A gathering of IRGC officers in Tehran

Canada Inches Closer to Designating IRGC as a Terrorist Entity

Thursday, 05/09/2024

The Canadian House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously adopted a Report to designate Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist entity and expel about 700 Iranian agents operating in Canada.

The constitutional weight of the adoption of the report cannot be exaggerated for it is non-binding for the government and the government could very well never re-introduce any bill for its implementation. Politically, however, the unanimous adoption of the report marks a step forward in Canada’s sluggish progress to designate IRGC as a terrorist entity.

The report paves the way for the introduction of Bill-350, State Immunity Act, as a set of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act proposed by MP Hon. Garnett Genius. Whether or not the governing Liberals step up to the plate and designate IRGC as a terrorist organization, it is abundantly clear that the Trudeau government has already crossed Rubicon of confronting the Iranian regime, be it through going after IRGC and its special forces branch, the Quds Force, or via tackling the Canadian network of the relatives of the Iranian regime’s ruling echelon.

The burning question is whether the next step to tackle the IRGC and its active measures operatives in Canada will transpire in the form of both actionable legislation and action on behalf of the Canadian RCMP, CSIS, and Canada’s financial crime and FATF enforcement institutions. Indeed, Canada-Iran relations have gone through four distinct period since 2012.

The first period dates back to parliamentary debates on the question of designating IRGC in its entirety as a early as 29 March 2012, when Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper were at the helm. These debates took place in the context of a surge in human right violations by the Iranian regimes; starting with the death of Iranian Canadian Zahra Kazemi at the hands of the Iranian security forces in 2003 and the regime’s brutal suppression of 2009 presidential election protests.

Harper’s government implemented a series of measures that emerged in the form a comprehensive diplomatic confrontation against the Islamic regime of Iran. From cutting all diplomatic relations with the Iranian by closing the Canadian embassy in Tehran to designating IRGC’s Quds Force as a terrorist organization. However, Harper’s government did not go beyond these measures and only did join the UN mandated international sanctions against the Iranian regime concerning its nuclear program. Moreover, Harper’s government did nothing to stop former members of the ruling elite and/or IRGC top brass relatives from calling Canada home through various visa schemes made available to them through Canada’s Immigration system.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking to Iranian Canadians in Vancouver in 2023

With Trudeau’s liberals taking over in November 2015, the government of Canada did not seek to undo the measure taken by the previous the conservative government but did not seem to have done anything to put into action any of those measures in a concrete manner. Indeed, the Canadian Senate considered bill S-219 (An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations) in February 2016 that would designate IRGC as a terrorist entity in its entirety.

Then, in 2018, the very MP Hon. Genius did sponsor another non-binding motion 018 to designate IRGC as a terrorist. For reasons that still befuddle most observers, the government, which enjoyed an overwhelming majority at the time, defeated the motion.

Without getting bogged down in the minutia of the history of this period, the turning point that galvanized the Iranian-Canadian community to pressure Trudeau’s government into concrete action was January 2020 shot-down of Ukrainian PS752 passenger airliner with 63 Canadians on board and almost a dozen more Canadian permanent residents by the IRGC air-defense batteries. From this point onward the liberal government began to adopt more concrete actions, starting with a series of sanctions against IRGC top brass and other high-ranking members of the Iranian regime.

However, the government stopped short of taking any concrete action from preventing the regime officials’ relatives from settling in Canada, nor did it introduce a Magnitsky style act for the Iranian regime officials who had profited from human rights violations.

The fourth period starts with Iran’s autumn 2022 “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising and continues to date. The government began to roll out new sanctions against Iranian officials implicated in the brutal uprising culminating public consultation to stop the former officials and their relatives to use the proceeds of their crime for settling and/or investing in Canada. As of 2023, with Immigration Canada joining in the action by deporting several former senior regime officials, Canada seems to be gearing up for more concrete punitive actions against the Iranian regime.

Today’s vote thus marks a point of no return for Trudeau liberals. First, in the 2018 vote that defeated a similar motion by MP Genius, the two Iranian Canadian MPs Messrs Ali Ehssasi and Majid Jowhari were conspicuously absent from the vote. Today, however, both were present. In so far as speculation goes, it is likely that the gentlemen chose not to attend the session as they did not wish to vote “yes” against the wishes of a government, and one might say PM Trudeau, that was determined to defeat the motion.

Also in 2018, Trudeau’s government enjoyed a comfortable majority, which it no longer enjoys, and it may soon have to face Iranian-Canadians at the ballot box in a general election. The government can also no longer ignore reports of threats against Canadians by the Iranian regime on Canadian soil. Thus, whether or not Trudeau’s government would take action and pass Genius’ Bill-352 into legislation, with this motion it can longer remain sit on its hands and do nothing further. In the end, the winds of change may force it to do so as it will set sails soon for another election campaign.

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