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Are the Proud Boys terrorists? Ottawa considers listing white supremacist groups alongside al-Qaida, Islamic State

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OTTAWA—Canada’s national security agencies are “very actively” monitoring white supremacist groups and are considering designating more of them as terrorist organizations, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says.

Blair’s office said in a statement Sunday that intelligence and law enforcement agencies were actively gathering evidence to list white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys as terrorist organizations — a designation that would place them on the same level as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

“We strongly denounce ideologically motivated extremists including groups like the Proud Boys, white supremacists, (anti-Semites), Islamophobic and misogynist groups,” wrote Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Blair’s office, in a statement to the Star.

“Intolerance and hate have no place in our society.”

Blair’s comments, first made in an interview with CTV News on Sunday, show a remarkable change in how federal authorities view the threat posed by white nationalists and far-right extremists in the last few years.

Canada’s domestic intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), abandoned a rolling investigation into far-right groups in 2016. After the deadly 2018 shooting at a Quebec City mosque by a man believed to be influenced by far-right voices online, that investigation was reopened.

Across western democracies — including the U.S. and U.K. —intelligence agencies have warned the threat of domestic far-right extremism is growing.

In 2019, the federal government listed two white supremacist groups — Blood & Honour and Combat 18 — as terrorist entities, the first far-right extremist groups given that designation by Canada.

Now, in the wake of last week’s violent sacking of the U.S. Capitol building, more white supremacists groups may join that list — which would empower financial institutions to freeze the groups’ assets, and make it a crime to deal with them.

The Proud Boys — a “western chauvinist” group spawned by a former Canadian far-right media personality — were front and centre in that riot. Famously told to “stand back and stand by” by President Donald Trump last year, the loosely organized movement has become a poster child for right-wing extremism in North America.

While the exact makeup of the mob is unknowable, the Proud Boys clearly had a presence in Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol building. Several have been identified by American media, and the group’s leader was arrested in Washington two days before the riot.

Blair’s office stressed that the listing of terrorist organizations is not a “political exercise.” Rather, the designation of a group requires evidence and intelligence, and follows a legal process.

“Such listings send a strong message that Canada will not tolerate such acts of violence,” Power wrote.

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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