Anyone concerned about the threat Iran poses to global peace and human rights should be encouraged by growing momentum in Canada to hold Iran to account.
Last week, in a 248-to-45 vote, Canada’s House of Commons passed a motion condemning Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and genocidal threats against the Jewish people.
Unlike some parliamentary motions that are largely symbolic, this one has teeth. It calls on the Government of Canada to halt negotiations with Iran to restore diplomatic relations, demand the release of Canadians held in Iran, and list the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a banned terrorist entity. It concludes by expressing solidarity with the people of Iran in their quest for human rights, clarifying the distinction Canada draws between Iranian citizens and the regime that oppresses them.
While introduced by the opposition Conservatives, strong support from the government benches both ensured its smooth passage and demonstrated that it will inform the cabinet’s future policy toward Iran. In fact, during the debate, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale confirmed that the process to outlaw the IRGC will proceed, beginning with an investigation by the RCMP and Canada’s security intelligence agency, CSIS.
This is a significant breakthrough. For years, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has advocated for the entire IRGC to be listed as a terrorist entity, which would make it illegal for Canadians to offer material support to the IRGC.
It is estimated that Iran annually funnels $100 million to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – and a whopping $700 to $800 million to Hezbollah. A significant part of Iran’s material support for these groups is delivered through the IRGC, which provides them with extensive training and advanced weaponry. In the case of Hezbollah, IRGC operatives serve with its fighters in Syria and Lebanon (including in the 2006 Lebanon War, the last major confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah).
While the IRGC’s overseas arm – the Quds Force – is already listed as a terrorist entity in Canada, any distinction between the two has become meaningless in the face of the mass violence Iran has perpetrated in Syria and Iraq. Unlike some jurisdictions, Canada does not draw a fictional legal line between the “political” and “military” wings of Hamas and Hezbollah. Both groups are banned in their entirety. Following that precedent, Canada should label the IRGC as a whole a terrorist entity – which is why the government’s support of last week’s motion is so significant.
My hopes are not only that the process to ban the IRGC will proceed quickly but also that other democratic countries will follow Canada’s lead. Given that the IRGC has been implicated in terror attacks spanning the globe – from Argentina to Bulgaria to India – the world must recognize it as a threat that knows no boundaries.
There is certainly more that Canada should do to level much-needed pressure on Iran. For example, CIJA is urging Ottawa to leverage Canada’s existing “Magnitsky Law” to target key Iranian officials, which would ban their travel to Canada and freeze their Canadian assets.
But, as we advocate for these and other policies to keep the pressure on Iran, Canadian Jewry – and anyone concerned by the Iranian threat – can be proud of the significant progress we have seen in recent days. If you are a Canadian citizen, you can do your part. Click here to send a letter to Canadian political leaders encouraging them to do more to hold Iran accountable.