Targeting the Canadian chapter of the Proud Boys with anti-terror legislation has led to the group’s apparent demise, but a leading expert says it might have little effect on the broader far-right movement.
The development could simply harden the resolve of former members, prompt them to join other groups or spawn an increase in individual online activity, said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.
Proud Boys Canada announced Sunday it was dissolving after the Liberal government listed it as a terrorist organization following the January assault on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Being on the list means the group’s assets and property are effectively frozen and subject to seizure or forfeiture.
A statement posted to the Proud Boys channel on the app Telegram and attributed to the Canadian chapter of the white nationalist group said it thought about pursuing a legal case, “but we have no financial support.”
In a separate statement, the group said those in its Canadian chapter have to consider their livelihoods and “fighting this in court will prove to be expensive and time consuming.”
But it said the “fight for liberty” isn’t over.
“They will continue to fight for western values … but now … as individuals.”
Perry said while Ottawa’s listing of the Proud Boys could deter some members, it might stiffen the resolve of others.
“It reinforces their victim mentality,” she said in an interview Monday. “Now they can claim that they’re the targeted ones, they’re the ones that are being silenced.”
It is possible that some local chapters of the Proud Boys would continue to operate in Canada, given their independence, Perry said. In addition, the “real diehards” will morph into a different group or take up with an existing one, she predicted.
“I think that that many of them will continue to engage in the movement in some way,” said Perry, who pegs the number of far-right groups in Canada at about 250.
Some extremists in the movement will try to advance causes on their own in cyberspace, she added, noting “a lot of individuals who are threading their way in and out of different social-media platforms associated with the far right without necessarily affiliating with with a particular group.”
Perry also flags the next general election as a rallying point “that is likely to bring folks out of the woodwork again” as members of the far right try to amplify their messages.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, cautiously welcomed the Proud Boys’ announcement.
“Obviously, we do not take the words of this violent Islamophobic organization at face value,” he tweeted. “However, this is an important step.”
Farooq said there is still “a lot more work to do” to dismantle the many other white-supremacist groups in Canada.
“Let’s make the flags of hate come down. Together.”
Race-based, white supremacist violence is a tragic reality in Canada, said Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
“We have taken significant action as a government to end such violence in our communities. We also know there is more to do, and we are committed to doing that work,” she said.
“Intolerance and hate have no place in our society.”
Stephanie Taylor and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press