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Posted: February 7, 2021

Will listing groups as terrorists reduce domestic terrorism?

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Ever heard of Gavin McInnes? How about Enrique Tarrio? Quite possibly you haven’t heard of them even though they’re famous in their own twisted way being the founders of the “Proud Boys,” former US President Donald Trump’s favourite terrorist group.

Remember Trump’s ugly utterance in the election debates – “Stand down and stand by” when he refused to condemn the white supremacist group, the “Proud Boys.” Well, the two men named above are Proud Boys. McInnes, a Canadian, founded the group and Tarrio, an American, is now the chairman.

Not a lot is known about either man, but what is known is the Proud Boys were major players in the insurrection that stormed through the US Capitol Building in Washington DC Jan. 6 resulting in five deaths. In the aftermath of that tragedy, Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced last week he will designate 13 radical right-wing groups in Canada as terrorist groups including the “Proud Boys,” which were also major participants in the “Unite the Right” rally that resulted in one death in Charlottesville May 17.

Blair said of the groups: “”Their violent actions and rhetoric are fuelled by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny, and unfortunately, often in combination of all of the above. On several different occasions we have seen the tragic results that this type of extremism can bring to Canadian soil.”

Blair denied the government’s intent was sparked by the invasion of the US Capitol alone, referencing the 2017 Quebec City mosque attack which killed six worshippers and the 2018 Toronto van attack which left 10 pedestrians dead on the sidewalk. Groups that engage in such violence are considered “ideologically motivated violent extremists” by CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

“No matter the ideological motivation, they’re all hateful, intolerant and, as we’ve seen, they can be highly dangerous,” Blair said, adding by expanding Canada’s terrorist list he hopes the government’s move will “send a message” to all hate groups in the country.

For the record the 13 groups on the Canadian terrorist list are: the Proud Boys, the Atomwaffen Division, the Base, the Russian Imperial Movement, three Al-Qaeda affiliates, five ISIS affiliates and the Hizbul Mujahideen. QAnon, which is also believed to have played a major role in the Capitol Building uprising, is not on the list despite its notoriety in the US. But major American media outlets took an immediate interest in Canada’s move because the Proud Boys is a much larger terrorist movement in the US and is still legal.

In an American Press story, Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, accused the government of Justin Trudeau of trying to “attach its star” to the strong anti-Proud Boys sentiment in the US to gain cheap political points in Canada. “Since the Proud Boys are identified with Trump, they are an easy target . . . Had Trump won the election, I’m confident the Liberals would not have gone after the Proud Boys,” Wiseman said.

Many Canadians would no doubt disagree, but political extremism is not exactly new to the Great White North.

The FLQ crisis in Quebec in the 1970s resulted in at least eight civilian deaths by letter bombs placed in mailboxes and other means. An FLQ cell also kidnapped and murdered a Quebec cabinet member resulting in imposition of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who sent troops and tanks into Montreal.

In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, was assassinated by a Fenian rebel. In September 1924, Doukhobor leader Peter “The Lordly” Verigin and seven others, including a provincial MLA, were killed in a bomb explosion aboard a train they were riding near Castlegar.

One of the worst acts of terrorism in Canadian history was the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989 when a crazed anti-feminist shot 14 female students to death. This is only a partial list.

Perhaps George Orwell defined terrorism best: “The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”

Do the Proud Boys understand? That remains to be seen.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a big fan of George Orwell.

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