You've probably seen the term "Proud Boys" popping up in the news lately — either because of the group's involvement in storming Capitol Hill or because Canada is reportedly considering declaring the group a terrorist organization.
While it's all too easy to look down on bad actors down south, stop before you get too smug. The Proud Boys have ties to Montreal. Here's what you need to know about them.
Who are the Proud Boys?
The Proud Boys, established in 2016, are a men's organization consisting of self-described "western chauvinist[s]" who "refuse to apologize for creating the modern world."
You can often identify Proud Boys by their MAGA hats and black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirts. There are chapters around the world.
While they deny any connection to the alt-right, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says members "regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists."
In November 2018, it was reported that the FBI considered the Proud Boys an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism."
However, an FBI official later told media this was not accurate. Rather, according to Global News, it considers "individuals within the group to be extremists."
Why have Proud Boys been in the news lately?
You might recall the first U.S. presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in September. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist and militia groups.
"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," Trump replied.
This made headlines and led to some Proud Boys celebrating the remarks, responding via social media with comments like, "Standing by sir."
The Proud Boys watching the debate — and @realDonaldTrump gave the call. https://t.co/R4AySuqo6E— The Lincoln Project (@The Lincoln Project) 1601435643.0
This is no coincidence It is the power of the people We demanded this and the Liberals are being forced to respon… https://t.co/slqPMMqJeE— Jagmeet Singh (@Jagmeet Singh) 1610329663.0
Jagmeet Singh called out Canada's federal government for failing to make a "firm commitment" to formally declare the Proud Boys a recognized terrorist organization.
He started a petition on the NDP website, aiming to get the Proud Boys banned and deemed a terrorist group.
There's no signature count but, according to The Independent, "Singh claimed it had received overwhelming support and that the site crashed due to heavy traffic."
What's the group's connection to Montreal?
The Proud Boys' connection to Montreal comes down to the group's founder, Gavin McInnes.
In his book, How to Piss in Public, McInnes tells stories of living a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle in Montreal.
During his time starting up VICE in Montreal, contributing to its content, McInnes honed his brand — a voice the New York Times described as "inflected with a crass, contrarian bigotry."
A Montreal newspaper also played a role in McInnes' rise to media fame and fortune.
The story goes that one of McInnes' partners at VICE tricked a Montreal journalist — some sources say from La Presse, others say The Gazette — into reporting that Richard Szalwinski, a millionaire who'd recently acquired another media company, wanted to invest in VICE.
This led to Szalwinski, who hadn't heard of VICE, becoming a partner and buying 25% for a reported $750,000, according to The Walrus.
McInnes relocated from Montreal to New York City when VICE headquarters did, in 2001.
By the end of 2008, VICE had cut ties with McInnes. But he had already made a name for himself.
McInnes quit the Proud Boys days after it was reported that the FBI had labelled the Proud Boys an extremist organization.
But, as CBC News reported, he admitted on YouTube he did so "reluctantly."
"I'm told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing. Fine. At the very least this will show jurors they're not dealing with a gang and there is no head of operations," said McInnes.
"I see it as the greatest fraternal organization in the world. But rumours and lies and terrible journalism has made its way to the court system."
According to Global, the Proud Boys' Montreal chapter went offline on January 11 amid "mounting pressure in the wake of ... violence in the U.S. capital."