When Canada added two neo-Nazi and three Iranian-backed groups to its list of banned terrorist organizations last month, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis was pleased, but also a little perplexed and frustrated.
Only a year earlier, Genuis, an MP from Alberta, was pleasantly surprised that many Liberals had voted for his private member’s motion to condemn the Iranian regime and request that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite unit of Iran’s armed forces, be added to Ottawa’s growing list of terrorist entities.
The motion simply expressed the will of the House of Commons, but it won bipartisan support and Genuis considered it a breakthrough.
However, on June 26, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale unveiled an updated list of terror groups – and the IRGC wasn’t on it.
Instead, three smaller organizations linked to the Iranian regime were listed: Al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB), Fatemiyoun Division (FD) and Harakat al-Sabireen (HaS).
Also added were two far-right extremist groups, Blood & Honour (B&H) and its armed branch, Combat 18 (C18). They are the first neo-Nazi groups to be included on Canada’s list of terrorist organizations.
“It’s a good step to list these (Iranian) entities, but if the government sees this as good enough, I would have to disagree,” Genuis, who has represented the riding of Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan since 2015, told The CJN. “Any government that says it’s a friend of Israel must be tough on the number 1 security threat to Israel, and that’s the Iranian regime.”
Genuis said he has queried the government over the IRGC’s non-appearance on the list. “We’ve asked the question repeatedly over the last year and they always say it’s in process. At some point, these delay tactics look like something more than delay. They look like actual reluctance to take the step,” he said.
In 2012, the previous Conservative government added the IRGC’s Quds Force, which Ottawa described as “the clandestine branch” of the IRGC, to the list of terrorist groups. The government said the Quds Force was responsible for “exporting the Iranian revolution” through facilitating terrorist operations, and that it provides arms, funding and paramilitary training to extremist groups, including the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and others.
According to B’nai Brith Canada, the Quds Force is “subservient” to the IRGC’s leadership.
Genuis agreed: “To take a piecemeal approach and say, ‘OK, we’re going to sanction this small entity without recognizing the role of the mothership,’ is problematic.”
In 2012, then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government severed diplomatic relations with Iran, shuttered Canada’s embassy in Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada. The current Liberal government campaigned in 2015 on re-establishing relations with the Islamic state.
Genuis called that “an appeasement philosophy that has never worked,” while Ottawa’s failure to list the IRGC is “probably a reluctance to confront the regime directly. I don’t doubt the sincerity of some members of their caucus, but even those members who talk about this issue have not been able to deliver.”
Iran’s regime is “the number 1 security threat to Israel,” he said. “That’s why listing the IRGC is so important.”
Genuis’ motion, which was passed on June 11, 2018, strongly condemned Iran for its “ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border,” and for statements from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “calling for genocide against the Jewish people.”
At the time, Genuis said Canada “cannot be both a friend to the oppressor and a friend to the oppressed.”
While the motion asked that the IRGC be listed as a terrorist entity, it also called on the Liberals to abandon plans to restore ties with Tehran. Liberal support for the motion was seen as a striking change in the tone of the government’s Iran policy.
While approval of his motion was a “watershed moment in the government, appearing to change their colours a little on the issue, the easiest explanation (for not listing the IRGC) is that they had gone back to what had always been their position,” which is to thaw relations with Iran, said Genuis.
Three days after Genuis’ motion passed, Michael Levitt, the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of York Centre, wrote to Goodale, agreeing that the IRGC should be listed as a terrorist group.
Goodale “has confirmed that the process has been initiated,” Levitt tweeted that day.
In a June 25 statement, B’nai Brith noted that the IRGC was the “ultimate agent responsible” for the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.
“The IRGC continues to serve as the terrorist foreign policy arm of the Iranian regime, exporting murder and mayhem around the world,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “It is clear and evident that the IRGC carries out the Iranian regime’s terrorist strategy, so there should be no further delay in listing the entire IRGC” as a terrorist group.”
The listing of terror groups is an ongoing process, a spokesperson for Goodale told The CJN in response to a query on whether Ottawa would list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
Current sanctions against Iran include the freezing of assets of the IRGC, “its branches, several members of its senior leadership and a number of companies it controls,” spokesperson Zarah Malik said.
The recent addition of the three Iran-backed organizations “highlights the links between Iran and terrorism,” Malik continued, noting that Canada “has already put in place a series of strong measures to hold Iran accountable, and these listings will help enhance this existing approach. We will continue to hold Iran to account for its support of terrorism.”
Canada continues to list Iran as a state supporter of terrorism, and has partially lifted its state immunity to allow civil actions against Iran under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, she said, adding that through its engagement in the Financial Action Task Force, Canada “contributes to international efforts to hold Iran accountable for its financing of terrorism.”