Canada on Wednesday deemed the far right Proud Boys group a terrorist organization, saying it had become a “serious and growing threat” to society.
The group has faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks following its pivotal role in the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 and now the Canadian government has responded, designating the Proud Boys as a terror network.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that the decision was reached in light of intelligence forces being increasingly concerned about the group’s activites.
“There has been a serious and concerning escalation of violence — not just rhetoric but activity and planning — and that is why we have responded as we have today,” Blair told a news conference.
The group’s regular appearances as counter-protesters at events such as Black Lives Matter protesters, and their willingness to use violence against rival demonstrators, was another reason cited.
Events at the Capitol prompted the move
Senior officials said authorities had been monitoring and collecting evidence about the Proud Boys prior to the Capitol Hill insurrection, but confirmed that the events provided information that helped with the decision.
Public Safety Minister Blair said the group’s “intent and their escalation toward violence became quite clear,” following the attack in Washington last month.
Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of Proud Boys, called the terrorist designation “ridiculous.”
“There is no basis for it. It’s infringement of free speech rights. All the Canadian Proud Boys have ever done is go to rallies,” Tarrio said.
“They used what happened at the Capitol to push for this,” added Tarrio, who was arrested in Washington two days before the events took place at the US government building, His detention came after he was accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner during an earlier protest.
What does it mean?
Better known for its activity in the US, the Proud Boys was founded by a Canadian, Gavin McInnes, who resides in the States.
The new designation means the Proud Boys may have assets seized and face stiffer terrorism-related punishments.
A government official said if someone was a member of the organization, that did not necessarily mean they would be charged with a crime, but if they were to engage in violence, they could be charged with committing a terrorist act.
Donating money to the organization or buying Proud Boys paraphernalia would also be deemed a crime.
New US administration reviewing domestic extremism
By September 2020 at the latest, the Proud Boys gained prominence during one of the televised US presidential debates between Joe Biden and then president Donald Trump. One of the questions posed to Trump asked whether he would disavow white supremacists and the Proud Boys group in particular. Trump instead called on the group to “stand back and stand by.”
Canada is the first country to designate the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity. Asked whether the US would follow suit, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a domestic extremism review was underway but added, “we will wait for that review to conclude before we make any determinations.”
By DW News