Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is looking at ways to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
Trudeau made the comment Monday at a ceremony commemorating the victims of Flight PS752, which was shot down by the IRGC shortly after taking off from Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people onboard, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
The victims’ families have been calling on the government to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization for years.
The federal government has taken steps in response to the IRGC’s actions. It has used the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to bar high-ranking members of the Iranian regime from entering Canada. As a result, the Canada Border Services Agency has denied entry to dozens of senior Iranian officials and is investigating about 100 people with status in Canada for potential ties to Tehran.
But Trudeau suggested Monday that his government is looking at further options.
“We know there is more to do to hold the regime to account and we will continue our work, including continuing to look for ways to responsibly list the IRGC as a terrorist organization,” the prime minister said.
The Liberal government has for years resisted calls from the opposition Conservatives and from families of PS752 victims to designate the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist organization. It has argued that such a listing would be a blunt-force approach that could affect low-level people who were forced to serve in the paramilitary force.
The CIA says conscripts make up more than 50 per cent of the IRGC.
Trudeau’s comments come after Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc also declined to rule out a terrorist designation for the IRGC last week.
“Our government is always looking at measures to reinforce national security, to hold terrorist organizations to account,” LeBlanc told reporters when asked about the IRGC on Friday.
“I have asked the national security agencies to continue to update the advice to the government on possible future listings and when we have more to say on a particular change in posture, we will have something to say at that point.”
Monday’s ceremony in Richmond Hill marked four years since the PS752 tragedy. In addition to the prime minister, the event was attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lanstman.
Speaking after Trudeau, Lantsman repeated her party’s call to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization.
“This evil act of murder … underscored a truth that our country has known for a very long time — the IRGC is a terrorist group,” she said. “Nobody has been more resolute in their calls for justice than all of you here today.”
The ceremony included a moment of silence and the screening of a short documentary about the victims. Family members of the victims read their names and ages aloud while their photos were shown on a large screen.
“Four unbearable years have passed from a crime that is unprecedented in the history of aviation,” said Azadeh Heidari, the mother of 21-year-old passenger Amir Marodi.
“We gather today to remember and honour all loved ones who perished so tragically.”
Maral Gorginpour’s husband, Fareed Arasteh, was on the plane. It was three days after their wedding, she said.
“To be honest, I’m still in denial. I can’t believe that he’s not here,” she said.
She remembered her late husband’s broad smile and positive outlook.
“Nothing was impossible for him. If he wanted something, no matter what would happen, he would get it,” Gorginpour said, adding she thinks of him whenever she feels like giving up.
Gorginpour said she and other relatives of the victims continue to seek answers.
“Their lives were brutally taken and we still, after four years, we still don’t know what happened that night,” she said. The Canadian government has done a lot for the families of victims, she added, but the process has been slow.
Canada, others bring case against Iran to UN agency
The governments of Canada, Ukraine, Sweden and the United Kingdom initiated dispute proceedings against Iran before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) council on Monday.
Canada and its international partners want the ICAO council to rule that Iran breached its obligations under the Chicago Convention, the international agreement laying out the core rules and standards for safe global air travel.
“Iran has refused to take full legal responsibility for the downing of Flight PS752 despite our numerous attempts to engage in negotiations on this matter,” a joint statement from the governments said.
“Initiating these proceedings today reflects our commitment to the families who deserve justice.”
The governments want the ICAO council to order the Iranian government to take full responsibility for its actions, apologize to the victims’ families and pay compensation.
“The Iranian regime must be held accountable,” Trudeau said during Monday’s ceremony.
The Iranian government claimed in a 2021 report that the airliner was shot down accidentally after being “misidentified” by an air defence unit as a “hostile target” — a conclusion Canadian safety officials say Iran failed to support with evidence.
Iran pledged to pay $150,000 to each family that lost someone on the plane, but Canada rejected the offer, arguing that compensation shouldn’t be determined by Iran unilaterally.
Kourosh Doustshenas, spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, said referring the case to ICAO was an “important development.”
“Financial compensation has never been and is not our main objective,” he said during Monday’s ceremony. “We seek the truth, accountability and justice.”
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