Canada designated over a dozen groups as terrorists Wednesday, including The Proud Boys, which authorities say played a frontline role in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
(CN) — Canada added the Proud Boys to the country’s terrorism list Wednesday, even as one of the group’s leaders acknowledged he’s known “for years” that Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio has a past as a government informant.
Proud Boys have brawled in the streets at demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, New York and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Their leaders and members face a slew of charges for their alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington. Those events, widely publicized and livestreamed by the press and the Proud Boys themselves, provided Canadian intelligence agencies with the evidence necessary to make the terror designation, public safety minister Bill Blair said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“As disturbing as those events were, they also provided our agencies a trove of evidence,” Blair said after the announcement. “And quite frankly, they revealed themselves as to their willingness to use violence.”
Canada added a total of 13 groups to its terrorism list Wednesday, including Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates, and four that Blair called “ideologically motivated, violent extremist groups” — The Proud Boys, the Russian Imperial Movement and neo-Nazi groups the Atomwaffen Division and The Base.
The designation will make it illegal for Canadians to help the groups financially or travel to attend their rallies.
Blair declined to provide details on which specific actions or investigations triggered the listing. He said investigations into the potential listing of other groups, including the far-right anarchist group “boogaloo bois,” are ongoing.
Blair noted some Proud Boys have gone on to join the other neo-Nazi groups listed Wednesday.
“We have seen a number of these very hateful individuals who move from group to group,” Blair said. “Just because they change their T-shirt or the patch they are wearing on their shoulder doesn’t mean they have changed their ideology.”
The Proud Boys was founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, a Canadian who lives in the U.S. on a green card. McInnes also helped launch Vice Media but is no longer part of the company.
The leader of the Proud Boys, Tarrio faces three years in prison after police found two high-capacity magazines in his possession when arresting him on Jan. 5 for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a previous demonstration in Washington.
Tarrio wasn’t present at the insurrection because a judge banned him from Washington after his arrest. A Reuters investigation showed the 36-year-old has a prolific past as a government informant. The news was a big surprise to many of Tarrio’s followers. But it didn’t surprise Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs.
“Tarrio told me about all that years ago,” Biggs said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Biggs, 37, is under house arrest on charges related to his participation in last month’s riot that made some U.S. lawmakers fear for their lives. He faces charges of obstructing an official proceeding before Congress, entering a restricted area on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and disorderly conduct.
Asked if he still trusts Tarrio, Biggs replied: “Until he gives me a reason not to.” And then repeated the phrase more softly. “All this will be over for me soon anyway,” he added cryptically.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, federal authorities arrested Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boys leader from Auburn, Washington, who appeared in multiple videos beside Biggs on Jan. 6., The New York Times reported. Together, the pair led a group of about 100 Proud Boys on a march to the U.S. Capitol, where some are charged with crimes related to breaking the building’s windows and forcing their way inside. Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola, 43, and William Pepe, 31, face charges of conspiring against and impeding law enforcement stemming from their part in the insurrection.
Still, Biggs said he’s mystified by the terrorism designation.
“It’s Canada, who the fuck knows,” Biggs said. “They do weird shit.”
Blair described Atomwaffen on Wednesday as “mostly anti-Semitic.”
He called The Base “nihilistic and accelerationist,” meaning its members want to speed up the collapse of society to rebuild it according to its vision.
The Proud Boys, Blair said, have shown “racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic motives.”
But he said designation on the country’s terrorism list requires violence, not just hatred. He said the terrorism designation comes after an “extremely rigorous” investigation shows “reasonable grounds to believe that an entity has knowingly participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity.”
“It isn’t about their bias,” Blair said. “It isn’t about their speech. It is about their willingness to use violence to further their extremist ideas.”