Author: Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB
Last Updated On: June 26, 2024

IRGC Affiliations and Inadmissibility to Canada

Inadmissibility because of IRGC membership

Parham, a 29-year-old Iranian engineer, dreams of immigrating to Canada. He meets all the Express Entry requirements and eagerly awaits a new chapter. However, Parham served his compulsory military service with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Now, he worries about inadmissibility due to Canada’s designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Parham’s past service might jeopardize his immigration prospects. As he prepares his application, this concern looms large. Will his service with the IRGC hinder his Canadian dream?

Understanding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is crucial to Iran’s military and political landscape. Established after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the IRGC has grown into a powerful force that influences various aspects of Iranian society. This section explores the IRGC’s roles in the military and economy and its involvement in regional and global activities.

Military Role

The IRGC is a powerful parallel to Iran’s regular army. Its structure reflects this, with distinct branches mirroring those of a traditional military. Here’s a breakdown of the IRGC’s military role:

  • Internal Security and Territorial Defense: The IRGC’s ground forces are deployed across Iran’s 31 provinces to maintain internal security and respond to external threats along the borders.
  • Maritime Control: The IRGC Navy is significant in key maritime regions, including the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for one-third of the world’s seaborne crude oil.
  • Ballistic Missile Program: The IRGC Air Force manages Iran’s ballistic missile program, a critical component of the country’s defence capabilities.
  • Cyber Warfare: The IRGC’s cyber command engages in espionage and propaganda activities, contributing to Iran’s strategic operations in the digital realm.

Economic Influence of IRGC

The IRGC has become a major player in Iran’s economy. It controls a vast network of businesses and holdings across various sectors, including construction, telecommunications, energy, and transportation. This economic power provides the IRGC with several advantages:

  • Funding Military Activities: Profits generated from these businesses contribute to financing the IRGC’s military operations and expansion.
  • Political Influence: The IRGC’s economic strength translates to political influence. Controlling key sectors and resources can pressure government policies and decision-making.
  • Sanctions Workarounds: The IRGC’s economic network can be used to circumvent international sanctions placed on Iran. By operating through a complex web of affiliated companies, they can potentially continue some economic activities restricted by sanctions.

Estimating the exact percentage of the Iranian economy controlled by the IRGC is difficult due to the opaque nature of its holdings. However, various sources suggest a significant influence. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that the IRGC has become “the most powerful controller of all important economic sectors across Iran.” Other estimates place the IRGC’s control at around 20% of the economy, though this figure may vary depending on the methodology used.

Regional and Global Activities

The IRGC actively supports nonstate armed groups across the Middle East. Through its Quds Force, the IRGC provides training, weapons, and financial aid to groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. This support helps Iran project power and counter Western influence in the region. The IRGC’s involvement extends to global activities, including cyber operations to destabilize adversaries and interfere in foreign elections.

Suppression of Dissent by IRGC

Internally, the IRGC plays a vital role in suppressing dissent and maintaining regime stability. It oversees the Basij paramilitary force, which mobilizes up to 600,000 volunteers to quell protests and enforce political control. The IRGC’s actions during the 2009 Green Movement and recent demonstrations, dubbed “Woman, Life, Freedom,” highlight its role in suppressing opposition and protecting the Islamic Republic’s interests.

Designation as a Terrorist Organization

The United States and Canada have designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization. This designation stems from the IRGC’s involvement in state-sponsored terrorism and its support for militant groups. Sanctions against the IRGC aim to curtail its activities and limit its ability to operate internationally.

Canada’s Designation of the IRGC as a Terrorist Organization

On June 19, 2024, Canada officially designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. This decision followed extensive evaluations of the IRGC’s activities and their impact on global security. Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the designation, highlighting the IRGC’s involvement in terrorism, human rights abuses, and destabilizing actions.

Canada’s decision reflects the IRGC’s direct participation in acts of terrorism. The organization has been linked to numerous attacks and plots against Western interests. Moreover, the IRGC’s involvement in the shooting down of Flight PS752 and suppression of Iranian protests and dissent further underscores its oppressive role.

Inadmissibility Because of Membership in a Terrorist Organization

I have published another article that explores inadmissibility because of terrorism. However, it is noteworthy to remind the readers of paragraph 34(1)(f) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA):

A34(1)(f) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds for being a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in acts referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (b.1) or (c).

Furthermore, the person does not need to be an active member of the terrorist group at the time of the admissibility decision. For example, see paragraph 23 of the Gebreab decision:

[23] Under this analysis, “there is no temporal component” in the determination of organization, or in the determination of the individual’s membership (Al Yamani, above, at paras. 11-12). The Board does not have to examine whether the organization has stopped terrorist acts, and does not have to see if there is a “matching of the person’s active membership to when the organization carried out its terrorist acts” (Al Yamani, above, at para. 12). Furthermore, for the purposes of s. 34(1)(f), the determination of whether the organization in question engages, has engaged, or will engage in acts of terrorism is independent of the claimant’s membership.

