Canada bars thousands of Iranian regime members from entering country, imposes asset freezes

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (October 11, 2022, 3:08 PM EDT) -- In the wake of the killing of a young woman because Iran’s “morality police” objected to how she wore her hijab, the Canadian government is moving under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to bar entry to thousands of Iranian regime members because of their “engagement in terrorism and systemic and gross human rights violations.”

“Canada stands with the brave women, students, and the people of Iran who are peacefully protesting the tragic killing of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Iranian regime’s so-called ‘morality police,’ ” the federal government said in an Oct. 7 announcement.

The government said “the Iranian regime’s brutal repression of these protests — killing, beating, and arresting protesters — is once again demonstrating its blatant disregard for human rights and human life. We are listening to, and joining our voices with, those who are demanding better.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill Oct. 7 that Canada will take “significant, further action against the Iranian regime.”

“First, we will be pursuing a listing of the Iranian regime, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leadership under the most powerful provision of the IRPA,” he explained. “This is a measure that has only been used in the most serious circumstances against regimes conducting war crimes or genocide, like in Bosnia and Rwanda. This will make the top 50 per cent of the IRGC leadership — the over 10,000 officers and senior members most responsible for this heinous state behaviour —inadmissible to Canada, denying them access to Canadian territory and opportunities,” the prime minister said. “The designation of a regime is a permanent decision. This means that more than 10,000 members of the IRGC leadership, for example, will be inadmissible to Canada forever.”

The prime minister added that “we intend to massively expand targeted sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act to hold to account those people most responsible for Iran’s egregious behaviour. This tool was unavailable to previous governments because only in 2017 did we expand Canada’s sanction regime to include human rights.”

“Third, we are expanding Canada’s capacity to fight money-laundering and illicit financial activity, as well as to crack down on foreign interference to protect Iranian Canadians and other communities in Canada,” the prime minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland called the Iranian regime a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

“It is repressive, theocratic, and misogynist,” she told reporters. “The IRGC leadership are terrorists. The IRGC is a terrorist organization.”

“Today by listing the IRGC under IRPA and indeed, by listing the broader leadership of the Iranian regime, we are formally recognizing that fact and acting accordingly,” Freeland said. “More than 10,000 senior members of this terrorist organization will be banned from ever setting foot in Canada. Anyone on this list will be sanctioned and prohibited from doing business or hiding their assets here. We will strengthen our crackdown on Iranian money laundering in Canada. We will not tolerate financial transactions with Iran that are associated with the IRGC and its proxies.”

Freeland added, “we will use the Magnitsky Act, together with all of the other tools in our toolbox, to hold members of the IRGC to account for their gross violations of human rights, of women’s rights in Iran.”

Asked why Canada is not adding Iran to the list of terrorist entities pursuant to regulations under the Criminal Code — as advocated for by the official opposition Conservatives — Trudeau did not rule out such a move.

“We have looked very, very carefully at all the potential tools and we’re not taking any further tools off the table,” he said. “But the reality is, using these provisions that have only been used in cases like Bosnia and Rwanda, to designate the Iranian regime under these [IRPA] provisions that are specifically targeted at terrorism, war crimes, deep and fundamental violations of human rights, and genocide, this is the strongest measure we have to go after states and state entities,” he replied. “The Canadian Criminal Code is not the best tool to go after states or state entities, but we will continue to look at all tools we can use to do it, but what we are announcing today goes far beyond things that people have been asking for.”

Asked why the U.S. has listed Iran as a terrorist organization, but not Canada, Trudeau responded “the U.S. has a very different regime than the regime that we were talking about here in Canada, and we have spent a long time looking at exactly what is the best tool we have to hold the Iranian regime to account.”

“Holding states to account, holding state entities like state militaries to account is different than simply listing a terrorist organization,” Trudeau added. “And that’s why the choice we’ve made, and that we’re ... moving forward on, is to invoke measures that haven’t been used since Bosnian war crimes or since the genocide in Rwanda, to ensure that there is no doubt that the Iranian regime receives the strongest pushback from Canada that we possibly can.”

Trudeau said the government is expanding Canada’s capacity to fight money-laundering and illicit financial activity, as well as to crack down on foreign interference to protect Iranian Canadians and other communities in Canada.

To that end, he announced $76 million has been allocated to strengthen the government’s capacity to implement and enforce sanctions. “This will ensure we can move more quickly to freeze and seize sanctioned individuals’ assets, building on new authorities we introduced in just the last budget,” he explained. “It will also support the establishment of a new sanctions bureau in Global Affairs Canada and new capacity at the RCMP. In addition, we are enhancing our ministerial directive on financial transactions associated with the Republic of Iran. We will restrict financial transactions with Iran associated with the IRGC and the proxies that support them.”

As summed up in a press release, the government said it intends to:
  • list the Iranian regime, including more than 10,000 IRGC officers and senior members — as inadmissible to Canada.
  • “significantly expand sanctions against those responsible for the Iranian regime’s egregious human rights abuses by building on our existing sanctions,” including those announced last week, “to implement the most robust and comprehensive set of sanctions in the world against the IRGC.”
  • introduce a “new tailored regulation to ensure no sanctioned individual connected to the IRGC can enter Canada, pending the passage of Bill S-8.”
  • invest $76 million to strengthen Canada’s capacity to implement sanctions and ensure the government can move more quickly to freeze and seize sanctioned individuals’ assets, including through a dedicated bureau at Global Affairs Canada and additional support to the RCMP to investigate and identify assets and gather evidence.

Bill S-8, a government bill, awaits second reading in the House of Commons, following the passage of the bill in the Senate last June. According to its legislative summary, Bill S-8 would amend the IRPA to: “reorganize existing inadmissibility provisions relating to sanctions to establish a distinct ground of inadmissibility based on sanctions; expand the scope of inadmissibility based on sanctions to include not only sanctions imposed on a country but also those imposed on an entity or a person; expand the scope of inadmissibility based on sanctions to include all orders and regulations made under s. 4 of the Special Economic Measures Act”; and amend the IRPA’s Regulations to “among other things, provide that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, instead of the Immigration Division, will have the authority to issue a removal order on grounds of inadmissibility based on sanctions under new paragraph 35.‍1(1)‍(a)” of the IRPA.

The Liberal government said Canada will also “pursue all the tools at our disposal,” including under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law), which enables restrictive financial and property measures for foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of human rights.

The government stressed that Canada is continuing to work with other countries “to ensure the Iranian regime is held accountable for its heinous conduct, including for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which killed 138 people en route to Canada, including 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.”

The government said the new measures build on some of the strongest in the world against the Iranian regime, including designating the state of Iran as a state supporter of terrorism, as well as last week’s imposition of sanctions against senior Iranian officials and prominent entities that directly implement repressive measures, violate human rights, and spread the Iranian regime’s propaganda.

“We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to implement the most robust sanctions against the Iranian regime in the world,” vowed the federal government.

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