Concern mounts as Canada amends its sanctions against Iran

Following the EU lead, on Feb. 5 Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion announced that Ottawa would be lifting some of its sanctions against Iran.

(EJNews) – Canada’s new Liberal government has announced it is lifting some economic sanctions against Iran. Stephane Dion, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced on February 5 that Ottawa will be ending a number of sanctions against Iran, including a ban on financial services and imports and exports.

The announcement was in response to last month’s confirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had fulfilled all necessary commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Canada has therefore amended its broad-reaching autonomous sanctions against Iran to allow for a controlled economic re-engagement, including lifting the broad ban on financial services, imports and exports. Canada has also updated its regulations under the United Nations Act in order to conform with the changes to the United Nations sanctions regime mandated by the UN Security Council.

Canadian companies will now be better positioned to compete with other companies globally.

In a statement, Minister Dion said, “Canada continues to have serious concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and will continue to maintain tight restrictions on exports to Iran of goods, services and technologies considered sensitive from a security perspective (including nuclear goods and technologies, as well as those that could assist in the development of Iran’s ballistic-missile program). A Notice to Exporters has been issued indicating that while all applications for export permits will be considered on a case-by-case basis, permit applications to export the most sensitive items on the Export Control List will normally be denied. Canada will also maintain a revised list of individuals and entities of most concern in relation to the risk of proliferation and to Iran’s ballistic missile activities and with whom any transactions would continue to be prohibited.”

Canada has had no real engagement with Iran since September 2012, when the embassy of Canada in Tehran was closed and Iranian diplomats were expelled from Canada.

“While Iran remains a country of concern, Canada prefers dialogue over withdrawal,” noted Dion.

“Canada is willing to have discussions with Iranian officials, including talks on the possibility of restoring diplomatic contacts. We will maintain our firm commitment to the human rights of Iranians. Canada will steadfastly continue to oppose Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its threats toward Israel, and its ballistic missile program, while also monitoring Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA.”

In response, David Cape, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), urged the government “to maintain caution and vigilance.”

‘It is near impossible to exaggerate the threat Iran continues to pose to Israel and the Jewish people globally,” stated Cape in a letter to the Jewish community. “The lifting of international sanctions following the P5+1 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program – a deal fraught with gaps and failures that the regime will no doubt exploit – remains a serious source of anxiety for CIJA and our global partners. Above all, there is the very real danger that the international community, out of naïve enthusiasm over the nuclear agreement and growing fear regarding the spread of ISIS, will welcome Iran as a legitimate member of the international community even as the regime continues to sponsor terrorism, abuse human rights, foment chaos in the region, and issue genocidal calls for the annihilation of Israel.”

Cape said sanctions and “robust diplomacy have proven invaluable in holding Iran to account for its illicit nuclear program. Ongoing, targeted economic and diplomatic pressure is likewise required to address the multifaceted threat Iran poses to international peace and security.”

The advocacy group pointed out that Canada will maintain sanctions on the Basij Militia and Iranian banks implicated in financing terrorism and illicit nuclear procurement; retain Iran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose restrictions on exports to Iran of goods and technology that may be used for nuclear or ballistic missile purposes.

These steps signal that Canada “remains committed to the objective of changing Iran’s destructive behavior,” observed Cape.  “Amid our anxiety over what a shift in Canada’s policy toward Iran would mean for the human rights and terrorism files, the importance of these measures should not be understated.”

Cape explained that the Liberal Party, although supportive of a tough stance against Iran, has long signaled its preference for an approach characterized by constructive engagement as opposed to the policy of isolation established by the previous government. With the signing of the P5+1 agreement, it was clear that UN Security Council-imposed sanctions would be dissolved by the United States and the international community. Those Canadian sanctions passed under the UN Act would have to be rescinded. In other words, the combination of a shift in government and a global shift in orientation toward Iran serves as the context for the recalibration of Canada’s approach to Iran.

“We remain deeply concerned about the international effort to reengage Iran,” concluded Cape. “In addition to ensuring Canada maintains an explicit focus on holding Iran accountable, we will continue to emphasize that history shows diplomacy without economic pressure has never been effective in changing Iran’s behaviour.

“Now more than ever, the Jewish community needs to take an active role in Canadian public policy. Whatever your partisan leanings, we need you to speak out and get involved.  CIJA will be launching an action alert to mobilize concerned Canadians to directly urge the Foreign Affairs Minister to continue applying pressure on Iran.”


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