TORONTO – Canada's military is investigating the circumstances surrounding a video played during a formal dinner that featured an unidentified member of the Canadian Forces pretending to be Osama bin Laden's brother, the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force said.
Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Thursday that he was recently informed of complaints that the video was inappropriate and culturally insensitive. He said those involved may face administrative, disciplinary or corrective action.
The man playing bin Laden's brother wears brown makeup, a turban, and speaks with a thick accent in a four-minute excerpt of the video obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A woman playing the role of a news anchor interviews the character, who jokes that his brother always gets all the credit for their work. He refuses to reveal where bin Laden is hiding.
The video was shown at a mess dinner at 14 Wing Greenwood base in Nova Scotia in 2010. At the time, Canada was still involved in a combat mission in Afghanistan, which ended last year. About 950 Canadian soldiers remain in Afghanistan in a training, noncombat role.
Blondin offered an apology to anyone who might have been offended and said the military has "zero tolerance for acts that do not reflect our Canadian values, especially the respect we owe to other cultures and religions."
Defense Minister Peter MacKay said he was awaiting the results of the investigation.
"Religious and cultural tolerance are important and necessary components of any national and professional institution, including the Canadian Forces, and I know the contents of this video do not represent the wider military community and its leadership," said MacKay.
He said that while members of the Canadian forces are heroes, "like all of us, they are not infallible."
The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations said it is tragic that days before Canada is set to celebrate its military history on Remembrance Day "an ignorant prank threatens to cast a shadow on our heritage."
Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the council, said the organization is heartened by Blondin's decision to launch an investigation.
"We have full confidence that a thorough investigation will hold those responsible to account and send a strong signal that xenophobia and Islamophobia will not be tolerated," Gardee said.