Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion says Canada will begin to lift some sanctions on Iran now that a deal has been reached to curb that country's contentious nuclear program.
"It's true that the United Nations has asked countries to lift sanctions that were put in place to prevent Iran from using nuclear weapons for military purposes," Dion said in French during question period.
"Canada will lift its sanctions but will maintain a level of mistrust for a regime that must not have nuclear weapons, a regime that is a danger to human rights and is not a friend to our allies, including Israel," Dion said. "We will do this with our eyes wide open."
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Dion repeated his pledge in the foyer but did not give a specific timeline.
"We'll do it in accordance with our allies. They are keeping sanctions to be sure that Iran will not have the capacity to be involved in nuclear military measures, so we'll certainly be very responsible in our way," Dion said.
The remarks came after Conservative MP Peter Kent asked Dion what the government would do about Iran, a country he called a "bad actor" and one that supports Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
The Conservative's foreign affairs critic, Tony Clement, condemned the policy shift, adding that the government is "going 180 degrees in the wrong direction."
"Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism, continues to deny as state policy the very existence of Israel. It continues to oppress its people," Clement said. "Now is not the time to review or remove sanctions against a country that is still not within the world family of nations that co-operates and works with other nations."
The Montreal-area minister batted away the criticism from Conservatives, who took a hardline stance against the Iranian regime when they were in government.
"I would say the approach of the former government was ideological and irrational. What [the Tories] are proposing now in opposition is [for Canada] to be alone in maintaining sanctions that will affect Iran but surely it will affect business in Canada," the minister said.
When asked specifically about exporting civilian aircraft — Bombardier hopes to sell regional jets to the country's national air carrier, Iran Air — Dion said it made no sense to maintain sanctions that hurt such an important Canadian industry.
"If Airbus is able to do it, why will Bombardier not be able to do it? In which way is it helping Canada, or the Iranian people or Israel or anyone that Canada is hurting its own industry?"
Opening embassy not 1st step
Dion also signaled that Canada would look to open its embassy in Tehran, but said in French that it wouldn't be the first step in restoring relations with the country.
"We think that when we have a disagreement with a regime we don't pull out, you work harder to be sure you'll see improvements. It's what our allies did in negotiating with Iran, an agreement that is good for the world. We need to be there to be sure this agreement will be fulfilled and implemented and respected."
Kent said re-establishing relations with the country would put Canadian workers at risk because it is "selective" in the way it protects foreign missions.
The Harper government abruptly closed the Canadian Embassy in Tehran in 2012, and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa. The government also formally listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.