In June, Canada added neo-Nazi group Blood & Honour and its armed wing Combat 18 (C18) to the federal list of outlawed terrorist organizations, the first time right-wing extremist groups were included on the list that now includes 60 groups.
The addition of these groups was praised by many extremism experts and anti-racist advocates as a positive — and overdue — step in tackling the rise of the far right.
WATCH BELOW: Canada adds far-right, neo-Nazi groups to terror list
While it is not a crime to be on the list, the designation allows law enforcement to go after the finances and assets of the groups. It also becomes an offence to support them financially and prohibits anyone from knowingly participating in or contributing to the activities of listed groups.
“Blood & Honour can’t do anything publicly now under that name anymore,” Brad Galloway, a researcher with the Organization for Prevention of Violence, told Global News. “It prevents them from recruiting publicly, it prevents them from having a presence online.”
Shortly after the list was updated, websites and Facebook pages associated with Blood & Honour and C18 were taken down.
However, their page on Russian social media site VK still exists, where clothing bearing their logos is advertised for sale, although the page has not been updated since December 2018. According to the Counter Extremism Project, a number of people believed to be members of the group have Facebook profiles, “but they do not openly signal their affiliation to the group.”
“I think they were sort of dwindling away anyway,” Galloway said of the group, which is believed to have had 50 to 100 members in Canada at its peak. “I am not sure if adding them to the list just shook them up one last time, and then made them all disperse. That could be one of the positives. The negatives would be that they then go underground.”
While there have been calls for more right-wing extremist groups to be added to the terror list amid an increase in the number of groups and violent attacks associated with the far-right, it is unclear exactly when or if that could happen.
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The presence of neo-Nazi groups in Canada made headlines again over the last week following a Winnipeg Free Press investigation that alleged Patrik Mathews, a reservist with the Canadian military, has been a recruiter for international hate group The Base in Winnipeg. RCMP officers carried out a search warrant on Monday and seized firearms from Mathews’ home in Beausejour, Man, though no charges have been laid. The Canadian military and the RCMP are continuing to investigate the matter.
Reports by VICE show that The Base, founded in 2018 in the United States, has been organizing military training for supporters and encourages followers to carry out acts of violence.
Leah West, a national security law and counterterrorism lecturer at Carleton University, said that there are specific criteria that must be met in order for a group to be added to the federal terror list.
“Having an ideology we disagree with isn’t enough to list them as a terrorist entity. They actually have to commit activities that fall within the Criminal Code definition of terrorist activity. If they are doing that, especially in Canada, they would be prosecuted for those activities,” West told Global News.
“But until the terrorist activity actually is perpetrated by this group, they don’t meet the definition for a terrorist entity.”
“[Blood & Honour] attacks have occurred in North America and in several EU-member states,” the description of the group on the Public Safety Canada terror list states. “In January 2012, four B&H members in Tampa, Florida, were convicted of the 1998 murder of two homeless men who were killed because the group considered them ‘inferior.’ In February 2012, members of B&H and C18 firebombed a building occupied mostly by Romani families, including children, in Aš, Czech Republic.”
As for The Base specifically, and whether it could be added to the list at this point, West said that she has not seen enough evidence of the group’s activities to say that it could make the list.
“The fact that they have a specific ideology and that they’re preparing for a race war doesn’t necessarily mean they meet the definition,” said West. “They haven’t necessarily engaged in terrorist activity … unless they have members who are convicted [for] that kind of activity, I don’t expect that we’ll see The Base on the list anytime soon.”
The federal government would not say whether The Base, or any other group, was currently being considered to be added to the terrorist listing regime.
Public Safety Canada spokesperson Scott Bardsley told Global News in an email that the listing of entities is a “continuous process” and that the government “cannot disclose what entities are being considered for listing.”
“[G]overnment officials continue to assess all groups and monitor new developments regarding potential entities to be listed,” Bardsley said, adding that he cannot speculate on when the list will be updated again. Bill C-59, the Liberal’s national security legislation that came into effect in June, modified the Criminal Code to allow the Minister to “modify the names and aliases of already listed terrorist entities, amend the de-listing process and the frequency of the listing review process, and better deal with mistaken identities.”
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West pointed to the difficulty in determining which groups on the far right could meet the criteria for the terror list, due to the nature of some of their activities.
“It’s hard because some of the violence, especially what we’re seeing in the United States, they’re so loosely connected. These individuals kind of aggregate online and they may share loose ideologies. But it’s really confused and not necessarily specifically directed or on behalf of a group,” West said.
“I hope that we don’t get to the point where we have an increase in right wing-inspired terrorist activity that would lead to [more] terrorist entity listings.”