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Canada lists Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as terror group

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says Canada has listed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity, following months of mounting political pressure to do so.
Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc rises during Question Period, Monday, June 17, 2024 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says Canada has listed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity, following months of mounting political pressure to do so.

"The Iranian regime has consistently displayed disregard for human rights, both inside and outside of Iran, as well as a willingness to destabilize the international rules-based order," LeBlanc said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Members of Parliament voted unanimously in May in favour of a non-binding motion calling on the government to list the IRGC, a branch of Iran's armed forces, as a terrorist entity.

That was not the first time the Commons voted in favour of listing the group: the Opposition Tories pointed out Wednesday that a Conservative motion also passed in 2018, and called the delay unacceptable.

"As a result of that delay, the IRGC has been able to grow stronger as a result of Trudeau's inaction," said foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and deputy leader Melissa Lantsman in a statement.

"They have been allowed to fundraise, recruit and operate in Canada while terrorizing countless Iranian Canadians who fled to Canada to escape the IRGC in the first place."

The New Democrats also took credit for pushing the government into action, saying in a statement of their own that the news should bring some relief to people in Canada who have been targeted by the Iranian regime.

"The brutality of the Islamic Republic against Iranians in Iran, and its ongoing threats to Iranian Canadians, must stop," said foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson.

The Liberals have said in the past that listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity could affect a number of people who had no choice but to be drafted into the organization.

When asked what changed to bring about Wednesday's listing, LeBlanc said such decisions are not made "because of comments on Twitter or question period."

"It's made based on the advice of our security services, it's made based on foreign policy considerations," he said.

"It's a deliberative process, it's a threshold that has to be met under the Criminal Code of Canada."

Entities are reviewed by security agencies on a monthly basis, he added.

Iran shot down a Ukrainian Airlines plane in early 2020, killing all on board, including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The families of those who died have been calling for the government to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly denied that Canada was under pressure from the U.S. to make the listing, but said she has had numerous conversations with her American counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"Over the past weeks, I've been in close contact with all our G7 partners, also partners in the region, to make sure that we would be able to get their feedback, advise them and to make sure that ultimately ... this would be an important step," she said.

She also said the decision means there is a heightened risk for Canadians that they could be arbitrarily detained in Iran.

"My message is clear: for those who are in Iran right now, it's time to come back home, and for those who are planning to go to Iran, don't go," Joly said, adding that Canada cut diplomatic ties with Iran years ago and cannot provide consular assistance in the country.

The listing means it is now a Criminal Code offence to support the IRGC. Justice Minister Arif Virani said there is an elevated criminal intent requirement to any prosecutions under that provision.

"People would need to be sending money that they would be knowing where it is going, and intending that it be used for the support of the terrorist activity in question," he said.

He said a similar threshold applies for people who were conscripted into the IRGC and are no longer members.

The federal government had previously barred tens of thousands of prominent Iranian government officials from entering Canada, including top IRGC members.

Canada had also already listed the Quds Force, a branch of the IRGC, as a terrorist entity.

LeBlanc said Wednesday that current and former senior Iranian government officials who are in Canada may be investigated and removed from the country.

The IRGC now joins Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and other groups as listed terrorist entities.

Canada recently sanctioned Iran's defence minister and the country's most senior military body after the IRGC launched a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel in April.

That came after an airstrike, which was widely attributed to Israel, destroyed Iran's embassy in Syria.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2024.

— With files from Jim Bronskill.

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press