On July 8th 2011 Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada together with the United Kingdom and the United States is increasing restrictions on the Iranian authorities to hold them accountable for their international human rights obligations.
While this is a step in the right direction, it will not be enough to prevent the Regime in Tehran from systematically violating the rights of its citizens or enriching uranium and moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons. While these factors alone should encourage Canada to take a stronger stand against the Regime in Iran, there is also the Iranian Regime’s attempt to penetrate and influence Canadian government and non-government institutions.
In October 2010, the problem-plagued RCMP Community Outreach program promoted a so-called “peace conference” organized by well-known regime apologist Akbar Manoussi. Apparently shaken that the RCMP could place a person of such sympathies on one of their advisory boards, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews scrambled to announce that the RCMP must keep clear of this and other hate fests. Other troubling RCMP outreach has occurred but, despite pleas from moderate Muslims and others, Mr. Toews has been helpless to force the issue.
In January, Library and Archives Canada, our federal library, capitulated to Iranian pressure and cancelled a showing of the film Iranium. Protests by the sponsor, the Free Thinking Film Society, spurred the Canadian government to re-schedule the event.
Despite these red flags, Tehran still enjoys the credibility and influence that comes with having an embassy in Ottawa. In fact, to the disgust of pro-democracy activists, National Arts Centre officials recently invoked Canada’s relations with Iran as justification for allowing the mullah regime to host – via an Iranian “cultural” organization – a lavish event at the Canadian taxpayer-funded NAC.
It must be said that, especially since Iran’s 2003 killing of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, our government has shown itself willing to limit the scope of its diplomatic relationship with Iran. Nonetheless, its embassy continues to allow Iran a formidable base of operations in our midst.
Many Iranian-Canadians and others familiar with Iranian Regime refer to Iran’s embassy as “The House of Terror.” The embassy serves as an operational headquarters for attempts to spy on Canadians and manipulate policy and public opinion. It identifies and intimidates pro-democracy activists, with particular regard to Iranian-Canadian dissidents whose families in Iran may be vulnerable. Along with front organizations, embassy personnel penetrate our universities, and some “students”, boasting embassy connections, warn campus democracy activists not to get out of line.
Meanwhile, Iranian immigrants complain that expatriate Iranian “volunteers” are joining immigrant-settlement organizations in order to spy on newcomers from Iran, rather than to help integrate Iranian immigrants into Canadian life, values and loyalty.
The crisis is building; with a terror-linked Iranian brigadier general’s recent boast that Western countries are infiltrated by Tehran’s armed forces – and general recognition that Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements operate from many of Regime’s embassies. The embassy of Iran, like so many of its “cultural” and other offices, is a threat to the sovereignty and security of Canadians.
It is time to shut it down.
Sayeh Hassan is a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer and a bloggeradvocating for human rights and democracy in Iran.