Gebreab v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2009 FC 1213 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/26twj>, retrieved on 2024-06-23

It is noteworthy that Gebreab appealed the Federal Court decision. However, the Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the Federal Court decision and dismissed the appeal. Therefore, the currency of membership is irrelevant.

Definition of Membership and Involvement in Terrorist Activities

In the context of immigration law, “membership” refers to an individual’s association with an organization, whether formal or informal. This association can be through active participation, financial support, or any other contribution form. The term is interpreted broadly and does not necessarily require direct involvement in the organization’s illicit activities. Instead, it encompasses any level of support or affiliation with the organization.

In Kanagendren v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FCA 86, the Federal Court of Appeal addressed whether membership in a terrorist organization necessitates involvement. The court’s decision clarifies this issue.

Paragraph 22 of the court’s decision emphasizes that section 34(1)(f) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) does not require a “complicity analysis” when assessing membership. This means an individual does not need to directly participate in the organization’s terrorist activities to be considered inadmissible. The mere fact of being associated with an organization that engages in such activities is sufficient.

Reasoning Behind the Ruling

The court reasoned that requiring proof of direct involvement would undermine the intent of section 34(1)(f). The provision aims to protect national security by preventing individuals associated with dangerous organizations from entering or remaining in Canada. Therefore, the broad interpretation of “membership” ensures that anyone who has supported or been part of such an organization can be deemed inadmissible.

Inadmissibility Because of Terrorist Activities

Generally speaking, membership in a terrorist organization is enough to make a person inadmissible. However, some of these members may also be inadmissible because there are reasonable grounds to believe they have engaged in terrorism. Paragraph 34(1)(c) of the IRPA covers this group. Nonetheless, the officers do not need to decide inadmissibility on this ground if they deem a person inadmissible because of membership in a terrorist organization.

Different Involvements with the IRGC

The IRGC (in Farsi سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی) comprises various members with different roles and levels of involvement. Understanding these distinctions is crucial when assessing the implications of membership under immigration laws.

Military Employees (نظامی)

These individuals join the IRGC of their own will as formal military personnel. They include commanders and enlisted soldiers actively participating in the IRGC’s military operations. Their roles involve direct engagement in the organization’s activities, including strategic planning and combat missions.

Non-Military Employees (کارمند)

Non-military employees work for the IRGC in various capacities, such as administrative, technical, and engineering roles. Although they do not hold military ranks, they support the IRGC’s operations through their professional expertise. Their involvement is essential for the organization’s logistical and operational efficiency.

Employees of IRGC Subsidiary Organizations

IRGC operates and invests in many civil organizations and economic activities. Consequently, one could assume some employees are directly related to IRGC. However, in Moghaddam v. Canada, the Federal Court rejected inadmissibility based on indirect relationships. Paragraph 34(1)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) concerns security inadmissibility. It covers those posing a danger to Canada’s security. The court emphasized that mere association, without concrete evidence, does not establish inadmissibility under this paragraph.

Furthermore, this understanding could also extend to paragraph 34(1)(f) of IRPA. This paragraph addresses the inadmissibility of membership in a terrorist organization. Thus, indirect relationships or mere membership without evidence of prohibited activities might not suffice. Of course, we must wait for future court cases to have a definite answer for this group of individuals (i.e., those working for IRGC subsidiary organizations).

Conscripted Soldiers (سرباز وظیفه)

Conscripted soldiers are individuals who serve their compulsory military service with the IRGC. Their service typically lasts around 24 months or less. While they receive military ranks, their involvement is often limited to the duration of their conscription. Many conscripts perform non-combat roles and have minimal long-term association with the IRGC.

The legal interpretation of “membership” under section 34(1)(f) of IRPA is broad. It includes anyone associated with the IRGC, regardless of the nature or duration of their involvement. This broad interpretation aims to address all potential security threats.

I speculate that both military and non-military employees (former or current) are inadmissible to Canada under A34(1)(f). However, the situation for subsidiary organizations and conscripted soldiers is more complicated. I have already contacted the immigration authorities for their input. However, based on Kanagendren v. Canada, it is likely that at least some of these soldiers will face inadmissibility in Canada.

Who will be affected?

The following people are not immune to inadmissibility because of their membership in IRGC or other terrorist groups:

If these people are in Canada, they could face a removal order. If they are outside Canada, they may not enter Canada.

Solutions to Inadmissiblity because of Membership to IRGC and other Terrorist Groups

There are limited solutions to keep a person subject to a removal order because of terrorism in Canada. For example,

As an Iranian-Canadian, I do not empathize with the IRGC military and non-military employees. However, if you have served compulsory military service there, please book a consultation session. We can explore your options to prevent or mitigate issues legally. Furthermore, if you face immigration complications, fill out the following form.

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    Resources:

    • Gebreab v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2009 FC 1213 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/26twj>, retrieved on 2024-06-23
    • Kanagendren v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FCA 86 (CanLII), [2016] 1 FCR 428, https://canlii.ca/t/gh3tv, retrieved on 2024-06-23
    • Moghaddam v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 1063 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/hvrb2, retrieved on 2024-06-26

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    Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB

    Al Parsai is a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University (Osgood Hall Law School). A respected member of CICC, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.