The Canadian government officially designated the Proud Boys as a terror organization on Wednesday, ranking the group alongside al Qaeda and Boko Haram.
The move to designate the Proud Boys ― a violent, pro-Trump street gang full of extremists and white nationalists ― as a criminal entity was already under consideration before the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol last month. Federal authorities have implicated several Proud Boys in the planning and execution of the siege.
The group’s ties to Canada include the fact that its founder, Gavin McInnes, is a Canadian citizen, although it is more active in the United States.
One unnamed Canadian official who spoke to The New York Times said that the U.S. Capitol insurrection was “a contributing factor” but “it certainly wasn’t the driving force” behind the official designation. Five people died as a direct result of the Capitol incident, which led to a second impeachment trial for now-former President Donald Trump, who stands accused of inciting the riot.
Canada’s Department of Public Safety simultaneously added three other right-wing extremist groups ― the U.S.-based Atomwaffen Division and the Base, along with the Russian Imperial Movement based in St. Petersburg, all of which follow violent neo-Nazi ideologies.
Nine groups related to Islamic extremism were also added to the country’s list of terrorist groups Wednesday.
The official designation allows financial institutions to freeze the group’s assets and empowers law enforcement to stop people from helping to train, recruit and otherwise provide support to members, including by pulling down online content. People from other countries with ties to listed organizations can also be barred from entering Canada.
The Canadian government found that each of the groups has “knowingly participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity, or has knowingly acted on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with such an entity.”
Members of the Proud Boys played a key role in the events of Jan. 6; several of the group’s members and one of its leaders were arrested in connection with the violence. The group also showed up at the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, back in 2017.
Canadian Parliament passed a symbolic motion last week declaring the Proud Boys to be terrorists, but the act worried experts on extremism who felt it might politicize the official process of designating criminal groups.
“We don’t want those criteria being glossed over or loosened because that has the potential to rebound on anti-racist and BIPOC groups. It wasn’t long ago that some MPs called for Indigenous land defenders to be designated as terrorists,” Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told HuffPost last week.