Two more extreme right-wing groups join Proud Boys on Canada's terror list

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OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has added two more right-wing extremist groups and an American neo-Nazi to its list of terrorist entities as it tries to counter the rise of white nationalist violence.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Friday that the Three Percenters and Aryan Strikeforce will join the list alongside the Proud Boys, who were added in February after the storming of Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 6.

A 69-year-old white supremacist named James Mason, who senior intelligence officials describe as a lifelong neo-Nazi whose writings laid an ideological foundation for multiple terrorist groups, has also been placed on the proscriptive list.

Groups on Canada's terror roster, created after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, may have their assets seized, and there are serious criminal penalties for helping listed organizations carry out extremist activities.

Blair said the threat of white nationalist violence is a growing concern that has exploded into public view recently with tragedies such as the deadly attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., earlier this month as well as a spike in other Islamophobic, antisemitic, anti-Asian and misogynist incidents.

“These acts that have been taken over the past several weeks and months against the Muslim community — women who’ve been attacked for simply wearing the hijab, a Canadian family out for a walk on a Sunday evening being attacked and murdered by an individual clearly motivated by hatred — and the ideologies which drive many of the groups which we’ve spoken about this morning is deeply concerning to us," he said at a virtual news conference.

Members of the Three Percenters, a militia movement, have been linked to a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, and officials say Canadian chapters have carried out firearms and paramilitary-style training in Alberta, with another chapter in British Columbia.

“Their adherents are active in Canada. We monitor their activities in Canada with growing concern," Blair said.

The Aryan Strikeforce also has chapters in Canada as well as the United States, eastern Europe, South America and South Africa, he said.

An affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant based in the Democratic Republic of Congo has also been placed on the terror list.

The four latest additions follow 13 others named in February, four of which were right-wing extremist groups, including the Proud Boys.

Blair warned of an abiding risk that far-right ideologies will take root in the rank and file of police and the military.

"Both the Aryan Strikeforce and the Three Percenters have indicated their interest in recruiting among our law enforcement and military agencies, and they do attract some adherents who are former law enforcement and former military," he said.

The problem is a matter of concern — "and, I’m sure, of action — by law enforcement and the Canadian Armed Forces, he said.

The Three Percenters, whose name references the false belief that a minuscule proportion of colonists fought against the British in the American Revolution — has been linked to bomb plots targeting U.S. federal buildings and Muslim communities. One member was convicted of assault after shooting and wounding five men at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis in 2015.

Aryan Strikeforce, a United Kingdom-based neo-Nazi group, views violence as a means of inciting a race war and eradicating racialized minorities. Adherents of the decentralized skinhead movement planned a suicide bombing attack on counter-protesters during a 2016 white supremacist rally in Pennsylvania, and have been convicted of crimes in the U.K. and U.S. involving chemical weapons production and bomb-making instructions.

Officials lump such groups under the catch-all term "ideologically motivated violent extremist entities."

Conservative public safety critic Shannon Stubbs said her party supports the latest designations, but demanded the Liberal government also list Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military with close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"The IRGC is not only the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world, it’s responsible for the killing of 138 individuals with ties to Canada with the downing of flight PS752," Stubbs said in a statement, noting that Liberals backed a Tory motion calling for its listing in 2018.

A forensic report on Thursday found that Iran did not plan last year's deadly downing of the passenger jet in advance, but a series of failures by the regime's civil and military authorities set the stage for the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 minutes after it took off from the Tehran airport on Jan. 8, 2020.

In Canada, the terror listing process begins with intelligence reports that provide reason to believe an organization has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity.

If the public safety minister believes the threshold is met, they may recommend to the federal cabinet that the organization be tacked on the list. The listing is then published if cabinet agrees with the recommendation.

A listed group is not banned, nor is it a crime to be on the roster. However, the group's assets and property are effectively frozen and subject to seizure or forfeiture.

Canada previously placed two right-wing extremist groups on the list in 2019: Blood and Honour, which is an international neo-Nazi network, and its armed branch, Combat 18.

They joined more than 50 other listed organizations at the time — the number has since swelled to 77 — including al-Qaida, the Islamic State militant group Boko Haram, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, identified just over 100 far-right and white supremacist groups in 2015. But an updated study she’s completing highlights more than 300 active groups, “some of which are explicitly Islamophobic," she said in an interview.

The "atomization" of hate movements is another phenomenon of the past five or six years, she said.

While groups remain central, there is a growing number of "floaters" — individuals who are unaffiliated with organizations and drift "in and out of social media platforms associated with an array of different groups, cherry picking bits and pieces of their ideologies that suit their needs,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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