It also follows a warning last week by the Department of Homeland Security about 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.”
Designation as a terrorist group carries financial and legal consequences. Police can seize the property of the group or its members; banks can seize their assets. It’s a crime to knowingly provide assistance to a designated group to facilitate or carry out attacks. Group members may be denied entry to Canada.
The government also added the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group whose members participated in the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, The Base, another neo-Nazi group, and the Russian Imperial Movement, a Russian nationalist group with members linked to violent activity abroad.
Senior government officials said they were not aware of any other jurisdiction that has listed the Proud Boys as a terrorist group. They said they had been looking at the group for “a while” and that while the insurrection on the Capitol was not the “driving” factor for the group’s inclusion on the list, the event on Jan. 6 produced a “lot of information that came into the public domain” and was added to the intelligence reports that informed the decision.
The Canadian government says ideologically motivated violent extremism is “driven by a range of grievances and ideas from across the traditional ideological spectrum” and centers on “an extremist’s willingness to incite, enable or mobilize to violence.”
It encompasses xenophobic violence, anti-authority violence, gender-driven violence such as anti-LGBTQ violence or violent misogyny espoused by involuntary celibates, or “incels,” and other grievance-driven violence that is not clearly affiliated with an organized group but shaped by “echo chambers of online hate.”
The Proud Boys was formed in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, a Canadian. The far-right, male-only group of self-described “Western chauvinists” has a history of street violence, including against Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Canada said the group played a “pivotal role” in the attack on the Capitol.
Analysts say the Proud Boys were emboldened when Trump, pressed during the first presidential debate to condemn the group, told members to “stand back and stand by.”
The group celebrated the remarks, which quickly became featured in memes. Several social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, have banned the Proud Boys, but members have found new homes on apps such as Telegram and Parler.
National security analysts have in recent years warned of the growing threat that right-wing extremist groups pose in Canada. They say they are more united than in the past and bolstered by the transnational alliances they’ve built with counterparts in the United States and Europe.
“We are more and more preoccupied by the number of ultra right-wing extremists … white nationalism, ethno nationalism, white supremacists,” David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Services, told a Canadian Senate committee in 2019.
Several months later, Canada announced that the neo-Nazi groups Blood & Honor and Combat 18 would be the first ideologically motivated extremist groups to be included on its listing of terrorist entities.
Public Safety Canada reported in 2018 that the “principal terrorist threat” in the country continued to stem from “violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaeda,” but it was also “concerned about threats posed by those who harbor right-wing extremist views.”
It cited several examples of right-wing extremist attacks in Canada, including the shooting of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officers in 2014 by a man motivated by anti-law enforcement and anti-government beliefs and a 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six worshipers by a man who was “motivated, at least in part, by his self-admitted fear of Muslims.”
Neither of the men were charged with terrorism offenses.
In 2020, a 17-year-old accused of fatally stabbing a woman at a Toronto massage parlor became the first Canadian charged with terrorism in a case connected to the “incel,” or involuntary celibate, ideology.
Canadian lawmakers unanimously passed a motion in Parliament last week urging the federal government to “immediately” designate the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity, but the move was nonbinding and was met with a backlash from some anti-hate groups and national security analysts.
They said it was inappropriate for lawmakers to be weighing in on and potentially politicizing what is supposed to be a legal process guided by evidence and intelligence.
The listing process begins with the drafting of criminal and security intelligence reports detailing “reasonable grounds to believe that the entity has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity,” or that “the entity is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of or in association with, an entity involved in a terrorist activity.”
Those reports are submitted to the public safety minister to review. If the minister is satisfied that the relevant criteria for listing the groups has been met, he or she can make a recommendation to cabinet to place the group on the list.
Seven other entities affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant Kashmiri liberation groups, were also added to the list.