Last week, the Canadian federal government added 13 new groups to its terrorist list.
The new entries to the list includes 5 entities connected to Daesh, 3 connected to Al Qaida, and 3 North American far-right groups.
- Daesh affiliates
- Islamic State West Africa Province
- Islamic State in the Greater Sahara
- Islamic State in Libya
- Islamic State East Asia
- Islamic State – Bangladesh
- Al Qaida affiliates
- Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam Wal-Muslimin
- Front de Libération du Macina
- Ansar Dine
- Far-right groups
- Atomwaffen Division
- Proud Boys
- Hizbul Mujahideen
- Russian Imperial Movement
For this news story, I’m focusing on just the North American groups.
Atomwaffen, also known as AWD, and The Base are both neo-Nazi groups and relatively recent creations: the former emerging in 2013 and the latter in 2018. Both groups advocate bringing about the collapse of society through violence against racial, religious, and ethnic groups. They also provide training camps for their members, where they receive combat and weapons training.
According to Public Safety Canada, AWD members were at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August 2017, where Heather Heyer was killed after neo-Nazi James Fields drove a vehicle into a crowd of antiracist counterprotestors, running her over and wounding 19 others.
The Base has created and distributed manuals to its members with information on terror attacks, bomb making, counter-surveillance, and guerilla warfare. Members of the group, including a Canadian from Manitoba, were arrested by the FBI in January 2020 after thwarting their domestic terrorism plot to derail trains, kill Black and Jewish people, and trigger a race war.
Proud Boys is a neo-fascist group organized in the United States in 2016 by Canadian Gavin McInnes, but has since spread elsewhere. Their ideologies are similar to those in the neo-Nazi groups mentioned above, including misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, and white supremacy. They have attended Black Lives Matters events to engage in violence against attendees. Members of the group helped orchestrate the failed coup on the US Capitol last month and disrupted a 2017 Indigenous rally in Halifax.
Neo-Nazi groups Blood & Honour and its armed wing, Combat 18, were added to the list in 2019, which brings the number of North American neo-fascist/neo-Nazi groups on the list to 5.
Unsurprisingly, members of these groups didn’t take too kindly to this development, as chronicled by Kurt Phillips of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network in this tweet thread from last week:
Being on the terrorist list isn’t a crime, but it allows financial institutions to freeze assets, which then criminalizes the act of knowingly dealing with the assets of a group on the list, as well as the act of providing support for the groups (though travel, training, and recruitment, for example).
Public Safety Canada reviews groups on the terrorist list every 5 years to ensure they still meet the qualifications for inclusion, such as knowingly participate in or facilitate a terrorist activity.
The 13 additions I listed above brings the total tally to 73. That being said, there are some problematic entries on the terrorist list.
Take Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), for example. They started in 1964—a few years after the Columbian Civil War—as a movement to establish rural self-sufficient communities to take care of their own needs, since they felt abandoned by the Columbian government. Later that same year, Columbian military forces attacked at least one of these communities—Marquetalia—in a US-backed crackdown on communists. Members of FARC fought back, and the back-and-forth violence between FARC and the Columbian state went on for decades in what has become known as the Columbian conflict. It seems odd for Canada to list FARC as a terrorist entity but not the Columbian state, given that Columbia initiated the violence and participated in the conflict.
Or the Kurdistan Workers Party, otherwise known as the PKK. The organization was founded in 1978 as a response to the systematic and violent oppression of Kurdish people by the Turkish government. Over the last century, Turkey forces have killed tens of thousands of Kurdish people living within its borders and otherwise tried to erase Kurdish identity. Even when the PKK tried to establish the de facto autonomous libertarian socialist region of Rojava over the last decade, Turkey escalated their violence by bombing Kurds living in Rojava, which technically is located in Syria, south of the Turkey border. Again, it seems odd for Canada to list one participant of an armed conflict on their terrorist list, but not the state that the group is retaliating against.
So while it’s important that these far-right groups have been officially labelled “terrorists”, we should be asking what that means exactly, given that some of the groups on the same list are there because they resist the violence of authoritarian states.
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