen Division — an American neo-Nazi terrorist group tied to an attempted bombing, numerous hate crimes, and the killing of a 19-year-old Jewish man in Florida. Cameron denied involvement with the group.

The Quebec-based anti-immigration and anti-Islam group La Meute counts a number of current and former Forces personnel among its ranks. In December, a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation counted 70 Forces members in a members-only La Meute Facebook group.

Vance is categorical: there is no place for far-right extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces.

One of the five members who participated in the Proud Boys protest has left military service. The four others were subject to unspecified professional discipline and received a permanent reprimand on their records. Vance suggested they may be on their way out as well.

But the general also referred to blowback he’s heard about how the brass handled the Proud Boys situation.

“When I say cultural change (is needed) … I’ve seen comments about how we’re standing up to the Proud Boys and so on, as if … we’re somehow lesser military because of our posture,” Vance said.

“That’s horses–t. Good militaries aren’t racist.”

Vance said his gut sense is that when it comes to right-wing extremists within the Forces, there could be “small groups or individuals,” but not significant numbers.

“I haven’t proven that hypothesis,” Vance admitted. “And maybe some time we should.”

The question of whether or not far-right extremists or white supremacists have infiltrated Canadian policing is more difficult to answer — both because of the scale of the question and, unlike the Canadian Forces, the absence of publicly reported incidents.

A 2015 report by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, published by the Intercept, suggested that a wide range of extremist and white supremacist groups have developed “active links” to law enforcement officers. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service refused to say whether it has conducted a similar counterintelligence assessment on Canadian law enforcement agencies.

CSIS has faced allegations of racism within its own ranks. In 2017, the Star reported the spy agency had settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit from five officers and analysts who claimed years of anti-gay, anti-Muslim or anti-Black discrimination.

Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson also admitted in 2015 that the Mounties had racists within their ranks.

“I understand there are racists in my police force,” Paulson told a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations. “I don’t want them to be in my police force.”

The new RCMP commissioner, Brenda Lucki, told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network this year that “racism will not be tolerated” within the force, after the network reported on anti-Indigenous posts in a closed RCMP members Facebook group.

On the broader question of far-right extremist infiltration, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told the Star that it’s a concern.

“Our screening would pick up on that, unless someone has never spoken to anyone about it and they kept it to (themselves),” Malizia said.

“But I can’t recall a case right now (within the RCMP). I’ve not seen it. But it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened elsewhere.

“There’s no doubt about it that there’s no place for those types of individuals in a police service or any type of law enforcement agency,” Malizia added.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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