Canada could soon be adding more extremist groups like the Proud Boys to Canada’s list of recognized terrorist organizations, in light of the pro-Trump rioting in the U.S. Capitol, according to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Blair said Canadian national security officials are actively gathering intelligence about groups such as the Proud Boys on an ongoing basis.
“We're very mindful of ideologically-motivated violent extremists, including groups like the Proud Boys. They are white supremacists, anti-Semitics, Islamophobic, misogynist groups. They're all hateful, they're all dangerous,” Blair said. “We're working very diligently to ensure that where the evidence is available, where we have the intelligence, that we’ll deal appropriately with those organizations.”
Politicians on this side of the border, including federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called on Canada to reassess the domestic terror threat within Canada. Singh was quick to call on the feds to declare the Proud Boys -- a far-right organization founded by a Canadian -- a terrorist organization.
“It is more urgent than ever that the government works to immediately ban and dismantle all hate organizations operating in Canada,” Singh said.
Members of the extremist group -- whom U.S. President Donald Trump told to “stand back and stand by” in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer -- were present at the attack on the Capitol, seen clearly in footage and on social media sporting Proud Boy colours, patches, flags and apparel affiliated with the group.
Adding Proud Boys or other extremist organizations to the list would see them named alongside Al Qaida, Boko Haram, and the Taliban, among many others. It would also open up a range of criminal sanctions the organization could face.
Blair pointed out that in 2019 the federal government added international neo-Nazi network Blood & Honour and its armed affiliate Combat 18 to the roster, and said: “there are others that will be added.”
“That work is continuing,” Blair said. “That decision isn't a political decision, it's based on the evidence, it's based on the intelligence, and it's based on the law, but we recognize the threat that such ideologically motivated groups represent to Canadian society.”
Blair said that in his view what transpired in Washington, D.C., should be considered acts of terror.
“What we witnessed this week, an assault on one of the most important democratic institutions in the world, not just in the United States, and clearly motivated by extremism and hatred… I think that meets all of the criteria for terrorism,” he said.
The public safety minister added that he continues to have conversations about Parliament Hill security and the protections in place for members of Parliament and Senators.
“There are lessons to be learned by what we witnessed earlier this week in the United States, and we'll apply those lessons,” he said.
In a statement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his party supports the listing of “various white supremacist groups” as terrorist organizations.
“We will always support measures to keep Canadians safe from the threat of terror acts including from any group motivated by white supremacy,” O’Toole said.
Further, in a separate interview, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the federal government is “reflecting on what additional measures could be taken” to protect Canadian democratic institutions from future extremism and violence on display in the U.S. this past week.
Champagne said that one of the key things on his agenda in the year ahead will be to do outreach with President-Elect Joe Biden to make sure democratic values continue to be upheld in that country and around the world.
“We’re certainly going to play a role in institutions around the world to promote democracy and the values that underpin a very strong democracy… that we invest in the institutions and show to the world that democracy is the best form of government, and that's going to be part of the agenda for this year for sure,” said Champagne.
With files from CTV News’ Christy Somos