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Iranian-Canadians welcome designation of IRGC as 'terrorist group,' says North Van MP

‘That’s what the Iranian-Canadian community on the North Shore wants,’ says North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson
North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson says members of the Iranian-Canadian community on the North Shore are welcoming the news that Canada has officially designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News files

Canada has officially designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group, a move that North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson said is a welcome one for members of the Iranian diaspora living on the North Shore.

“That’s what the Iranian-Canadian community on the North Shore wants,” said Wilkinson after the June 19 announcement from the federal governemnt.

This decision aims to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic regime, as its involvement in regional conflicts and support for extremist groups have raised international concerns. The IRGC, established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, plays a significant role in Iran’s military, politics, and economy. The IRGC supports terrorist entities such as Hezbollah and Hamas, according to a statement from the Canadian government.  

On Jan. 8, 2020, the IRGC shot down Flight PS752 by firing two missiles. Among the 176 people killed in the tragedy, which included 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents, were North Vancouver residents Faye Kazerani, Firouzeh Madani, Fatemeh Pasavand, Delaram Dadashnejad, Ayeshe Pourghaderi, Daniel Saket, and Naser Pourshabanoshibi.

The Minister of Energy and Natural Resources emphasized the history of the IRGC is the primary factor that led to the decision to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

“We need to be using every tool that Canada has to ensure that we are doing what we can to address their influence,” he said. “I certainly heard pretty loudly from the Iranian Canadian community on the North Shore that they wanted to see this listing, that they wanted the Government of Canada to be taking action that showed that we were doing everything we can to express our strong disapproval of what is going on in Iran.”

During the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran (2022-23), there were 22,000 arrests, and at least 537 people were killed in the regime’s crackdown. The movement began following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by the morality police – a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women – on Sept. 16, 2022.

Once a group is added as a “terrorist group” under Canada’s Criminal Code, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have the authority to charge anyone who provides financial or material support to the group, and banks are allowed to freeze its assets.

“The financial transactions are more closely tracked and we are not becoming a country that actually sees large amounts of financing coming from Iran,” said Wilkinson. “For those who actually have associations with the IRGC, life is going to get more challenging. I think that’s what the Iranian Canadian community on the North Shore wants.”

This decision will affect individuals and organizations with ties to the IRGC.

“It becomes effectively a crime to do business with the IRGC and to have ongoing work that supports the IRGC,” said Wilkinson. “So, if there are organizations that have strong ties to the IRGC, they are going to have to reflect on that very carefully. We’ve heard concerns expressed in the past about money being brought into the country by IRGC or IRGC-related organizations. I’ve heard from the community that they have some concerns that there may be IRGC members living in Canada. This will give us the tools to find financing and to look at providing a basis for removal from Canada for people who are IRGC members.”

Wilkinson noted that members of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, Iranian-Canadian human rights activists, local members of parliament, and members of the Iranian-Canadian community across the country were involved in consultations leading to the decision.

“We have done many things leading up to this,” Wilkinson said about the steps and actions that the Canadian government has considered in relation to the Islamic Republic regime. “We certainly have advocated very strongly at the United Nations. We’ve put in extensive regime sanctions on members, not just of the IRGC, but of the government. We’ve listed the Islamic Republic of Iran as a state order of terrorism.”

Designating the IRGC as a terrorist group is the government’s latest step in a continuing process, said Wilkinson.

“I’m not going to say that’s the last thing we will do, but certainly, we have done probably more than any other country in the world,” he said.

Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture, and social media trends. His work for the North Shore News is supported by New Canadian Media. [email protected]