Canada has described the far-right Proud Boys group as a “serious and growing threat” and branded it a terrorist organization alongside Isis and al-Qaida, amid growing concerns over the spread of white supremacist groups in the country.
On Wednesday Bill Blair, public safety minister, also announced the federal government would designate the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups the Atomwaffen Division, the Base and the Russian Imperial Movement as terrorist entities. The federal government also added offshoots of al-Qaida, Isis and Hizbul Mujahedin to its list.
“Canada will not tolerate ideological, religious or politically motivated acts of violence,” Blair said.
The minister described the group as a “neo-fascist organization that engages in political violence” and whose members “espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies.”
He said that the Proud Boys played a “pivotal role” in the mob attack on the US Capitol in January, Blair said. During the 2020 presidential debates, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist groups, he instead told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”.
In late January, Canada’s parliament unanimously passed a motion calling on the federal government to designate the rightwing Proud Boys as a terrorist group. The motion had no practical legal impact, but spoke to a growing worry over rightwing extremism in Canada.
Ahead of the announcement, Canadian officials told reporters that they had been monitoring the Proud Boys before the Capitol Hill attack, but the event helped with the decision to list the organization.
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 by the Canadian Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice magazine. The group first made headlines in Canada three years ago, after five military reservists, dressed in the group’s black and yellow shirts, disrupted a protest by the Indigenous community over a controversial statue. The group was banned by Facebook and Instagram in October 2018 after violating the platforms’ hate policies and is classified as an extremist organization by the FBI.
The terrorist designation does not necessarily make it a crime to be a member of these groups, but it does mean that the group’s assets could be seized or forfeited by Canadian authorities.
Experts do not believe the group has large, hidden assets, but the terrorist designation could have important consequences for individual members.
“Banks and companies like PayPal will probably not want to do business with anyone who has been outed as being a member of the Proud Boys. These kind of companies are pretty risk-averse,” Jessica Davis, a terrorism expert and former analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, previously told the Guardian.