Conservative deputy leader says party supports calls for regime change in Iran

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman says her party supports calls for regime change in Iran following protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks since the death of Mahsa Amini.

Iran rocked by protests following death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman arrives to a Conservative caucus meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre named Lantsman his deputy leader earlier this month. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman says her party supports calls for regime change in Iran following protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks since the death of Mahsa Amini. 

During an MP panel discussion on CBC's Power & Politics, host Vassy Kapelos asked Lantsman if her party supports calls for regime change.

"Yes, and if you can't be unequivocal about a brutal religious dictatorship who kills their own people, then I'm not sure what we're all discussing here," Lantsman responded.

Conservatives would add IRGC to terrorist list

Lantsman was named one of Pierre Poilievre's deputies after he was elected Conservative leader. CBC reached out to Poilievre's office for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

During his leadership campaign Poilievre said he would add the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Canada's terrorist organization list, if elected to government. He also promised to pursue Iran's downing of flight PS752 at the International Criminal Court and impose Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible.

The Conservatives have upped their calls for the government to add the IRGC to the terrorist list since protests over the death of Mahsa Amini earlier this month have rocked Iran. 

The 22-year-old woman died after being detained by Iran's morality police — allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly. According to Iran's state media, at least 41 people have been killed during the protests that have ensued.

The protests have also grown into an open challenge to the government, with some calling for the downfall of the country's ruling clerics.

WATCH | Should Canada list Iran's IRGC as a terrorist entity? 

Should Canada list Iran's IRGC as a terrorist entity?

4 months ago
Duration 15:18
Liberal MP Arif Virani, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman and NDP MP Heather McPherson on whether Mahsa Amini's death and subsequent crackdowns on protesters should prompt the government to list Iran's IRGC as a terrorist entity.

Dennis Horak, Canada's former chargé d'affaires to Iran, said he thinks outside calls for regime change aren't helpful.

"There isn't a viable alternative waiting in the wings to take over. We all want a change in the behaviour of the regime, but I'm not at all convinced that is possible with how the current leadership is constructed," he said in an email to CBC.

"At the end of the day, however, change — if it comes — has to come from inside." 

Liberals have announced sanctions

Speaking on the same panel as Lantsman, Liberal MP Arif Virani wasn't as unequivocal as the Conservative MP when asked if the government supported calls for regime change.

"We support calls for taking action and sanctions against the individuals that were involved," Virani told Kapelos.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada will levy sanctions on "dozens" of Iranian individuals and entities — including the country's so-called morality police — but didn't get into much detail.

In a media statement, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said it's Canada's "intention" to sanction some Iranians, including members of the morality police and its leadership, but offered no other specifics. However, Virani said a full list of who is being sanctioned would be released within "days."

Members of Parliament passed a motion in 2018 to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Four years later, it still hasn't done so, but Virani said the government is "looking at all avenues," including adding the group to the terrorist list.

But Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino's office says the decision is not up to politicians.

"Determining whether a group constitutes a terrorist entity is a careful, non-political process undertaken by Canada's natural security agencies," spokesperson Alexander Cohen said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"These agencies are continuously working to identify and assess entities that may meet the threshold for listing."


Darren Major

CBC Journalist

Darren Major is a senior writer for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He can be reached via email darren.major@cbc.ca or by tweeting him @DMajJourno.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press