After being designated a “terrorist organization” in Canada earlier this year, the far-right group the Proud Boys have announced they’ve disbanded in the Great White North.
Canada named the Proud Boys a terrorist group in February, following the January 6 Capitol Hill riot. At least 18 Proud Boys, including several of the organization's leadership, have been charged in connection to the deadly attack, with some prosecutors saying the far-right group played a critical role in the crowd storming the capital.
“The truth is, we were never terrorists or a white supremacy group,” Proud Boys Canada said on Telegram on Sunday. “As of today there are officially no longer any Proud Boys in Canada, it’s officially dissolved. In the face of a tyrannical leftist government, we regular citizens were banned and outlawed for holding the same beliefs as the men who built this country.”
In a follow-up statement, the overarching Proud Boys organization promised their Canadian members they weren’t going away. “(Our) brothers in Canada have become a political tool by the ruling elite of the Canadian government to further their authoritarian agenda,” they said.
“(The Canadian Proud Boys) will continue to fight for western values...but now...as individuals… Anyone walking around in Fred Perry polos and ProudBoys gear are simply posers to our organization,” they added.
While there were several well-documented incidents of Proud Boy activities in Canada, the group never grew as large as it did in the United States.
(Disclosure: Gavin McInnes was a co-founder of VICE Media. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then. He founded the Proud Boys organization in 2016.)
Before it was deemed a terrorist organization, the Proud Boys in Canada had already fractured. One of the splinter groups, which dubbed itself Proud Boys Canada First (or just Canada First), is more open about its far-right and national socialist beliefs. The Telegram page for Canada First has yet to respond to this news.
Some experts said the decision to classify the Proud Boys as a “terrorist organization” could backfire and in turn set a dangerous precedent which could harm marginalized or racialized groups.
Elizabeth Simons, the deputy director for the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told VICE World News the group’s activity has seen a “real decline” with only a few incidents over the past year (like helping organize a Winnipeg anti-lockdown protest), but that doesn’t mean their members haven't joined other groups.
“Dissolution doesn't mean they change their worldview,” said Simons. “We've already seen some Proud Boys become more extreme in their views on both sides of the border.”
Many within the extreme far-right viewed the Proud Boys as useful idiots who could be recruited into more extreme groups. The group's antics—which included rules that governed where and when you can masturbate and rites such as having to name five cereal brands while being punched other members—made the group something of a joke with the encrypted chat rooms of groups like the Base, which Canada also declared a terrorist organization.
“What a joke, the Proud Boys aren’t a terrorist organization, most of them are civic-nationalists and fa---ts,” a Canadian extreme-right account on Telegram wrote in response to the news. They added they believed the Proud Boys had been “subverted.”
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