Iranian-Canadians, Liberal MP call on Ottawa to re-establish relations with Iran
'An absence of diplomatic representation hurts the people of both countries,' says MP Majid Jowhari
One of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal MPs has joined forces with the Iranian Canadian Congress in pushing the government to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran and reopen embassies in both countries.
The petition containing more than 5,600 names is sponsored by Richmond Hill, Ont., MP Majid Jowhari, who says it will serve "as an asset in furthering the government's agenda."
"Our government's position is that Canada severing ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone, not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for our Canadian allies, and not for global security," Jowhari told reporters during a news conference on Parliament Hill.
"An absence of diplomatic representation hurts the people of both countries," he added.
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Bijan Ahmadi, president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, said that ever since the former Conservative government cut ties with Iran in 2012, expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada, Ottawa has been unable to talk directly to Iran.
"Canada has to rely on other countries, in this case, Italy, to do the communication for us," he said. "This is not a good policy. Canada, to protect the interests of its citizens, needs to directly talk to the Iranian authorities."
"We can only ask our allies to take this matter to a certain extent," he added.
Without that ability, Iranian-Canadians cannot get their passports renewed or secure birth and death certificates, said Ahmadi. It also means that Iranians in Iran cannot secure visas to visit relatives in Canada and Canadians travelling in Iran have no consular services should they need them, he said.
No news on Homa Hoodfar
Jowhari was asked about the plight of Homa Hoodfar, 65, an Iranian-Canadian academic jailed in Iran since June 6. She has been charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the state — charges her family says are trumped up.
"This is an open case that our government is working hard to address and we are very concerned about the health and well-being and continued detention of Dr. Hoodfar, and our government is working very close with its allies to make sure that we will secure a release, safe release, as soon as possible," he said.
On Wednesday, 20 former United Nations special human rights investigators called for Iran to release Hoodfar, saying her work poses no threat to Iranian security.
Hoodfar suffers from a serious neurological condition and the family has also said requests for a checkup by an independent specialist doctor have been ignored.
Nearly 5,000 academics worldwide have signed a petition this summer in support of Hoodfar, with some rallying outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin last week.
Relations already beginning to warm
During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau made it known that if he was elected he would seek to re-engage with Iran, not because disagreements were over between the two countries, but because diplomatic isolation was ineffective, he argued.
In February, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion began that process, announcing the government would amend "broad-reaching autonomous sanctions against Iran to allow for a controlled economic re-engagement, including lifting the broad ban on financial services, imports and exports."
Other sanctions related to nuclear proliferation and ballistic missiles have remained in place.
In June, Dion said talks between the two countries have started and that things would proceed step by step "at the official level, in neutral territory."
In an email Thursday, global affairs spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet said "a precise timeline has not been determined" for the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Iran.
With files from The Canadian Press