The federal government has added the Proud Boys to its designated list of terrorist organizations along with twelve other groups, including Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Wednesday that four of the groups are considered ideologically motivated violent extremists and are the “most significant threat to domestic security” in Canada.
Some groups are linked to recent violence in the United States. Public Safety notes on its website, which lists terrorist entities, that the Proud Boys played a “pivotal role” in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, with its leaders issuing directions during the riots. The department said the group disrupts Black Lives Matter protests, often engaging in violence targeting BLM supporters.
Public Safety describes the Proud Boys as a “neo-fascist organization that engages in political violence,” and that its members espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and white-supremacist ideologies.”
Mr. Blair said listing a group as a terrorist entity can help law enforcement with criminal investigations and lay terrorism-related charges against perpetrators. After a group is listed, banks and financial institutions freeze their assets. It is also a criminal offence to knowingly deal with assets of listed groups. Canadian organizations can lose their charitable status if they have connections to a listed group, and members of a listed entity may not be able to enter the country.
The groups considered ideologically motivated by Ottawa are: Atomwaffen Division, the Base, Russian Imperial Movement and the Proud Boys.
“There has been a growing body of evidence we’ve collected here in Canada and among our international partners, particularly in the United States, of the escalation of violence that [the Proud Boys] has been involved in, it is deeply concerning,” Mr. Blair said.
Conservative Public Safety critic Shannon Stubbs welcomed the move, saying the Conservatives have called on the government to address “the proliferation of white-supremacist hate groups.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted: “It’s official. Proud Boys are designated a terrorist organization. Young people, working people, Black, brown and Indigenous people. This is our victory. I will be speaking to the country about the next steps soon.”
Mr. Singh introduced a motion last week that passed unanimously calling on the government to designate the Proud Boys a terrorist group.
However, Mr. Blair insisted that the listing process is not political and that law-enforcement agencies have been monitoring the activities of these groups for a number of years.
The process involves security intelligence reports and an assessment by the Justice Department to ensure that a group meets the legal threshold to be listed. That evidence is presented to Mr. Blair and, if he believes the threshold is met, he can recommend to the federal cabinet that an organization be added to the list.
Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor at Carleton and former national-security analyst, said listing these groups is a positive move because it will hurt them financially and make them less capable of acting violently and that it is important symbolically. However, she said, the process needs to be more transparent.
“This is really where you see that security, liberty debate play out in a very big way. … And we do need more scrutiny over these processes.”
Other groups added include three al-Qaeda affiliates, five Islamic State affiliates and an international group, Hizbul Mujahideen.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group criticized the move to expand the list. It said that it recognizes the need to address the threat of white supremacist and hate-based violence but it believes enlarging the list is the wrong approach.
The organization said the listing process allows for decisions to be made behind closed doors, based on secret information that doesn’t meet the legal standard for evidence and that the discretionary nature that organizations are added is problematic. The ICLMG reiterated its call that the government axe the list entirely in favour of other measures that prevent criminal activity.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.