Four right-wing extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, have been placed on Canada’s list of terrorist organizations amid an apparent crackdown on far-right violence.
The Proud Boys, Atomwaffen Division, the Base and Russian Imperial Movement were among 13 additions to the list announced by the federal government on Wednesday.
Five affiliates of ISIS, three al-Qaida affiliates and Hizbul Mujahedin were also listed. Being on the list makes it more difficult for groups to operate, and their property can be seized.
With the additions, six out of the 73 groups on Canada’s list of terrorist entities — or eight per cent — are right-wing extremist factions. Blood & Honor and Combat 18 are the only other two.
Proud Boys members allegedly played a key role in the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. On Jan. 25, MPs passed a motion calling on the government to list the Proud Boys.
But Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters the listing process had been underway for months and the decision was based on evidence, intelligence and the law.
Blair said Canadian authorities had noted an escalation of violence by the Proud Boys since 2018, making it a “growing concern.”
Canada is the first country to list the Proud Boys as a terrorist group, said Queen’s University Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam.
“While the Proud Boys designation is a bit surprising, the others were a long time coming. Atomwaffen and the Base are only growing in size and violent rhetoric. They are also openly trying to recruit among more general far-right movements,” the terrorism expert said.
“Many of these groups have grown in their threat precisely because they are able to operate out in the open in terms of fundraising and recruiting. The listing should make all of this harder to do with impunity.”
At least three of the far-right groups have a known Canadian following. The Proud Boys have chapters across Canada, while Atomwaffen and the Base have Canadian members.
Global News has previously asked Proud Boys chapters in Canada to respond to calls for them to be listed for terrorism and they have either not responded or not commented.
Following last month’s violence in Washington, D.C., the group created a new website that claims “we are not terrorists.”
The listing describes the Proud Boys as a violent neo-fascist organization that espouses misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and white supremacist ideologies.
“On January 6, 2021, the Proud Boys played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Leaders of the group planned their participation by setting out objectives, issuing instructions, and directing members during the insurrection,” the listing reads.
Atomwaffen is an international neo-Nazi terror group that “calls for acts of violence against racial, religious, and ethnic groups, and informants, police, and bureaucrats, to prompt the collapse of society,” according to the listing.
The Base is also a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group. An alleged member from Winnipeg, former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Mathews, was arrested in Delaware on Jan. 16, 2020.
Mathews had allegedly recorded a video calling for “violent revolution” and attacks in the name of the white race, proclaiming that “this is the age of war,” according to U.S. prosecutors.
The Russian Imperial Movement is a nationalist group. Its paramilitary faction “has also been present in conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya,” according to the listing.
Also added to the list were: Islamic State West Africa Province, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Islamic State in Libya, Islamic State East Asia and Islamic State Bangladesh.
Al-Qaida affiliates Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, Front de Libération du Macina and Ansar Dine were listed as well, along with Hizbul Mujahideen.
Hizbul Mujahideen is a “militant Kashmiri liberation group” that has launched attacks against Indian security forces, politicians and infrastructure in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Canada Revenue Agency has sanctioned several Canadian charities for financing the group.
A Canadian military report on hate groups, dated July 2018, said Atomwaffen was “believed to be present in Canada however are few in number and are not believed to have a national footprint.”
Formed by former Florida National Guard member Brandon Russel, Atomwaffen Division was organized largely on the online racist forum Iron March, and it soon spread to other states.
Its name means “atomic weapons” in German, and its logo is modelled after that of the Waffen SS. Atomwaffen’s aim is to hasten the collapse of civilization so that a new order can emerge.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre described the group as accelerationists, who “believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world.”
Known for their face masks with skeleton imprints, Atomwaffen videos show members “training with firearms and spreading white supremacist propaganda, among other activities,” according to a report by the Soufan Center.
“Atomwaffen distinguishes itself by its extreme rhetoric, influenced by the writings of a neo-Nazi of an earlier generation, James Mason, who admired Charles Manson and supported the idea of lone wolf violence,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“Members and associates have been linked to violent crimes including murder and alleged plots to attack civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues,” the ADL said on its website.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, the group began conducting swattings — which involve phoning police and making false reports, which cause authorities to dispatch responders to specific addresses.
According to the FBI, such calls were made to police in Banff, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Kamloops, Montreal, Quebec City and, in Ontario, Toronto, Bancroft, Grand Sudbury and the Ontario Provincial Police.
John Cameron Denton, the former leader of Atomwaffen’s Texas branch, was arrested in February over the incidents. He allegedly used a “voice changer” to make the calls.
Russel was also was arrested and is now serving a five-year sentence. Last year, Mason, the group’s “chief philosophical influence,” claimed Atomwaffen was disbanding, a Canadian intelligence report said.