Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has sent a message to the Eritrean consulate to stop collecting a "diaspora tax" from Eritrean-Canadians here or he will order the African nation's consulate closed.

In response to a question from a reporter in Toronto, Baird said the practice of requiring Eritrean-Canadians to pay a tax at the consulate is "unacceptable."

"We share the deep concern that Eritrean-Canadians, and others, have for the work that has gone on at the consulate. We've repeatedly sent out strong signals that is unacceptable, it's wrong and will not be tolerated," Baird said.

"I gave instructions to my deputy minister several days ago to very clearly and unequivocally deliver a strong message that this activity must cease and desist, and if it doesn't we will close the consulate," Baird said.

Baird said the messages were sent in "recent days" but did not specify when a shutdown of the consulate might occur.

This is just the most recent action Baird has taken against Eritrean officials in Canada over the practice of requiring expatriates to pay what the UN has condemned as a worldwide "diaspora tax" on its nationals, valued at two per cent of their income. Last year, Baird expelled consul general Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael.

Eritreans here have complained that if they don't pay the tax, their families back home will suffer consequences.