Skip to main content

Canada declares far-right Proud Boys group a 'terrorist' organisation

Designation allows Canadian authorities to seize property and bank assets of group members and make it a crime to knowingly provide assistance to them
Members of Proud Boys gather outside Harry's Bar during protest in Washington DC last December (AFP/File photo)

Canada has officially labelled the far-right Proud Boys group as a terrorist organisation, adding it to a list with the likes of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and al-Shabab. 

The designation, declared on Wednesday, is part of an "effort to combat violent extremism in all forms", Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a news release

Confronting white supremacy: How domestic terror laws harm people of colour
Read More »

The far-right Atomwaffen Division, The Base, and the Russian Imperial Movement were also labelled along with the Proud Boys as "ideologically motivated violent extremist groups". 

"Violent acts of terrorism have no place in Canadian society or abroad," Blair said in Wednesday's statement. 

"Today's additions to the Criminal Code list of terrorist entities are an important step in our effort to combat violent extremism in all forms," he continued. 

"Canadians expect their government to keep them safe and to keep pace with evolving threats and global trends, such as the growing threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism."

'Pivotal role' in Capitol attack

Blair's announcement comes less than a month after the deadly 6 January attack on the US Capitol that sought to overturn the country's presidential election in favour of former President Donald Trump. 

On Friday, US federal prosecutors investigating the attack announced the first conspiracy charges against the group, accusing two of its members of working together to obstruct and interfere with law enforcement officers protecting Congress at the time.

Canada has said that the Proud Boys played a "pivotal role" in the attack on the Capitol, an allegation backed up by media investigations. 

The Capitol Hill riot was not a coup. It was an attempt to preserve white supremacy
Read More »

Still, senior government officials told the Washington Post that the attack on the US Capitol was not the “driving” factor for the group’s inclusion on the list, as they had been considering the designation for "a while".

The attack did, however, produce "a lot of information that came into the public domain" and was then added to intelligence reports that informed the decision, the officials said. 

Canada's designation follows a Department of Homeland Security warning released last week that detailed the heightened threat of "ideologically motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition" and "perceived grievances fueled by false narratives".

During a presidential debate ahead of the November elections, Trump famously told the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" when asked to denounce the group. 

The US has yet to establish a terror designation that can label purely domestic groups as terrorist organisations.

'We believed this day would come'

The Proud Boys was established in 2016 by Canadian citizen and Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. The far-right, male-only group self identifies as “western chauvinists” - a label widely regarded as a modern term for white supremacists. 

McInnes and other members have publicly spewed racist, anti-Muslim, antisemitic, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric. 

The organisation has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been banned from numerous social networks, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

The Atomwaffen Division and The Base are both neo-nazi groups that were designated alongside the Proud Boys on Wednesday. The groups gained notoriety in 2017 for their part in a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina, during which one counter-protester was run over and killed. 

US Capitol riots: The biggest threat to America is at home
Marco Carnelos
Read More »

The terror designations allow Canadian authorities to seize property and bank assets of group members and make it a crime to knowingly provide assistance to such organisations. Group members can also be denied entry to Canada and the listing can also help to facilitate the removal of an entity’s online content.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims signalled its support for the designation, pointing to the murder of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis outside a Toronto Mosque in September. The man charged in the killing was reportedly connected to the  white supremacy movement

"We thank the government for listing these white supremacist groups," the council said in a statement. "When we called for a bipartisan national action to dismantle white supremacy groups, we believed that this day would come."

Still, the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to find more democratic and transparent means to deal with such organisations, saying the terror list will not end white supremacist violence.

"This law and others have been decried by legal experts, civil liberties organizations, and racial justice advocates as threatening the fundamental rights of Canadians and people in Canada, and perpetuating the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia inherent to the 'War on Terror'", the ICLMG wrote in an open letter.