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Canadian Proud Boys in ‘panic’ as platforms go offline and government talks of terror listing

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The bulk of the online platforms used by the Canadian branches of the Proud Boys were gone on Monday, as the group faced mounting pressure in the wake of last week’s violence in the U.S. capital.

The Proud Boys Canada page, as well as those of the Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and three other regional chapters, were all on the social media platform Parler, which went offline.

The Edmonton Proud Boys website, which is used for recruitment, also went down over the weekend but then resurfaced Monday afternoon.

“There’s definitely a sense of panic,” said Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Read more: Prominent far-right groups were part of U.S. Capitol mob

The Canadian Proud Boys had already split into factions last year, with some members forming the far-right nationalist Canada First, Simons told Global News.

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But the storming of the U.S. Capitol building, and hints the Proud Boys could be added to Canada’s list of terrorist organizations, appeared to be causing more internal rifts, she said.

“It’s splintering them further. It’s causing a lot of them to reconsider whether they want to be part of it,” Simons said. “I suspect that we’re going to see more of that this week.”

The Canadian Proud Boys still have a Telegram channel, and some members post on the platform Gab. Telegram did not respond to requests for comment.

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Described in a Canadian military report on hate groups as an “extremist conservative group” that is “openly Islamophobic and misogynistic,” the Proud Boys were founded by Canadian Gavin McGinnes.

It was one of several prominent right-wing extremist groups that took part in last Wednesday’s attempt to stop the certification of President Donald Trump’s election loss.

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The leader of the Proud Boys Hawaii chapter was charged over his alleged role in the incident, and the national leader was arrested on the eve of the event.

Since then, Proud Boys Telegram channels have posted “statements and memes” supporting the storming of the Capitol, according to the Counter Extremism Project.

“The group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, shared messages on Parler expressing his support for the attack, including urging those who entered the building to stay, stating that ‘When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.'”

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Following the events in Washington, D.C., NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called on Ottawa to designate the Proud Boys a terrorist group and comments from the government have been interpreted as indicating officials were looking into it.

Only two right-wing extremist groups are currently on Canada’s list of terrorist entities.

Jessica Davis, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service analyst, said the Proud Boys may come close to meeting the threshold to be listed as a terrorist group.

Some of the assaults attributed to the group could be seen as being politically or ideologically motivated, and the events on Capitol Hill could also meet the bar of terrorism, said Davis, president of Insight Threat Intelligence.

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Despite the de-platforming of the Proud Boys in recent days, the Proud Boys USA website remains online, and includes the pages of 15 purported Canadian chapters. Experts said there were actually eight chapters in Canada.

None of the chapters contacted by Global News responded to requests for comment.

The Edmonton Proud Boys website went offline late Sunday or early Monday. Its domain name was registered by the Toronto-based company Tucows. A Tucows spokesperson said the company had not taken action against the site.

Parler went offline after Amazon, Apple and Google all kicked it off their platforms. It had hosted seven Canadian Proud Boys groups: Proud Boys Canada and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal chapters.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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Neither did Canada First, which also remains on Telegram, where it has been posting messages about the killing of Ashli Babbitt, who was killed by police Wednesday after breaching the U.S. Capitol.

Stewart.bell@globalnews.ca