Canada’s House of Commons has unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government to add a Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, to its list of designated terrorist entities.
The motion, brought forward by NDP MP Heather McPherson, is non-binding — but the unanimous adoption of the call raises questions about whether the firm meets the criteria laid out for inclusion.
“Given reports of human rights abuses and attacks on civilians in Ukraine and other parts of the world by the Russian-supported Wagner Group, the House call upon the government to immediately designate the Wagner Group as a terrorist entity,” McPherson’s motion read.
No member of Parliament objected to the motion, and it was adopted.
Wagner Group fighters have been accused by human rights groups and by the Ukrainian government of committing war crimes in Syria and eastern Ukraine from 2014 onward.
In July, British military intelligence said that Russia has used Wagner mercenaries to reinforce its frontline forces in the Ukraine conflict.
However, it is up to intelligence agencies to recommend which entities should land on Canada’s terrorist list — a process that is non-partisan by design.
Traditionally, terrorist group designations are only announced following a rigorous process. Intelligence agencies explore all available information to learn whether a specific group is engaging or aiding in terrorist activity.
When previous motions calling on the government to designate a particular organization as a terrorist entity have landed on the floor of the House of Commons, security experts have been quick to sound the alarm.
“This is the sort of thing we need to be careful about, because it’s a path that we shouldn’t go down very easily,” said Richard Fadden, the former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), when the NDP called for the Proud Boys to be named a terrorist entity with a similar motion in 2021.
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Fadden, and other national security experts interviewed by Global News at the time, warned the move takes Canada one step closer towards politicizing the process of placing a group on the terror list — which could have serious impacts on the freedoms of Canadians.
“I think Canada has a reputation for being pretty careful in when it designates terrorist organizations. I think it’s a good thing,” Fadden said.
The NDP’s motion comes just 10 days after the U.S. Treasury Department announced its plans to designate Wagner as a significant transnational criminal organization.
— with files from Reuters