Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders from the United States’ northern neighbor did not hesitate to condemn white supremacy following Donald Trump’s performance during Tuesday’s debate, where the president danced around disavowing supremacists and even told far right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
“The Prime Minister has condemned and will continue to condemn right-wing extremism, white supremacy and racism in all its forms,” a statement from Trudeau’s office sent to CTV News on Wednesday read. “In Canada, we’re not immune to extremism that not only divides our communities, but threatens the safety of Canadians.”
Other representatives of Canada’s political parties — including Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, Interim Green Party leader Jo-Ann Roberts, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet — made similar statements, arguing that Trump was only feeding division and racism in the United States.
Roberts notably pointed out that the Proud Boys had roots in Canada, and on Twitter wrote that the country was “far from immune to hate.” Political consultant Gerald Butts, who worked for Trudeau from 2015 to 2019, also tweeted that the group had “Canadian roots and many Canadian branches.”
The Proud Boys, classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, who is British-Canadian. McInnes, who left Vice in 2008 and now resides in the U.S., built the Proud Boys under the concept that white men and Western culture are under siege from a variety of fronts — including Islam, feminism and immigration — and has espoused hate speech that has resulted in bans from most major social media platforms.
Brad Galloway, a former member of Toronto’s skinhead movement and now the coordinator for Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, told The Toronto Star that there were hundreds of Proud Boy members across Canada who were likely to take Trump’s words as a “call to action,” and predicted a “spillover effect” within Canada. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Canadian Proud Boy members have most recently appeared in anti-mask protests in Manitoba.
Trump attempted to tweak his debate remarks on Wednesday, telling reporters that he was unaware of who the Proud Boys actually were.