The federal government has added two far-right groups to its list of terrorist entities, signalling the growing risk of violence posed by neo-Nazi and other extremist organizations in Canada.
The two groups, Blood & Honour and Combat 18, originated in Europe but have developed a presence in Canada, where they have been known to target and attack members of ethnic and sexual minorities. The listing marks the first time far-right groups have been added to Canada’s list of terrorist entities.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the threat posed by right-wing groups has been clearly laid out around the world, pointing to deadly attacks in recent years in the United States, New Zealand and Canada.
“We have increasing concern about ultra-right-wing extremism leading to violence,” he said. “[The listing of these two groups] is a clear signal that we are very alert to this type of extremist violence, as we try to be alert to every type of extremist violence, and are prepared to take the appropriate steps to keep Canadians safe.”
According to the federal government, Blood & Honour was founded in Britain in 1987 and is an “international neo-Nazi network whose ideology is derived from the National Socialist doctrine of Nazi Germany.” The listing describes Combat 18 as the “armed branch” of Blood & Honour and says the group has “carried out violent actions, including murders and bombings.”
Members of Blood & Honour participated in the 1998 murder of two homeless men in Florida and the firebombing of a building occupied by Romani families in the Czech Republic in 2012, the government said.
Following the listing, it is now an offence to “knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity” of either Blood & Honour or Combat 18. While being a member of either group is not a crime, it is now an offence to provide funds to the organization in Canada, for example.
“It gives additional tools [to law-enforcement authorities] that can be used, but as much as anything, it is a symbolic gesture – an important one because you can’t dismiss symbolic gestures,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
She said the size of the two groups in Canada is hard to quantify, but estimated their membership at between 50 and 100 members.
“I hope it’s the beginning of more to come,” Ms. Perry said of the terrorist list additions.
Three Iran-backed Shia groups – Al-Ashtar Brigades, Fatemiyoun Division and Harakat al-Sabireen – were simultaneously added to the roster of terrorist entities.
The new listings demonstrate the evolution of the threat of terrorism in Canada.
“The principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from individuals or groups who are inspired by violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaeda (AQ). Canada also remains concerned about threats posed by those who harbour right-wing extremist views,” the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada says.
Mr. Goodale also announced new measures on Wednesday for dealing with extremist groups in Canada, including a $1-million fund to help internet companies detect the presence of terrorist content online and remove the material quickly from their servers. For example, it can be difficult for smaller internet companies to detect and remove the logos of extremist groups on their servers.
“They may not have the resources to deal with it, the knowledge base, the time or the talent to be able to detect what is and what is not damaging or dangerous material,” he said. “They need help.”
In addition, the federal government will work with Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft to hold a youth summit on countering violent extremism online. The event is scheduled for this summer.