Leaders of the Jewish and Iranian communities have joined forces to demand that Canada add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to its list of banned terrorist groups.
At a news conference in Ottawa on Jan. 13, leaders from the Council of Iranian Canadians, the Justice 88 Campaign and B’nai Brith Canada urged the government to implement a motion passed in the House of Commons in June 2018.
The motion, which was approved unanimously, called on Ottawa to designate the IRGC as a terror group. It also strongly condemned Iran for its “ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border,” and for statements “calling for genocide against the Jewish people.”
A year later, Canada added two neo-Nazi and three small Iranian-backed groups to its list of banned terrorist organizations, but failed to list the IRGC.
“Our government is now on notice,” Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, told the news conference. “We are asking for the IRGC to be designated as a terrorist group in Canada within the next 30 days. No further delays will be accepted by Canadians on this important public safety issue.”
In 2012, the former Conservative government added the Quds Force to the terror list. But B’nai Brith and others complained that the Quds Force was a subgroup of the IRGC and that banning it but not its parent organization would accomplish little.
“There is no basis in law or in policy for banning the Quds Force while failing to do so for the entire IRGC,” said David Matas, legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, at the news conference. “Canada has rightly rejected that approach when it comes to other terrorist groups, such has Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Funds sent to the IRGC from Canada, which remains legal, could be used to assist the Quds Force in carrying out acts of terrorism, he said. Blacklisting the IRGC would remove a legal obstacle and allow Canadian victims to sue the Iranian government under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, Matas added.
Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3, was a major general in the IRGC and commander of its Quds Force.
In an interview with The CJN, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who introduced the parliamentary motion in 2018, said: “We haven’t gotten any explanation from the government as to why they have not moved thus far. We need answers. We need to understand what the government is doing and why.”
His theory is that “it looks like a political decision was made not to move forward.” When his motion was passed, “they said, ‘we’re studying it.’ They can’t very well say they’re studying it now.”
Genuis noted that his motion received Liberal support. Indeed, the motion also called on the Liberals to abandon promises to restore ties with Tehran, which the Conservative government had cut, and their endorsement was seen as a striking change in Ottawa’s Iran policy.
The designation of the IRGC as a terrorist entity is “an urgent matter,” Avideh Motmaen-Far, president of the Council of Iranian Canadians, told the news conference.
“Today, as the Islamist regime schemes to avenge Soleimani, the IRGC poses a greater risk than ever before to Canada’s Iranian and Jewish communities,” he said.
Since Genuis’s motion was passed, “hundreds of Iranians have been murdered just for demanding their basic rights,” stated Reza Banai, the chair of the Justice 88 Campaign, a group that pursues accountability from Iran. “The least our government can do is sanction the IRGC, which is responsible for so much misery in Iran and throughout the region.”
Canada “has already taken a number of actions” against the IRGC, read a statement sent to The CJN from Public Safety Canada.
“We continue to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as a terrorist entity, and we also continue to impose sanctions on Iran and the IRGC targeting all four of its branches as well as senior-level members of its senior leadership,” the statement continued.
“The listing of entities is an ongoing process, and government officials continue to assess all groups and monitor new developments.
“We remain unwavering in our commitment to keep Canadians safe, including by taking all appropriate action to counter terrorist threats in Canada and around the world.”
The United States listed the IRGC as a terrorist group in April 2019.
Meanwhile, The Canadian Press (CP) quoted Dennis Horak, who was Canada’s last ambassador to Iran prior to the severing of diplomatic relations in 2012, as saying that listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity would undermine efforts by the Trudeau government to properly investigate the crash of the Ukraine Airlines flight that was shot down by Iranian missiles over Tehran on Jan. 8.
All 176 people on board were killed, including at least 57 Canadians.
Horak told CP that listing the IRGC would be “counterproductive” because Iranian officials “could believe the accident investigation team is looking to compile evidence for future legal cases against them.”