Ottawa increases sanctions on Iran

Canadian diplomats participate in a Jan. 31 roundtable on Iran that took place in Tel Aviv. From left are MP Irwin Cotler, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Canadian ambassador to Israel Paul Hunt. [Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade photo]

Canada continues to tighten sanctions on Iran via the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA).

On Jan. 31, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced from Israel – where he and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty were on a weeklong diplomatic mission – that Canada had frozen the assets of three Iranian-born Canadians and five Iranian companies operating in the country, and prohibited them from conducting business here.

Yesterday’s announcement brings the total number of those affected by Canada’s use of SEMA to target Iran to 49 individuals and 339 businesses since 2010.

“Canada has taken aggressive action and has among the toughest sanctions against Iran in the world,” Baird said at a roundtable on Iran in Tel Aviv organized by the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies.

“These sanctions cover the known leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) and block virtually all financial transactions with Iran, including those with the Central Bank.”

He added that “Iran’s current leaders regularly turn a blind eye to their international human rights obligations and obfuscate their nuclear activities by blocking international attempts to verify the country’s claims. Canada will continue to work with the growing list of like-minded countries to limit Iran’s ability to further undercut global peace, prosperity and stability.”

Also participating in the Tel Aviv roundtable was Irwin Cotler, Liberal member of Parliament for Mount Royal and human rights activist, who has been advising Baird on the Iran file, as the foreign minister noted in a Jan. 31 opinion piece in the Globe and Mail.

Cotler has long advocated for tougher sanctions – economic and otherwise – on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions and to put a halt to human rights abuses in that country.

Chief among those are to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity and to bring the Iranian regime under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice on charges of incitement to genocide.

Canada has not yet pressed for those options either at home or on the world stage.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) was quick to applaud the government for its new round of sanctions via SEMA.

It said Ottawa’s increased sanctions target “front companies used by the Iranian regime to circumvent existing sanctions, entities known for funnelling weapons to the brutal regime in Syria, and three highly placed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials

CIJA chair David Koschitzky said these sanctions “exemplify” the role Canada plays in helping curtail Iran’s quest for nuclear arms.

“We are gratified that Canada continues to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with likeminded nations in taking peaceful measures to confront the Iranian nuclear threat,” he said.

“The most recent UN report from the International Atomic Energy Agency paints a grim picture of Iran on the cusp of developing the capability for nuclear weapons. Combined with its funnelling of weapons and funds to terror groups around the world, the Iranian regime poses a grave threat to international peace and security. If these sanctions fail to convince the regime to abandon its dangerous course, Canada must be prepared to take further peaceful steps in response, such as listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity.”

Baird, Flaherty, Cotler and other Canadian representatives were scheduled to participate in a dinner reception in Jerusalem Feb. 1, hosted jointly by CIJA, the Canadian Embassy and the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (CIIRDF).

The CJN will have updated coverage from this event.