1 arrested after reports of armed robbery at Markville mall

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York Regional Police say that one person has been arrested after reports of an armed robbery at CF Markville in Markham, Ont., on Sunday evening. 

Police were called to the scene at 6:25 p.m., less than an hour before the mall was scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

Paramedics said they were also called to the scene, but did not transport anyone to hospital. 

Video footage of the robbery shows multiple people in safety vests cleaning out display cases at Lukfook Jewellery.

Police say that there were also reports of shots fired but that is yet to be confirmed. 

Sgt. Clint Whitney told CBC Toronto that the mall was open and quite busy at the time of the incident.

Police didn’t request a lockdown, but some of the stores and businesses made their own decision to follow their own security protocols, Whitney added.

The suspects fled through the parking lot, he said. 

There is no longer a security concern for the mall and the suspects are no longer on scene, Whitney added. 

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Gen. Vance says Canadian Armed Forces trying to integrate more women, minorities

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HALIFAX – The man who leads the Canadian Armed Forces says the military has failed to adequately integrate women and minorities, but Gen. Jonathan Vance says the Forces are working hard to adapt and change.

Speaking at a defence and security conference in Halifax, the chief of defence staff says the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing – fast.

The general says the military must become more diverse because it is keen to find the talent it needs to deal with rapidly evolving threats, such as cyber-warfare.

READ MORE: Inquiry into Royal Military College finds shortcomings, gaps in suicide prevention

He says the military is currently stuck with a template it uses to find ideal recruits, but its emphasis on physical attributes needs to be altered for certain jobs.

Vance went further, saying the template is invalid when it comes to Canada’s ability to “fight effectively in the future.”

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Workers tied up in armed attack on legal Ontario pot grow-op

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Four workers were tied up and several items were taken in an armed attack on a legal marijuana grow-op near Beaverton, Ont., early Thursday morning, according to police. 

Durham Regional Police say that at approximately 6 a.m. ET, five men carrying guns approached a small group of workers who were tending to the operation, in the lakeside community some 80 kilometres northeast of Toronto. 

Four workers were forced into a security trailer and tied up, according to police.

Their personal belongings were taken, and the assailants took « several garbage bags » full of dried marijuana from a storage barn.

They also stole one of the worker’s personal vehicles, which was later found parked a « distance away, » police say.

One suspect is described as a 40- to 45-year-old white male with a French accent and grey, short hair. He is said to be five feet, 10 inches tall and approximately 140 pounds.

A second suspect is described as a 32- to 35-year-old white male wearing a ski mask. He is believed to be five feet, 10 inches tall, about 150 pounds with short, black hair and a full beard.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

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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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