Although membership would not constitute a crime, the designation means the group may have assets seized and face harsher terrorism-related criminal penalties. Sending money to the organisation or buying their paraphernalia is now also illegal.

In this September 7, 2020, file photo, a protester carries a Proud Boys banner, a right-wing group, while other members start to unfurl a large US flag in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, US.
In this September 7, 2020, file photo, a protester carries a Proud Boys banner, a right-wing group, while other members start to unfurl a large US flag in front of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, US. (AP)

The Canadian government has designated the Proud Boys group as a terrorist entity, noting they played a pivotal role in last month's insurrection at the US Capitol.

The Proud Boys have faced increased scrutiny after seizing on the former Trump administration’s policies and was a major agitator during earlier protests and the Capitol riot on January 6. 

The Proud Boys is a far-right, male chauvinist extremist group known for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies. Canada is the first country to designate them as a terrorist entity.

During a September presidential debate, Donald Trump had urged them to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator.

READ MORE: Who are the ‘Proud Boys’ that Trump mentioned in the debate?

Senior officials speaking on a technical briefing said authorities had been monitoring and collecting evidence about the Proud Boys before the Capitol Hill insurrection, but confirmed that the event provided information that helped with the decision to list the organisation.

READ MORE: US Democrats make case for impeachment, Trump denies allegations

Terrorist crimes

The terrorist designation means the group may have assets seized and face harsher terrorism-related criminal penalties. A government official said just because they are a member doesn't mean they will be charged with a crime, but if they do engage in violent acts they could be charged with terrorist crimes.

Sending money to the organisation or buying Proud Boys paraphernalia would also be a crime.

“The group and its members have openly encouraged, planned, and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs,” the Canadian government said in briefing materials.

“The group regularly attends Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests as counter-protesters, often engaging in violence targeting BLM supporters. On January 6, 2021, the Proud Boys played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the US Capitol.”

READ MORE: The dizzying array of white supremacist groups

The government calls the Proud Boys a neo-fascist organisation with semiautonomous chapters located in the United States, Canada, and internationally. It said it engages in political violence and that members espouse misogynistic, anti-Islam, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist ideologies.

'Escalation towards violence'

“Since 2018 we have seen an escalation towards violence for this group,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.

“In the aftermath of the US presidential election, we have seen signals of escalation towards violence from a number of different groups including the Proud Boys.”

Blair said four right-wing groups are among 13 additions to the list, which include three groups linked to Al Qaeda, four associated with Daesh and one Kashmiri organisation.

“Canada will not tolerate ideological, religious or politically motivated acts of violence,” Blair said.

Several members arrested 

The Proud Boys were formed in 2016 by Canadian Gavin McInnes, who co-founded Vice Media.

In 2018, police arrested several Proud Boys members and associates who brawled with antifascists after McInnes, delivered a speech at New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club.

READ MORE: Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement

READ MORE: Leader of neo-fascist Proud Boys arrested ahead of pro-Trump rallies

McInnes has described the group as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists” and denies affiliations with far-right extremist groups that overtly espouse racist and anti-Semitic views. McInnes sued the Southern Poverty Law Center, claiming it defamed him when it designated the Proud Boys as a “hate group.”

In response to the federal suit, which is still pending in Alabama, the law centre said McInnes has acknowledged an “overlap” between the Proud Boys and white nationalist groups.

“Indeed, Proud Boys members have posted social media pictures of themselves with prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, and known neo-Nazis,” law centre lawyers wrote in a court filing.

READ MORE: The bizarre cast of radical and conspiracy groups that stormed the Capitol

READ MORE: US issues heightened terrorism threat alert from domestic extremists

Source: AP