OTTAWA — Canada is sanctioning more Iranian officials, including a senior military official spotted earlier this year at a Toronto-area gym.
Morteza Talaei, a former general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is among four Iranians and five entities banned from doing business with Canada or accessing assets located in Canada.
Talaei was Tehran's police chief in 2003 when Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi was arrested, allegedly for taking photos of a prison. She died in custody 19 days later.
Earlier this year, Talaei was photographed working out at a gym in Richmond Hill, Ont., sparking criticism from diaspora groups who questioned why he was issued a visa.
Other individuals facing sanctions include a military commander, a former minister who has helped censor the internet as well as an interrogator for the notorious Evin Prison, where Kazemi was arrested and detained.
Canada has also put sanctions on an Iranian commercial airline it accuses of sending drones to Russia and three companies that help develop drone technology.
State-owned Javan News Agency, which Ottawa accuses of disseminating antisemitic messaging, is also being sanctioned.
"We stand with partners around the world who are pushing back, and defending and speaking out for the Iranian people against this terrible government," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday in Vancouver.
He defended not listing the IRGC as a terrorist group. Ottawa has instead implemented an entry ban on people who have been in higher ranks of that organization, which is part of Iran's military, since November 2019.
"Even if there was a total change (of government) over in Iran, the people that we have now listed will be forever banned, for what they are doing right now," Trudeau said.
The ban, announced in October, followed sustained criticism from members of the Iranian diaspora who have spotted officials associated with human-rights abuses moving freely in Canada.
Meanwhile, sanctions experts have said Canada is far behind its peers in having the capability to enforce existing sanctions.
The Liberals have pledged $76 million to better enforce sanctions, but lack any time frame for when 30 new experts will be hired and trained, and have previously said legislation on the matter should come "within weeks."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press