Public Security Minister Bill Blair’s recent announcement that Canada could soon add more extremist and white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys to its list of terrorist organizations, in light of the riots at the U.S. Capitol, has been well received.
But Jewish advocacy groups still wonder what’s going on with an old effort to list an elite unit of Iran’s armed forces as a terrorist entity.
In 2018, Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garnett Genuis introduced a motion in the House of Commons to add Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to groups designated as terrorist. The motion passed with bipartisan support.
But in 2019, Canada updated its list of terrorist organizations – and the IRGC wasn’t on it. Added instead were three smaller Iranian groups and two far-right extremist ones: Blood & Honour and its armed branch, Combat 18. They were the first neo-Nazi groups to be listed as terrorist organizations.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period on Jan. 10, Blair said Canadian national security officials continue to gather intelligence about groups such as the Proud Boys.
“We’re very mindful of ideologically-motivated violent extremists, including groups like the Proud Boys,” Blair told CTV. “They are white supremacists, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynist groups. They’re all hateful, they’re all dangerous.”
Blair noted the addition of the two neo-Nazi groups to the terrorist roster in 2019 and said, “there are others that will be added…we recognize the threat that such ideologically motivated groups represent to Canadian society.”
In a statement to The CJN, David Cooper, vice-president of government relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said CIJA “is deeply concerned” by the rise of white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, and, as CIJA indicated to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a recent roundtable on hate groups, “we support the use of existing legislation to prosecute these groups.”
At the same time, CIJA “remains deeply troubled and frustrated” by the delay since Genuis’s motion on the IRGC.
“While we appreciate that there are added complexities to listing the IRGC because it is connected directly to a state actor, we nevertheless continue to raise this matter regularly with the government,” Cooper said.
Just prior to Blair’s remarks, B’nai Brith Canada issued a statement on the first anniversary of the shooting down of Flight 752 by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, saying the IRGC was behind the tragedy.
Days after the downing of the flight, which killed an estimated 80 Canadians, B’nai Brith filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government demanding that it comply with the 2018 parliamentary motion.
Listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization “is not merely a symbolic gesture,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith’s CEO. “We are insisting upon concrete, tangible actions to prevent the IRGC from operating in this country. The IRGC not only has Canadian blood on its hands, but it poses a clear and present threat to freedom-loving Canadians of all kinds.”
Asked about adding the IRGC to the terror list, a spokesperson for Blair told The CJN that Canada “has already taken a number of actions,” including listing a smaller, related group, the IRGC Qods Force, as a terrorist entity in 2012.
The government also lists entities that advance Iran’s interests, said spokesperson Mary-Liz Power. These include Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Canada lists Iran as a state supporter of terrorism under the State Immunity Act, Power added.
“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,” she said.