The Canadian branch of the far-right Proud Boys organisation has dissolved itself, the Reuters news agency first reported, just months after Ottawa designated the group as a “terrorist” entity.
“The truth is, we were never terrorists or a white supremacy group,” the administrator of the official Proud Boys channel on Telegram said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are electricians, carpenters, financial advisors, mechanics, etc. More than that, we are fathers, brothers, uncles and sons,” it said.
Canada added the Proud Boys to its list of “terrorist entities” on February 3, saying “the threat of ideologically motivated extremism has been identified as the most significant threat to domestic security in Canada”.
The move came amid mounting pressure on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to take a harder line against far-right extremism after the deadly riot at the United States Capitol on January 6.
US authorities have charged several members of the US Proud Boys in connection with the violent insurrection.
The Proud Boys, which was founded by a Canadian and has chapters in Canada and the US, among other countries, describes itself as a “Western chauvinist” organisation.
It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks far-right and white supremacist groups.
“The Proud Boys’ actions belie their disavowals of bigotry: Rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric,” the SPLC says on its website.
Under Canadian law, the government can impose penalties on people and groups who deal with a group on its “terrorist entities” list, can strip listed groups of charitable status, and can deny entry into the country of anyone found to be associated with a listed entity.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that the US Proud Boys had commented on the dissolution of the group’s Canadian chapter on the same Telegram channel.
“The ProudBoys in Canada is no more,” the message read, as reported by the newspaper. “Anyone walking around in Fred Perry polos and ProudBoys gear are simply posers to the organization.”
1/ The dissolution of Proud Boys Canada doesn’t mean they stop organizing. We need to focus more on movements than formal groups.
It’s important to recognize that dissolution doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their worldview. https://t.co/7EMpB0p5cy
— Canadian Anti-Hate Network (@antihateca) May 3, 2021
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a non-profit organisation that monitors hate groups in Canada, said on Twitter on Monday that “the dissolution of Proud Boys Canada doesn’t mean they stop organizing”, however.
“It’s important to recognize that dissolution doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their worldview,” the group wrote.
“There are more true believers, supporters, and sympathizers within hate movements than there are self-identifying members of individual hate groups. Treating ‘hate groups’ as an isolated problem is like playing whack-a-mole on the internet. The problem is hate movements.”