Canada has finally listed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization under Canada’s Criminal Code, six years after the House of Commons initially called for such a listing.

Media reports began to circulate that the Liberals would list the IRGC as an official terrorist group hours before the official announcement.

During the official announcement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly warned Canadians in Iran to return to Canada immediately. She also said that anyone planning to go to Iran should not.

“With today’s decision, there’s a much higher risk of arbitrary detention for Canadians who go to Iran,” she said in French.

Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc said that Canada “has also designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as a regime that has engaged in terrorism and systematic or gross human rights violations.”

The announcement bars thousands of senior Iranian government officials and top IRGC members from entering Canada. Those who are already in Canada can be investigated and removed, said Leblanc. 

Listing a group as a terrorist organization grants the police the ability to charge anyone who supports the group financially or materially. Police can also freeze supporters’ assets. However, Justice Minister Arif Virani clarified that Canadians would have to know where the money’s going and that it is intended to support terrorist activity to be charged.

The calls to list IRGC as a terrorist entity intensified in January, following the anniversary of the downing of flight PS752, which claimed 176 lives, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

In May, MPs voted 327 to 0 in favour of a motion calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist entity and the expulsion of an estimated 700 Iranian agents operating in Canada.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre renewed his call for Trudeau to “ban” the IRGC terrorist group on Tuesday.

However, Leblanc said that the decision to list an organization as a terrorist entity wasn’t made because of the calls. 

“It’s made based on the advice of our security services. It’s made based on foreign policy considerations… It’s a deliberative process. It’s a threshold that has to be met under the Criminal Code of Canada,” said Leblanc. “I’m told there’s literally a monthly review by the security agencies of different entities around the world, and whether or not the threshold has been met and whether or not they’re in a position to recommend to the government the listing under the criminal code.”

Poilievre’s renewed call came just a day after the Iranian Justice Collective urged the Liberals to sanction Iranian officials who sentenced Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death for criticizing the Islamic Republic. 

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an international human rights and democracy activist and member of the Iranian Justice Collective, said that the House of Commons called for the IRGC to be added to the terrorist list six years ago, and reiterated this decision just a few weeks ago.

“They are the ones that are responsible for beating women on the streets that are not wearing a veil, dragging them into police vans, raping them, sending them to jail, and God forbid, sentencing them to death. They are the representation of everything that is evil in the world,” she said.

She added that the IRGC is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, providing the most funding to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.

Conservative MP and Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Chong criticized the Liberals for moving at a snail’s pace in listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

“Because of the government’s inaction over the last six years, the Iranian regime’s capabilities here in North America have only increased,” said Chong.

Chong said that the information being leaked by the CBC before the Liberals’ announcement would have allowed the IRGC to avoid the upcoming sanctions by moving assets.

“The manner in which the government is making this announcement is another example of their complete abdication of responsibility to protect this country’s national security,” he said.