Politics

Ottawa sanctions 34 Iranian officials and entities — Liberal MP says it's not enough

The federal government is slapping sanctions on 34 Iranians and Iranian entities, including members of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and morality police — but a Liberal member of Parliament says the sanctions are "too little, too late."

Foreign affairs minister says more sanctions are coming soon

Mélanie Joly, Canada's foreign affairs minister, speaks during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Joly will announce a list of sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities on Monday. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

The federal government is slapping sanctions on 34 Iranians and Iranian entities, including members of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and morality police — but a Liberal member of Parliament says the sanctions are "too little, too late."

The list, obtained by Radio-Canada, comes a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to impose sanctions on the Iranian government. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly on Monday announced the list of sanctions targets, which include 25 individuals and nine entities.

The Iranian regime is facing country-wide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died while in the custody of the morality police. She was detained for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.

"Obviously, what is going on in Iran right now is completely unacceptable. This is the regime that is persecuting women, this is the same regime that downed flight PS752, and therefore impunity is not an option," Joly told journalists in the House of Commons on Monday.

"The goal is to make sure we put maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. That's why we came up with these key sanctions, targeting the leadership of the IRGC. Everything is on the table."

WATCH The goal is 'maximum pressure on the Iranian regime' — Joly explains new sanctions 

The goal is 'maximum pressure on the Iranian regime' — Joly explains new sanctions

2 months ago
Duration 1:11
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly says the federal government is imposing sanctions on 34 Iranians and Iranian entities, including the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and morality police.

Joly added that more sanctions against Iran are coming "very soon."

"These sanctions are in response to gross human rights violations that have been committed in Iran, including its systematic persecution of women and in particular, the egregious actions committed by Iran's so-called 'Morality Police,' which led to the death of Mahsa Amini while under their custody," a government news release said.

Among those on the list are Hossein Salami, the commander-in-chief of the IRGC, Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, the head of the morality police, and Mohammed-Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran's Armed Forces.

The government said the individuals and entities sanctioned "directly implement repressive measures, violate human rights and spread the Iranian regime's propaganda and misinformation."

Ali Ehsassi, a Liberal member of Parliament representing Willowdale, said Monday that the sanctions are "too little, too late."

"I can only speak for myself. I would say that we still have a lot of work to do," Ehsassi said in an interview with Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos airing Monday evening.

Ehsassi said the Canadian government should continue pressuring the Iranian regime, which he called a "brutal theocracy."

WATCH | Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP says his government's response to situation in Iran "too little, too late"

Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP says his government’s response to situation in Iran "too little, too late"

2 months ago
Duration 9:26
Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi says his constituents have been calling for the government to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity and that the government's sanctions on Iran announced today, don't go far enough.

On Tuesday in Halifax, Trudeau said his government has stood by the family members of those killed when the IRGC shot down Ukraine Airlines flight PS752, killing all 176 passengers on board — 138 with ties to Canada.

He said his government has "moved forward with some of the strongest sanctions against Iran by any country around the world, including, as of yesterday, sanctioning a number of the top members of the IRGC."

Those sanctions, Trudeau said, would ensure senior Iranian officials "are not profiting or benefiting from their role in the repression of human rights, including ensuring that we go after them for any assets or homes they may have in Canada."

Iranian-Canadians have organized rallies in cities across Canada in support of the protests in Iran.

Ehsassi, who is of Iranian background, said the government needs to listen to Iranian-Canadians about the state of Ottawa's relationship with Iran.

"[Iranian-Canadians] want to see action, they want to see concrete steps ... our job is to actually work our way around these complex issues, and make sure that we're responsive to Iranian-Canadians," Ehsassi said.

Canada does not maintain diplomatic relations with Iran. 

The sanctions freeze any assets of targeted individuals and entities in Canada, and prohibit any dealings with them. Those sanctioned are also prohibited from entering Canada.

Thomas Juneau, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said the sanctions are "a good decision." He said a number of Iranian leaders and their family members have assets in Canada, visit the country or send their children here.

But, he added, there's a difference between announcing sanctions and applying them.

"Canada has traditionally had difficulty fully implementing the sanctions it announces," he said.

Calls for government to designate IRGC a terrorist org

During question period on Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked why the government has not listed the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Poilievre cited the IRGC's destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in 2020. Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 who perished in the tragedy.

"Will the prime minister have the guts to stand today and announce he's banning this terrorist organization?" Poilievre said.

Joly, in response, pointed to the government's sanctions on the IRGC. She did not indicate the government would add the IRGC to Canada's list of terrorist organizations.

Ehsassi told Power & Politics that such a move would present legal difficulties. He cited the fact that Iranian men must serve in the country's armed forces and can be conscripted into the IRGC.

But he said the government can find a way around the issue.

"My personal opinion would be that if you left it to lawyers, they could ensure that only IRGC officials above a particular rank could be included," Ehsassi said.

"We want to make sure that this does not ensnare all those young people who were forced to do their military conscription with IRGC."

Corrections

  • This story has been updated from a previous version to state that Thomas Juneau is a professor at the University of Ottawa, not Carleton University.
    Oct 03, 2022 11:08 AM ET

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