Canada on February 3 declared the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, adding the far-right group to a list that includes al-Qaeda, ISIS and al-Shabab in an effort to crack down on “ideologically motivated violent extremism,” described by the country’s public safety minister as the “most significant threat to domestic security.”
The announcement by public safety minister Bill Blair came less than a month after some Proud Boys joined the violent mob that stormed the US Capitol after attending a rally by then-President Donald Trump in the hope of overturning the presidential election. Five persons, including a Capitol police officer, died in that attack.
“Their violent actions and rhetoric are fuelled by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny, and unfortunately, often in a combination of all of the above,” said Bill Blair at a news conference on February 3.
Government officials say the move will help Canada freeze the groups’ financial assets and criminalize financing, training and recruitment for all such groups.
When asked about the new terrorist designation for the Proud Boys, Blair said that the events of January 6 on the US Capitol did initiate a “political response” in Canada, but that the decision was not political.
“And as disturbing and concerning as those images and those events were, they also provided law enforcement and our intelligence services with a trove of new information in which quite frankly, many of these groups revealed themselves,” said Blair, adding that Canada’s decision was based on “evidence, intelligence and the law.”
During a September presidential debate, Donald Trump had urged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator.
Senior officials speaking on a technical briefing said authorities had been monitoring and collecting evidence about the Proud Boys before the Capitol Hill insurrection but confirmed that the event provided information that helped with the decision to list the organization.
“The group and its members have openly encouraged, planned, and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs,” the public safety department said.
Canadian government officials say they know of no other nation that has designated the Proud Boys a terrorist group.
“What I can tell you is over the past several months, basically since 2018, we have seen an escalation and there is an escalation towards violence for this group,” said Blair referring to the Proud Boys adding that, “In the aftermath of the US presidential election we’ve seen an escalation in supports that signal an escalation towards violence in a number of different groups, including the Proud Boys.”
The government calls the Proud Boys a neo-fascist organization with semi autonomous chapters located in the United States, Canada, and internationally. It said it engages in political violence and that members espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist ideologies.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said Trudeau’s Liberal government is trying to attach their star to the anti-Trump sentiment prevalent in Canada.
“Since the Proud Boys are identified with Trump, they are an easy target. Had Trump won the election, I’m confident the Liberals would not have gone after the Proud Boys,” Wiseman said.