An anti-hate group said it had filed a complaint with the Law Society of Ontario asking for an investigation into a criminal lawyer who appeared to pledge allegiance to the far-right Proud Boys in a video.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network said it had filed the complaint against Colin A. Browne on Thursday, after Global News reported on the video showing him reciting the Proud Boys oath.
“Based on all of the evidence above, we have enormous concerns about Mr. Browne’s actions and their damage to the legal profession and administration of justice in Ontario,” the complaint alleges.
The video, in which Browne wore a Make American Great Again hat and held a Proud Boys coin, was posted on Telegram the day the Canadian government added the group to its list of terrorist entities.
Mr. Browne could not be reached for comment.
The Law Society of Ontario said it could not confirm a complaint had been received, and such reviews were confidential “until or unless they result in regulatory proceedings, which would be public.”
The complaint, obtained by Global News, alleges that “swearing allegiance to such an organization” constituted professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer.
Specifically, the complaint alleged the lawyer’s actions undermined public confidence in his integrity, were dishonourable, reflected negatively on the legal profession, and failed to recognize Ontario’s diversity.
It further alleged the law society’s code recognized that lawyers have a “special responsibility” to respect human rights laws, and that they are obliged not to discriminate.
“An officer of the court swearing allegiance to a group that promotes violence and discrimination against women, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and non-whites clearly sends the message that they disavow their responsibility under this Rule of Professional Conduct.”
Browne has confirmed to Global News he was a Proud Boys member and was preparing an appeal of the terrorist listing by Canada. He said he intended to address the matter, but has not yet done so.
The Proud Boys have been under pressure since their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, which has led to arrests, the loss of their online platforms and, in Canada, their designation as a terrorist group.
The Manitoba and Saskatchewan chapters have folded, citing the fallout of the events in Washington, D.C., and the Edmonton chapter’s website has gone offline, but experts said it was too soon to write off the Proud Boys.
The Proud Boys have denied involvement in violence or crime, and insisted there was no evidence they are a terrorist group.
“Being proscribed as a terrorist organization in Canada is really just the latest in a series of blows that have seriously impacted the Proud Boys over the past few months,” said researcher Blyth Crawford.
The growth spurt the Proud Boys experienced in 2020 has been stopped, partly due to the unravelling of the social media platform Parler, where the group had found success, she said.
The Proud Boys have also faced the outing of chairman Enrique Tarrio as an FBI informant, said Crawford, a research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. Tarrio has denied acting as an informant.
“While the group has denied splintering on their main Telegram channel, and have responded defiantly to Canada’s proscription, it’s clear that this, coupled with the other setbacks the group has faced, has had an impact, at least on their ability to attract new members.”