Canada labeled the Proud Boys a terrorist group Wednesday, increasing international pressure on the self-proclaimed “Western chauvinist” organization.
The far-right group has gained a broader platform in recent years with its vocal backing of former President Trump, engagement in street fights and Trump telling the group to “stand back and stand by” when he was asked to condemn white supremacy, a remark the group interpreted as a sign of support.
The group’s notoriety skyrocketed following the alleged involvement of some of its members in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Federal prosecutors last week announced the first conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys over their role in the deadly attack.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack that he was collecting evidence of groups that played a role in the insurrection. A terror designation would allocate more investigative tools to law enforcement and allow the freezing of the group’s assets or members’ property. It is a crime to knowingly provide assistance to a designated group, though being a member of the organization is not in itself against the law.
“They are all hateful, intolerant and we have seen they can be dangerous,” Blair said Wednesday in announcing the designation. “We have seen the type of tragic results that this kind of extremism can bring to Canada.”
Still, the move is largely symbolic given the Proud Boys’ smaller presence in Canada. Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, is Canadian.
The Canadian House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in January calling on the government to label the Proud Boys a terrorist group. The motion urged the Canadian government to “use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacists and hate groups starting with the immediately designating the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity.”
Twelve other groups were designated as terrorist organizations Wednesday, including the Atomwaffen Division, which calls for violence against minority groups, and the Base, a neo-Nazi group.
“Today’s additions to the Criminal Code list of terrorist entities are an important step in our effort to combat violent extremism in all forms. Canadians expect their Government to keep them safe and to keep pace with evolving threats and global trends, such as the growing threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism. The Government of Canada will continue to take appropriate actions to counter terrorist threats to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world,” Blair said in a statement.
There are now 73 groups listed as terrorist organizations under the Canadian criminal code.
The U.S. government does not consider the Proud Boys a terrorist group. A Change.org petition calling for the designation in the U.S. has garnered nearly 500,000 signatures.
–Updated at 1:22 p.m.