IRGC forces in a military parade in Tehran

Canada Lists Iran’s IRGC as Terrorist Organization

Wednesday, 06/19/2024

Canada has listed Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a "terrorist entity", the country's public safety minister Dominic LeBlanc announced Wednesday afternoon.

"This action sends a strong message that Canada will use all of the tools at its disposal to combat the terrorist entity of the IRGC," he said in a press conference that was also attended by Canada's Justice Minister Arif Virani and foreign minister Melanie Joly.

The Iranian community in Canada has been pressuring the Canadian government to proscribe the IRGC, led by the families of those killed onboard flight PS752, which was shot down a few minutes after take off from Tehran's international airport in January 2020.

"Our government will ensure that there's no immunity for Iran's unlawful actions and its support of terrorism," LeBlanc said.

The measure has been taken under Canada's criminal code, which means the country's law enforcement will be able to charge those who support the group financially or materially.

Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife, Parisa Eghbalian and their 9 year-old-daughter, Reera were killed when the IRGC shot down PS752 told Iran International, he's very happy but the fight is still not over.

Hamed Esmaeilion with wife Parisa and daughter Reera on her ninth birthday.

"We hope that there's no change in the decision in the coming years. And we hope that this campaign actually continues on to spread to the rest of the world, to the European Union, to the UK and Australia and other countries," said Esmaeilion.

Esmaeilion, and the families of families of flight 752, have been vocal advocates pushing for the terrorist designation since the downing of the civilian aircraft, and even filed a 200 pages plus fact finding report to the federal government in 2023. It alleged that Iran deliberately kept its airspace open to use civilians as human shields against a possible American attack.

"The most important message is for the people in Iran, for the brave activists," said Esmaeilion.

He said the IRGC terrorist designation impacts all victims of atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.

Potential retribution

Kazem Gharibabadi, the deputy chief of Iran's Judiciary, condemned Canada's "hostile" decision to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, and said the Revolutionary Guard "is responsible for guarding Iran's national security and confronting terrorism in the region."

Earlier Wednesday, IRGC commander in chief Hossein Salami said Iran has been able to impose its "magnificent power" on its " world enemies" in spite of many decades of "pressure" on the country.

"They seized our ships, so we seized theirs," Salami said. "They attacked some of our ships at sea, but when their ships were attacked, they realized that they couldn't engage with this country."

Canada is advising all Canadians and dual nationals to leave Iran and not to travel there due to heightened concerns over potential retribution.

Some PS752 families posted to X that Canada's foreign minister Melanie Joly sent an email to the families after the announcement, and assured them that the government was determined to protect Canadian citizens against the Iranian government's threats.

The IRGC was formed in 1979 to 'guard' the Islamic Revolution, as stipulated in the force's title. Since then, it has grown to become the most powerful player in Iran's domestic politics and economy, while its international wing, the Quds Force, arms, trains, and often fights alongside various armed groups across the Middle East.

The Canadian government, much like the administrations in Europe, have been grappling with the idea to proscribe the IRGC for many years. Such designation would put the Guards in the same category as al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS).

The move in Canada has been a long time coming, said several activists. In 2018, the House of Commons passed a resolution urging the Federal government to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity. The Liberal government backed the Conservative motion, but it still wasn't codified under the criminal code.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had resisted calls in the past to list the organization as a terror group because some Iranians are forced into the organization as part of their mandatory military service. That issue was acknowledged during Wednesday's press conference after a reporter with Canadian media asked.

Canada's Justice Minister Arif Virani said "he remains concerned about it," citing it as a "complex situation."

Virani said individuals would be assessed on a case by case basis.

The Conservatives and the NDP have criticized the Liberal government for delaying the designation.

“As a result of that delay, the IRGC has been able to grow stronger as a result of Trudeau’s inaction,” Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said in a statement after the announcement.

Strong message

Iranian-Canadian human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam said the announcement was a major step in the right direction that will further protect Canadians and send a strong message.

"My heart is beating fast. I'm so excited. It's a great day for security for Canada. It's a great day for sending a very strong message to people inside Iran that their voices have been heard. And it sends a very strong message to IRGC officials and their affiliates and the whole regime of the Islamic Republic, that crimes against humanity don't go with impunity," she said.

Tara Dachek, who is partnered with Afshin-Jam in the diaspora group the Iranian Justice Collective (IJC) was overjoyed that it "finally happened."

"We [IJC] have had meetings with MPs, members of House of Commons, Senate for the past two years to ask them to recognize the IRGC as a terrorist organization, " said Dachek.

The listing is an important tool to help law enforcement and fight terrorism, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the FDD where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues.

"This allows the Canadian government to better protect the rights of Iranian diaspora, who has legally migrated to Canada and is actually seeking to flee or build a better life, away from the Islamic Republic," said Taleblu.

In late January, two Canadian men, with Hells Angels ties, were accused of plotting to kill an Iranian defector living in the US, with the help of an Iranian national suspected of running a murder-for-hire scheme run by Iran.

The terrorist designation is important because it gives the justice system much more ammunition, according to Taleblu.

It will also effect the IRGC's financing as well, he added.

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