OTTAWA — Canada formally designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist group under its criminal law on Wednesday, a move that could lead to financial seizures and allow police to treat any crimes they commit as terrorist activity
Government officials said that they believe Canada is the first nation to label the Proud Boys a terrorist entity. The events last month in Washington, they added, contributed to the move, which was already under consideration.
“Since 2018, we have seen an escalation, an escalation toward violence in this group,” Bill Blair, the public safety minister, told a news conference, adding that the Proud Boys and 12 other groups added to the list on Wednesday are “all hateful, intolerant and, as we’ve seen, they can be highly dangerous.”
An official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said that while information gleaned following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in Washington was a “contributing factor, it certainly wasn’t the driving force.”
Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, all-male organization that lauded street brawling as part of its founding idea, played a prominent role in storming the Capitol.
U.S. federal prosecutors investigating the violence announced their first conspiracy charges against the Proud Boys last week, accusing two members of coordinating their effort to interfere with law enforcement officers protecting Congress during the final certification of the presidential election.
Since the attack, Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party in Canada, has pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare the Proud Boys a terror group. Officials said that the listing was made independently of the politicians.
The Proud Boys was among 13 groups added to the government’s terrorism list, including three other far-right or neo-Nazi organizations. The other groups added to the list are affiliated with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Officials stressed that the designations are unlikely to lead to arrests in the near term. “Just because you’re listed doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re now going to be charged with a crime,” one said.
But the official added that any crimes committed by members of the group can now be the subject of terrorism charges under criminal law. Those potential crimes include providing a terrorist group with funds or other assistance — such as purchasing Proud Boys paraphernalia or clothing from the group, although displaying or wearing them publicly breaks no laws.
Recruitment, travel and training related to the group can now also lead to criminal charges. Additionally, authorities have more power to remove its online posts, add its members to the no-fly list and deny entry at the border to group members who are not Canadian.
Mr. Blair said that the designation will “severely restrict” the group’s ability to use online crowdfunding in Canada or any other fund-raising method.
Bank accounts belonging to the group, officials said, could be seized or frozen, although Mr. Blair, citing intelligence confidentiality, declined to say what assets, if any, the Proud Boys have in Canada. Individual members’ accounts will not be affected unless they are being used for operations by the group.
In its designation, the Canadian government said that members of the Proud Boys “espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies and associate with white supremacist groups.”
The government did not indicate how many chapters of the Proud Boys are active in Canada. In 2017, five members of the Canadian Armed Forces were part of a Proud Boys group that disrupted an Indigenous ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada Day. They were disciplined but not charged by the military.
The Proud Boys was established in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, who was born in England but raised in Ottawa and helped to found the Vice media empire. Mr. McInnes has since distanced himself from the Proud Boys and Vice.
At protests, Canadians members of the Proud Boys often carry the red ensign, a flag containing the Union Jack in one corner that was Canada’s official banner until it adopted its maple leaf flag in 1965.
Some Canadian news outlets reported that the websites of Proud Boys chapters in several Canadian cities disappeared last month following the events in Washington. It appeared that they were removed by the groups themselves rather than by service providers.
While Canada is a multicultural and generally tolerant country with a prime minister who promotes increasing immigration, some far-right groups have gained limited traction in recent years, in particular in Quebec, where they have played on historical grievances about language and identity to rail against immigration.
There have also been some high-profile cases of American anti-immigrant policies or far-right ideology influencing young people.
In 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette, a student in Quebec City, killed six people and injured 19 at a mosque in Quebec. It later emerged that in the month before his massacre, he had trawled the internet 819 times for posts related to Mr. Trump, reading his Twitter feed daily and homing in on the former president’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries.
Mr. Bissonnette also browsed websites linked to the white nationalist Richard Spencer, the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine Black Americans at a South Carolina church.
In Quebec, there have also been pockets of intolerance, manifested in far-right groups like La Meute, or Wolfpack, a group whose members have railed against Islam and immigration. Nevertheless, they have remained marginal.
Ontario has seen two attacks launched by men who described themselves as “incels,” or involuntary celibates, a term used online by sexually frustrated men with misogynist views that sometimes tip into violence. In 2018, one of them mowed down pedestrians with a rented van, killing 10.
At the same time, far-right ideology has failed to gain national traction within the political system. In the 2019 federal election, a far-right populist party that ran on a platform warning about the perils of immigration failed to win a single seat in Parliament.
In addition to the Proud Boys, lesser-known white supremacist organizations that Canada singled out on Wednesday as terrorist organizations included Atomwaffen Division, the Base and the Russian Imperial Movement.
The Base is a neo-Nazi organization whose founders sought to use violence to help establish a white homeland in the Western United States. Through a series of undercover operations, federal agents disrupted what the F.B.I. said were several planned attacks by the group in early 2020.There was some overlap in membership with the Atomwaffen Division, another American neo-Nazi group that largely operates in the United States.
The Russian Imperial Movement, a paramilitary white supremacist group headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia, was the first white supremacist group to be officially designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department last year.
Last year, Canada placed Blood & Honour, a neo-Nazi group founded in Britain, and its affiliate Combat 18 on its terrorist group list.
Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from New York, and Dan Bilefsky from Montreal.
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