Manitoba chapter of Proud Boys disbanded, local anti-fascist group says

Members of Fascist Free Treaty 1 began publicly calling out those believed to be members of the far-right Proud Boys group on its social media pages on Monday.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network says even an official statement from the Proud Boys may not mean chapter is done

Armed members of the far-right Proud Boys group gathered in Vancouver, Wash., on Sept. 5, 2020. The Winnipeg Proud Boys chapter has disbanded, a member identified by Fascist Free Treaty 1 told the anti-hate group. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The Manitoba chapter of the far-right Proud Boys group has disbanded, according to a local anti-fascist group.

Members of Fascist Free Treaty 1 (FF1) used social media on Monday to publicly call out those believed to be members of the hate group.

"It just shows that community-based anti-fascist methods work and they always work," said FF1 organizer Omar Kinnarath. "We've been doing this for the last four years and we've been successful every single time."

Proud Boys was founded in Canada five years ago and is described by experts as a far-right group that is openly misogynist and increasingly linked to white supremacy and hate.

The group described its members as proud Western chauvinists, and was banned by Facebook and Instagram in October 2018 for violating their hate policies.

Last week, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for the federal government to ban the group in Canada and label it a terrorist organization.

That call followed media reports that members of the hate group were among rioters who stormed Capitol Hill in Washington after a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump last week.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Kinnarath said his group's efforts to publicly call out Manitoba members of the Proud Boys put pressure on the individuals to renounce the group.

Confirmation of the disbanding of the chapter, which Kinnarath estimates had about a dozen members, came from one of the members FF1 had identified, mainly through tips from family and friends of members, he said.

CBC has not been able to independently verify the group has officially called it quits and was unable to reach any members, former or otherwise. 

Proud Boys could rebrand

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network says while the Proud Boys have been tied to the neo-Nazi, pro-fascist movement in the U.S., the group has been largely inactive for the last year and a half in Canada.

"They started out as this counter-cultural backlash group towards politically correct or progressive or egalitarian ideas," said Evan Balgord, executive director for the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a nonprofit organization of researchers on hate groups and hate crimes.

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says the Proud Boys have been largely inactive for the last year and a half in Canada. (Skype)

He said about eight months ago, the Proud Boys in Canada split into two factions — one called Canada First, which Balgord says is pro-terrorism and pro-neo-Nazi, and another more closely resembling the first iterations of the Proud Boys.

"They support fighting at demonstrations, they don't condemn what happened in the Capitol [building] … they often use misogynistic and racist language," he said.

"They are not good people — they are a hate group. That being said, they are not a risk of terrorism."

Balgord said it's unclear if the claim the Winnipeg chapter has disbanded rings true. There has long been disorder among leadership within the group, he said, and while one person may claim to speak for the group, that may not be the case.

"They have lots of cooks in the kitchen at the leadership level," said Balgord. 

"So even an official statement from a group like that isn't as official as you think it would be."

"It doesn't necessarily for sure mean that nobody else is going to call themselves a Proud Boy there anymore, but it does mean that enough of them have felt spooked and under pressure that they want to abandon the label."

Balgord said within the Proud Boys membership there are different levels of extremism, and different definitions about what the group stands for. 

"The U.S.A. Proud Boys are another level of extreme compared to our Proud Boys here," he said.

'This community will divest' from Proud Boys: FF1

Groups like Fascist Free Treaty 1 say labelling the group a terrorist organization would be less effective in quelling its support than community-based activism.

That means "just being upfront about it and letting them know that … if you are a Proud Boy or you're neo-Nazi or a far-right agitator, this community will divest from you," said Kinnarath.

"We will let people know who you are. And if you're Proud, that's fine. We're just not going to do any business with you," said Kinnarath.

Omar Kinnarath, an organizer with Fascist Free Treaty 1, speaks to people before a 2017 rally in downtown Winnipeg. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Balgord said the method works, even if it drives those people and the movement underground.

"If they're only able to reach the crowd of people who are already converted, that's better because they can't really grow," said Balgord.

Balgord said the Proud Boys in Canada aren't as significant a danger as some other groups, and shouldn't be the focus of the anti-hate conversation here.

"The Proud Boys might be a shiny ball but they're not really what is a threat today in Canada. And we need to be focusing on what are the threats."

With files from Karen Pauls and Lauren Donnelly