Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer
On February 3, 2021, the Canadian government announced 13 groups as terrorist entities. Among these extremist groups were the Proud Boys. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety, stated in the government release that the terrorist designation is “an important step in [Canada’s] effort to combat violent extremism in all forms.”
Established in 2016 by Canadian Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are self-proclaimed “Western-chauvinists,” known for white supremacist ideologies. On his talk show, McInnes advocated for violence against women and stated he is “not a fan of Islam.” The group incited violence as counter-supporters during Black Lives Matter protests and participated in the recent insurrection of the US Capitol.
Following the events of January 6, 2021 at Capitol Hill in Washington, the New Democratic Party leader, Jagmeet Singh, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “immediately ban and designate the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization,” on the grounds that they are a “right-wing extremist group that promotes white supremacist views.”
In an interview with The Peak, associate humanities professor and political theorist Samir Gandesha explained how a terrorist designation is not an effective way to de-platform white supremacy groups. He cited the passing of The Anti-Terrorism Act, which former Canadian prime ministers and parliament members criticized for its loose restrictions on the disruption of terrorist activity.
The act allows the criminalization of people who knowingly advocate or promote terrorism offenses in general. It also “allows the preventative arrest and detention of a person if it is ‘likely’ to prevent a terrorist activity.”
Gandesha said designating the Proud Boys as terrorists according to the Anti-Terrorism Act undermines the anti-terrorist efforts of groups such as ANTIFA, and could disproportionately increase vulnerability in marginalized communities by normalizing extremism. He noted, for example, that Indigenous people challenging developments such as pipeline construction could be defined and targeted as terrorists under the same act. Using “flawed legislation” is not the right way to make significant change against white supremacy in Canada, said Gandesha.
Under this legislation, he explained, members of the Proud Boys can still participate in other groups as they have not been named individually and expressing hate is not a terrorist offence. For instance, the Proud Boys’ Manitoba chapter rebranded and may continue to function.
Instead, Gandesha stated that the government needs to dismantle white supremacy by “creating the conditions that would make the emergence and expression of white supremacy less likely.” The solutions he suggested include “resourcing communities so they can engage in self-organization and self defense” He explained that doing this would mean significant reform within democratic institutions, like electoral reform and restructuring the economy, “for the benefit of the many and not the few.”