Toronto (June 5, 2023) - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is calling on the Canadian Army to ensure a zero-tolerance policy for antisemitism following revelations about a sergeant being found guilty of making a series of deeply offensive jokes about Jewish people and the Holocaust.
As recently reported by CTV News, in a sentencing decision by a military judge last fall, Sgt. K.E. Bluemke was found guilty of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline” for making anti-Jewish jokes while he served as an instructor of an Infantry Section Commander course at a Canadian Armed Forces base in Petawawa, Ontario in 2021.
Following an end-of-course review, several candidates who participated in the course reported that Sgt. Bluemke “had made frequent inappropriate jokes and comments referring to Jewish people and to the events of the Holocaust.” A unit investigation was conducted, ultimately leading to a court martial.
The series of offensive comments included Sgt. Bluemke asking the candidates “Is anyone here Jewish?” at the beginning of the course; telling the candidates to “move with the sense of urgency as a certain group did leaving Germany in 1939” during their participation in the “remediation of a firing range”; stating, “Germans are really good at packing things in tight” while needing to find additional space inside course vehicles; and commenting, “Why do Jews have big noses? Because the air is free.”
After Sgt. Bluemke pleaded guilty, the judge sentenced him to “a severe reprimand” and a $3,000 fine, in addition to the remedial measures applied by the Canadian Army, including counselling, probation and monitoring.
In a letter to the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre, and Army Commander, Lieutenant-General Jocelyn Paul, FSWC Director of Allyship and Community Engagement Dan Panneton stated that Sgt. Bluemke “should not be given responsibility or authority over anyone in the Army as an instructor or officer in the future.”
“At a time of escalating antisemitism and hate, such hatred masquerading as humour must not be shown any tolerance,” said Panneton in the letter. “Sgt. Bluemke’s continued presence in the Forces contributes to an environment that’s unsafe for Canadian Jews. In the past, FSWC has received assurances that the Canadian Army has a zero-tolerance policy towards antisemitism in their ranks. We hope that this was not an empty promise. The Canadian Army has an obligation to the members in its ranks as well as the Canadian public as a whole to prevent any form of hatred taking root. We expect this situation will be re-evaluated and treated with the severity it deserves.”
To help remedy the situation, FSWC has offered to provide assistance through special antisemitism training for the Canadian Army.