Photo: Proud Boys members in Second Amendment Rally in Virginia [Photo Credit: Anthony Crider (CC BY 2.0)]
OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is adding the Proud Boys and three other extreme right-wing groups to its list of terrorist organizations to address the sort of neo-fascism and white nationalism that boiled over in the U.S. earlier this month.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Wednesday that the four right-wing groups are among 13 additions to the list, which include three groups linked to al-Qaida, four associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and one Kashmiri organization.
Groups on Canada's roster of terrorist entities, created after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, may have their assets seized, and there are serious criminal penalties for helping listed organizations carry out extremist activities.
Canada placed two right-wing extremist groups on the list in 2019: Blood and Honour, which is an international neo-Nazi network, and its armed branch, Combat 18.
They joined more than 50 other listed organizations including al-Qaida, the Islamic State militant group, Boko Haram and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The storming of Capitol Hill in Washington last month spurred calls for Canada to add the Proud Boys and other prominent white nationalist organizations to the list.
The House of Commons then passed a motion calling on the government to use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacists and hate groups, starting with designating the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity.
Senior officials speaking on background during a technical briefing said authorities had been monitoring and collecting evidence about the Proud Boys before the Capitol Hill attack, but confirmed that the event provided information that helped with the decision to list the organization.
The officials nonetheless insisted that the decision to list the Proud Boys along with The Base, Atomwaffen Division and other groups was not political, but was based on assessing their level of threat against legal thresholds. They did not say when authorities decided to list the Proud Boys.
The officials added that Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies are increasingly focusing on the threat posed by "ideologically motivated violent extremist groups."
The listing process begins with intelligence reports that provide reason to believe an organization has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity.
If the public safety minister believes the threshold is met, the minister may recommend to the federal cabinet that the organization be added to the list. The listing is then published if the cabinet agrees with the recommendation.
A listed group is not banned, nor is it a crime to be on the roster. However, the group's assets and property are effectively frozen and subject to seizure or forfeiture.
Long-standing opponents of the process had urged officials to find more democratic and transparent means to deal with extreme right-wing activity.
The Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said recently it is imperative that the Liberal government take concrete steps to counter hate and violence, but stressed the terror list is a "deeply problematic" provision that undermines basic principles of justice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2021.
Lee Berthiaume and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press