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Ratna Omidvar is an independent senator from Ontario. Julie Miville-Dechêne is an independent senator from Quebec.

In the first weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police, the Iranian regime sought to make some concessions. The public reaction to her death, which followed her arrest for not obeying Iran’s headscarf rules, was massive, as strikes and protests rippled across the country.

More recent reports that the morality police would be disbanded made observers wonder if the government would relax rules. But it’s clear now that the crisis has entered a new phase, and the government is determined to crush the resistance by force.

For the past five months, the protests – and the violent crackdown that followed – made headlines around the world. Iranian women took to the streets to denounce the harassment and oppression they endure. This “feminist revolution” then extended to many other Iranians, both men and women, mostly young, who want the end of a regime that is suffocating them. According to estimates by human-rights groups, nearly 470 protesters have died, including several dozen children, while between 16,000 and 18,000 others have been arrested.

The so-called revolutionary courts held a series of trials, condemning dozens of demonstrators to death without allowing them to choose their lawyers. A few days ago, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, a 22-year-old karate champion, and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, a volunteer children’s coach, were executed for their participation in the protests.

Information comes to us in bits and pieces, and often without confirmation, but the stories are heartbreaking. Prison guards reportedly beat young Elham Modaresi for going on a hunger strike; according to her family, she is now in critical condition and her life is in danger. Another young woman, Sepideh Qalandari, is said to have died under torture after her arrest in Tehran; her body was reportedly handed over to her family in exchange for a promise of silence. A 23-year-old student, Fatemeh Gorji, was sentenced to one year in prison and 74 lashes for her participation in the protests. Arshia Takdastan, 18, has just been sentenced to death for his role “leading” demonstrations in the north of the country.

These cases of torture, the violent crackdown on demonstrations, executions and the denial of fundamental justice for detainees have been denounced throughout the world, and people are wondering what they can do about the situation. Canada has little influence over the Iranian regime, as economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries are very limited – but this does not mean we are completely powerless.

Iran sentences three more protesters to death amid international criticism

Already, more than 300 parliamentarians in Germany, France and Austria have agreed to symbolically “sponsor” death row inmates to draw attention to their fate. In Canada, more than a dozen parliamentarians have joined the movement so far. We sponsor a young teacher from Tehran, Mona Afsami, who was arrested on Oct. 19 and has been accused of collusion against national security.

The Canadian government could also take inspiration from other countries to increase pressure on the Iranian regime. Three avenues are possible.

Ottawa has imposed sanctions on 127 Iranian individuals and 189 Iranian entities, suspected of being complicit in systematic human-rights abuses as well as breaches of international peace and security. Those targeted are subject to a ban on transactions, but more severe sanctions are possible, including the seizure of assets for redistribution to victims of the Iranian regime or to groups that come to their aid, under the recently amended Magnitsky law and the Special Economic Measures Act.

Second, Canada could declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, as the United States has done. This designation would have the effect of facilitating the work of prosecutors seeking criminal convictions.

Finally, the Iranian diaspora has long denounced that friends and allies of the Iranian regime can immigrate to Canada without problems. The federal government should therefore tighten its checks to ensure that our immigration policies benefit the victims of Iranian repression, not its beneficiaries.

After the violent upheavals of 2022, the year 2023 will be decisive for Iranians who dream of freedom and for those who have stood with them. It is time for Canada to deploy all its means to support our friends in Iran, and show our support for women, life and freedom.

Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly said Britain has declared the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group.