Canada to begin lifting sanctions on Iran

In a shift of policy from the past, Canada’s Liberal-led government to begin to lift some of the sanctions on Iran.

Ben Ariel ,

Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion
Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion

Canada’s Liberal-led government will begin to lift some of the sanctions on Iran, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said on Tuesday, according to the CBC.

"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 during question period in parliament.

"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," he added.

"We will do this with our eyes wide open,” he stressed.

Dion’s announcement comes days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran met its initial obligations under the terms of the nuclear deal reached with world powers last July, thus enabling the lifting of the sanctions.

The removal of the sanctions came despite  a December 2 report from the IAEA which concluded that Iran made a "coordinated" effort to develop nuclear weapons in the past, although the efforts apparently ended at an early stage.

The UN watchdog had also previously released a report which determined that Iran had violated the terms of its nuclear deal with the West by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 460.2 kilograms.

In his remarks Tuesday, 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, according to the CBC.

"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," he said.

The move marks a change in the attitude of the Canadian government towards Iran. The previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper closed its embassy in Iran in 2012 and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada.

At the time, Canada said it viewed the Iranian government “as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

Last year, the Conservative government expressed skepticism over Iran’s nuclear intentions and said it would not lift the sanctions on the Islamic Republic unless it is sure Iran "finally and honestly" neutralizes the military aspects of its nuclear program.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Conservative MP Peter Kent, who represents the largely Jewish-populated riding of Thornhill, Ontario, warned that re-establishing relations with Iran would put Canadian workers at risk because it is "selective" in the way it protects foreign missions.