Harper meets with prominent Iranian-Canadians

A group of prominent Iranian-Canadians had face time with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and two key ministers Tuesday. The meeting wasn't publicized in advance, but a photo was sent out on Twitter.

Meeting revealed in photo tweet from immigration minister, prime minister's Twitter accounts

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney shared this photo of their meeting with prominent Iranian-Canadians on Twitter. (Twitter)

A group of prominent Iranian-Canadians had face time with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Minister John Baird and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney Tuesday.

The meeting wasn't publicized in advance, but a group photo was sent out on Twitter from both the prime minister's and Kenney's account.

"Excellent meeting today w/ the Prime Minister, Minister Baird & members of CDA's Persian community about recent events," Kenney wrote, attaching the photo.

Julie Vaux, a spokeswoman for the prime minister's office, says the meeting was "not a formal discussion."

"They discussed the recent events with Iranian-Canadian community leaders," Vaux wrote in an email to CBC News.

The prime minister's office has supplied names and biographical information for people present at this meeting and pictured in the photo shared on Twitter (from left to right):

  • B.C. Conservative MP John Weston, who represents a Vancouver riding and sits on the Commons immigration committee
  • Mehrdad Rahbar - President of Vernacular Design Inc. and Neda for Freedom Society (Vancouver)
  • Moe Eskandarpour - CEO of Vanguard Mortgage Investment Corporation and Neda for Freedom Society (Vancouver)
  • Ahmad Tabrizi - Founder of the Parya Trillium Foundation, a GTA community centre that has received funding from Kenney's department in the past (Toronto)
  • Michael Parsa - Former director of the Iranian-Canadian Congress and former president of federal Conservative riding association in Richmond Hill (Toronto)
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper
  • Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay (identified as an activist from Ottawa by the PMO, but originally from Vancouver and now married to Defence Minister Peter MacKay)
  • Mehrdad Amiri - Activist, President of Lambda General Contractors (Montreal)
  • Dr. Farrokh Zandi - Professor at Schulich School of Business at York University and current president of Iranian-Canadian Congress (Toronto)
  • Farid Rohani - Chair, Laurier Institution and member of the Nowruz Commission (Vancouver)
  • Immigration Minister Jason Kenney

The prime minister's office says that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also attended the meeting, although he was not in this photo.

Activist married to defence minister

Afshin-Jam MacKay has a long history of activism against the Iranian regime, dating back to before her marriage to MacKay.

While she doesn't support military intervention in Iran, she did campaign for the closure of Iran's Ottawa embassy.

"Why should we be giving an embassy for those who imprison, torture, and execute innocent people?" Afshin-Jam told host Robyn Breshahan on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning in July.

"I've shared my views with [husband Peter MacKay] but I don't represent the opinion of the government or even my husband. I know there are reasons why they are keeping this [Iranian] embassy open," she said.

Baird surprised many when he announced the closure on Sept. 7.

In an interview with CBC Charlottetown's Compass last July, Afshin-Jam MacKay was asked about whether being married to a high-profile cabinet minister helps or hinders her work as a human rights activist.

"I wouldn't say it's helped or hindered. Peter's very supportive of the work I do, he's never said I can or can't say certain things," she responded. "In terms of going to a lot of different gatherings, meeting different people from different walks of life, I'm able to spread awareness to a larger audience, so in that way I guess it's helped."

The other attendees at the meeting are prominent Iranian-Canadian academics, activists and business leaders.

The prime minister has shared his deep concerns about the "dangerous" Iranian regime in the past, telling Peter Mansbridge, CBC News' chief correspondent, that the current Iranian regime frightens him.