The Conservatives join a growing number of calls for Canada Soccer to cancel a controversial exhibition match against Iran scheduled for next month in Vancouver.
The families of those who died aboard Flight PS752 when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the plane in 2020 – killing all 176 passengers and crew, including 85 Canadians and permanent residents – say that they plan to demonstrate in front of the stadium if the match progresses.
The families say they view the exhibition match as an insult because they want justice for their loved ones, especially given ongoing concerns over possible IRGC links to the Iranian team.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was a bad idea for Canada Soccer to invite the Iranian soccer team to British Columbia. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart also condemned the game.
Now Tory MPs Matt Jeneroux and Richard Martel are calling on Canada Soccer to clean up the nearly sold-out game.
“Hosting the Iranian national football team while the victims of Flight PS752 are still suffering and seeking redress is reprehensible and will only serve to further legitimize the Iranian regime,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement.
CBC News reported this week that the head of Iran’s soccer team said he would make a profit on the friendly for the first time in 22 years.
Team manager Hamed Estili told Iranian state-affiliated media that Canada Soccer was paying $400,000 to the Iranian soccer federation for the June 5 friendly match.
WATCH: Canada Soccer to pay Iranian team $400,000 for match, Iranian official says
Canada Soccer did not confirm the sum quoted, but said it is standard practice in international football to pay visiting teams an attendance fee to cover travel expenses.
Estili said that after the team covers their expenses, they expect to collect $200,000.
“Paying $400,000 to the team as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – which the House of Commons asked the Trudeau government to list as a terrorist entity – directly and indirectly took control of sports clubs in Iran in the past 20 years is simply unacceptable. write Jeneroux and Martel.
Canada has placed only part of the IRGC on its terrorism list, despite a 2018 House of Commons resolution that called on the federal government to designate the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist entity.
News outlet Politico reported on Tuesday that US President Joe Biden has now finalized his decision to keep the IRGC on the US terrorist blacklist.
Adding to concerns surrounding gambling, Estili was photographed at a birthday party in Tehran last month with a suspected Iranian intelligence informant with links to the IRGC and wanted by the FBI.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Mahmoud Kahzein in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap international targets, including three people in Canada. The FBI is now looking into possible links between the two men, according to one of the victims.
The association representing the families of the victims of flight PS752 recently wrote a letter to the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, raising concerns about their safety.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service confirmed that the families of the victims were harassed, threatened and intimidated by IRGC proxies. The letter suggests that IRGC members could travel with the team to Canada disguised as doctors, physiotherapists or other people in charge of the team’s logistics.
Trudeau said on Tuesday it would be up to the Canada Border Services Agency to determine whether the Iranian soccer team is allowed to enter the country.
Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Wednesday, Estili said the team did not yet have their Canadian visas. He said the team was making last-minute preparations and was having difficulty arranging the trip and covering expenses. He also said that visas will not be issued if they are not collected at a specific time in Turkey.
WATCH: Families of Flight PS752 victims call on Canada Soccer to cancel game against Iran
According to Iranian state media, Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday accused Canada of politicizing the upcoming match.
Khatibzadeh told Press TV that the Iranian Football Federation had made arrangements for the match and that Iran would hold Canada responsible for any breach of its agreement with Canada Soccer.
While some members of the Iranian-Canadian community called for the game to be cancelled, several people contacted CBC to say they were hosting the game.
Iran is ranked 21st in the FIFA Men’s World Ranking. Canada is ranked 38th.
John Molinaro, a longtime sports journalist and CBC News contributor, said it appears Canada Soccer only saw the match as a way for Team Canada to prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and n ignored the public relations fallout.
The federal government gave Canada Soccer more than $3 million in funding this fiscal year, but says none of the money went to the men’s team or this game.