Supporters of President Donald Trump who are wearing attire associated with the Proud Boys attend a rally at Freedom Plaza,…
FILE - Supporters of then-President Donald Trump, wearing attire associated with the Proud Boys, attend a rally at Freedom Plaza, Dec. 12, 2020, in Washington.

Canada became the first country Wednesday to formally designate the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, according to the nation’s public safety ministry.

The ministry said in a statement the group was "a neo-fascist organization" that "played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol" in Washington.

The ministry said Canadian officials were already considering the move and that the January 6 insurrection contributed to the decision.

“The group and its members have openly encouraged, planned and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs,” the ministry said.

In a phone call with VOA, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, called the decision “stupid.” 

FILE - Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Ore., Sept. 26, 2020.

“They don’t do anything except protest. … To be put on the level of ISIS is simply an overreach,” Tarrio said. 

The designation could allow Canadian police to handle crimes committed by the group as terrorist activity as well as empower authorities to seize financial assets.

Tarrio said the move will only serve to inhibit the group’s “free speech.” 

Reputation for violence

The Proud Boys is considered a far-right, male chauvinist extremist organization with a reputation of engaging in violent activities at political rallies in the United States and Canada. 

When asked about the group’s objectives, Tarrio told VOA, “We’re a beer-drinking club.” 

Members have been under increasing scrutiny in the United States after embracing the former Trump administration’s nationalist policies, and being a major agitator during previous protests and last month’s riot at the Capitol that left five people dead.

According to the U.S.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, members of the Proud Boys were “aggressively front and center during the attack on the Capitol.” The SPLC also defines the Proud Boys as a hate group.

During a presidential debate in September 2020 with then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden, then-President Donald Trump urged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” when a moderator asked him to denounce the group. 

After the attack on the Capitol, Jagmeet Singh, head of Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party, urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare the Proud Boys a terrorist group. 

The Canadian government added a total of 13 groups to its terrorism list, including three other neo-Nazi or far-right organizations — The Base, and the Atomwaffen Division, which operate mostly in the U.S., and the Russia-based Russian Imperial Movement, which has operated in Europe, the Middle East and other regions.