Canada lists Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as terrorist group

Canada lists Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as terrorist group

Canada has listed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, a move that will bar thousands of Iranian officials from entering the country and begin investigations against senior officials.

The IRGC is a branch of Iran’s armed forces, established after the 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a secular monarch allied with the West, and led to the formation of an Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shi’ite cleric.

The move comes after years of pressure on the Canadian government from the opposition to list IRGC as a terrorist entity.

The IRGC has strong political and economic influence with close ties to Mr Khamenei, operates independently from Iran’s regular military, and has its own ground, naval, and air units.

Announcing the decision, public safety minister Dominic LeBlanc said “Canada will use all of the tools at its disposal to combat the terrorist entity of the IRGC”.

"Our government will ensure that there is no immunity for Iran’s unlawful actions and its support of terrorism."

Addressing concerns about why it took so long for the government to take the decision, Mr LeBlanc said: “The decision to list an organization under Canada’s Criminal Code as a terrorist entity isn’t made because of comments on Twitter or question period”.

Expressing concerns over retaliation from Iran, foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly said Canadians in Iran face the risk of arbitrary detention.

"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," Ms Joly warned.

The decision comes more than four years after the IRGC shot down a Ukraine International Airlines Flight over Tehran skies in January 2020. Around 175 people were killed in the strike, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Since then, the family members of the victims and the Conservative Party have called on the government to designate the group as a terrorist organisation.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre accused the Justin Trudeau government of making the announcement now because of the upcoming key byelection vote next week in a Toronto district where almost 10 per cent of the population is Jewish.

Israel and Iran have exchanged drones and missiles since Tel Aviv launched an attack inside Gaza after the 7 October Hamas attack. Iran has denounced Israel for its attack in Gaza that has killed many Palestinians and threatened a response.

Once a group is placed on the terror list, police can charge anyone who financially or materially supports the group and banks can freeze assets.

In October 2022, Canada said it would ban the IRGC’s top leadership from entering the country and promised more targeted sanctions.

The US banned IRGC in 2019. The UK government is also under pressure to ban the IRGC amid Israel’s war in Gaza.