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Canada permanently banning top Iranian regime officials, levelling new sanctions

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Canada is permanently banning top members of the Iranian regime from coming into the country, restricting financial transactions with Iran, and pursuing new sanction enforcement measures, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

"We're taking steps that will raise the bar internationally, in holding Iran accountable," Trudeau said alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa.

The federal government will be pursuing a listing of the Iranian regime, as well as the leadership of a branch of the Iranian armed forces known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), under what Trudeau called "the most powerful provision" of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

Only used in cases of war crimes, genocide, and other serious human rights violations, Canada is moving to make the top 50 per cent of the IRCG leadership—an estimated 10,000 officers and senior members— inadmissible to Canada, forever. This move will also mean that they will be prohibited from doing business or holding assets in Canada.

This move comes amid ongoing condemnation of Iran for its violent crackdown on protesters sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly violating the country's forced veiling law.

Trudeau said Canada is restricting financial transactions with Iran, associated with the IRGC and the proxies that support them.

Canada is also vowing to "massively expand" its targeted sanctions to hold Iran accountable, and is allocating $76 million towards strengthening Canada's ability to implement sanctions.

"This will ensure we can move more quickly to freeze and seize sanctioned individuals' assets… It will also support the establishment of a new sanctions bureau in Global Affairs Canada, and new capacity at the RCMP," Trudeau said.

The government will be expanding its capacity to fight money laundering and illegal financial activity, as well as cracking down on foreign interference, "to protect Iranian Canadians and other communities in Canada," the prime minister said.

While Freeland spoke about how Canada views the Iranian regime as a state sponsor of terrorism, and called the IRGC a "terrorist organization," Canada's leading government officials stopped short Friday of deciding to formally add the IRGC to Canada's list of terrorist entities.

It's a move the Liberals have previously said would be up for national security agencies to decide, despite calls dating back to 2018 from parliamentarians to declare the IRGC a terrorist entity.

"It is repressive, theocratic, and misogynist. The IRGC leadership are terrorists," Freeland said. "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.”

While the Liberals are framing Friday's announcement as going "far beyond" what the Conservatives have been calling for, it's likely that political pressure on the government to keep pursing new measures against Iran will not ease up.

Trudeau said that ministers will have more to say about the full suite of measures Canada has been working on all week, saying the cabinet is "not taking any further tools off the table." 

This week marked the 1,000th day since Iran's downing of Flight PS752 near Tehran. Most of the 176 people killed were headed to Canada through Ukraine on that flight, and the federal government says it will remain "relentless" in its pursuit of justice for those families, in the face of Iran's refusal to accept responsibility.

Earlier this week the federal government announced new sanctions against 25 members of Iranian leadership and nine entities, including top officials and Iran's so-called morality police. Trudeau said Friday that Canada will continue to use all tools at its disposal to amplify the "message of hope and freedom" coming from women in Iran and those standing with them.

"The actions we have taken, and are announcing today are some of the strongest measures anywhere against Iran. To the strong, resilient and proud Iranian Canadian community: we hear your voices, we heard your calls for action. That is why today we are using the most powerful tools at our disposal to crack down on this brutal regime," Trudeau said.

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