Who are the "Proud Boys" who disrupted an Indigenous event on Canada Day?

SOURCE:  CBC.ca, 2017-07-04

Indigenous activists in Halifax were confronted on Canada Day by a group of men who claimed to be members of a "Western chauvinist" organization called the Proud Boys. Chief Grizzly Mamma led a ceremony on Saturday near the statue of Edward Cornwallis, Halifax's founder, who established the policy of genocide against the Mi'kmaq people.

She was briefly interrupted by five men decked in black polo shirts and carrying a Red Ensign flag, Canada's predecessor to the maple leaf. The men -- who have since been identified as members of the Canadian Armed Forces -- said Grizzly Mama was "disrespecting" Cornwallis.

So who are the Proud Boys? As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch spoke with Will Sommer, a Washington-based political reporter for the Hill who has covered the group and other right-wing organizations. Here's what we learned.

Where did they come from?

The Facebook page of the Proud Boys Canadian Chapters says it is "a fraternal organization of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world."

And according to Sommer, the group was actually started last year by Gavin McInnes, the Canadian co-founder of the media outlet Vice turned right-wing commentator. In the past, McInnes has admitted he is "becoming anti-Semitic". "He says they're a fraternal organization, like the Elk Lodge or the Masons, but they have a sort of far-right tilt," Sommer said.

What do they believe?

Sommer says they generally tout "traditionalist" views. Their mottos include: "West is best," "Glorify the entrepreneur," "Venerate the housewife" and "I won't apologize for creating the modern world."

"Down here in the U.S., they're very big into supporting sort of far-right people. They're very big fans of [U.S. President] Donald Trump, for example," Sommer said. "A lot of them have shown up for events to defend monuments related to the Confederacy in the United States that have been tried to be taken down and that sort of thing."

How do you become a Proud Boy?

According to Sommer, who has sifted through Proud Boys social media pages, there are four steps, or "degrees," to becoming a Proud Boy.

They also take something of a vow of self-celibacy. "You have to subscribe to McInnis's philosophy of #NoWanks, which means you can only masturbate once a month," Sommer said. "He believes that too-frequent masturbation or pornography has sort of sapped the will of the modern man."

Are they white nationalists?

Sommer says the Proud Boys are part of a movement called "the alt-light" -- a less extreme version of the so-called "alt-right," whose self-billed leader Richard Spencer espouses blatant white supremacism and anti-Semitism.

"They are, in fact, the foes of those people. They are what is called civic nationalists. There is growingly, at least in the United States, a divide between these two groups," Sommer said.

That said, the Proud Boys' Canadian Facebook page contains posts that are critical of Islam, mock people who use "they/them" pronouns [i.e., transphobic], and boast about white men's contributions to technological advancements.

Sommer said women are not allowed in the group, although there is a sister organization. The Proud Boys do, however, accept gay and non-white members.

Are they a cause for concern?

"I would say keeping an eye on it is definitely worthwhile," Sommer said. "When I first discovered them maybe six months ago, people were thinking, you know, this has to be fake or whatever. But there are all these YouTube videos. It's clearly real, and it is, indeed, growing."

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