Canada has designated the far-right group Proud Boys as a terrorist entity. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the decision was influenced by the group’s “pivotal role” in the 6 January riots at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
The designation allows the Proud Boys’ assets to be frozen, and members of the groups could be charged with terrorist offences if they commit violent acts. The group is all-male and anti-immigrant, and has a history of violent political confrontations. It was founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the Canadian co-founder of Vice Media. Vice has since worked to distance itself from Mr McInnes and the Proud Boys The Proud Boys’ platform includes ideas espoused by former US President Donald Trump, libertarianism and traditional gender roles, the group was mentioned by Mr Trump during the first US presidential debate last October.
Responding to a question about white supremacist and militia groups, he said, “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by”, which members of the group online took as a call to prepare for action. Mr Trump later distanced himself from them. The announcement in Canada comes one week after the US Department of Homeland Security warned of a “heightened threat” of domestic terrorism from violent extremists unhappy with the outcome of the presidential election. And just hours after the announcement, the US Justice Department announced it had arrested and charged a top member of the group’s Seattle chapter. Ethan Nordean, 30, who is also known as Rufio Panman, is at least the eighth group member to be charged in connection with the Capitol riots.
In Canada on Wednesday, Mr Blair described a “growing threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism”. He did not specify how many Proud Boy chapters are currently in Canada. The Canadian Proud Boy groups had previously been thought of as disparate and disorganised, but the new designation suggests their perceived threat has been elevated. The decision was made based on “a trove of new information”, Mr Blair said. “Over the past several months, basically since 2018, we have seen an escalation towards violence for this group [the Proud Boys].” The escalation has continued since the US presidential election, he added. In his announcement, Mr Blair referenced “several different occasions” of attacks in Canada from those with far-right and extremist ideologies. Last week, the country marked the four-year anniversary of a mass shooting in a Quebec mosque that killed six people and injured 19.
Despite strict travel restrictions between the US and Canada, at least two Canadians later identified in media reports made it to Washington for last month’s storming of the Capitol and images and video of the 6 January riots show at least one Canadian flag held by someone in the crowd. Canada is the first country to give the Proud Boys a terrorist designation. Two other far-right US groups – Atomwaffen Division and the Base – have also been designated by Canada as terrorist entities, along with several affiliates of the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda. A total of six white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have been designated by terrorist entities in Canada. Prior to 2018, no such groups were listed as a terrorist threat.