The Canadian government has expressed support for people protesting in Iran.

“Canada is encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully,” Global Affairs said in a written statement that also called on Iranian authorities to honour “democratic and human rights.”

“Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of Iranians including the right to freedom of expression,” the statement goes on.

What started as spontaneous protests on Thursday over economic stagnation and rising food and gas prices in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, escalated into nationwide anti-government demonstrations Friday and Saturday.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the protests show "the strong desire for freedom and democratic rights that exists with the Iranian people.”

In the statement posted to Facebook, Scheer also called for sanctions for Iran, which he said “has continued to sponsor terrorism abroad” and is “one of the world's most corrupt dictatorships.”

“Rather than seeking to normalize relations with the repressive Iranian regime, (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau should be supporting the demands for liberty from the people of that country,” Sheer said.

Some protesters chanted slogans against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The demonstrations appear to be the largest anti-government protests in the country since 2009.

In Toronto, dozens gathered to show solidarity with the people of Iran. “People want freedom and justice,” Zahra Fallah, one of the Toronto protest organizers told CTV News Channel. “They want the overthrow of the regime.”

National Iranian American Council research director Reza Marashi told CTV News Channel: “What you’re seeing more than anything else is fully legitimate grievances because Iranians’ political, economic and social aspirations have been long unmet by successive governments.”

Arash Azizi, a writer with IranWire and a New York University researcher, told CTV News Channel that he is “hopeful, but also really worried.”

“This regime has shown that violence knows no restraint,” said Azizi. “It’s still too early -- it’s the third day of the protests ... whether those die down or not remains to be seen.”

Some of the Iranian protesters were met with violent crackdowns on Saturday. There have been reports of shootings, injuries, deaths and mass arrests at the hands of police.

With files from The Associated Press