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Petition to Remove the Board of the Iranian Canadian Congress was Rejected by the Election Monitor

From left: Arsalan Kahnemouyipour, Kaveh Shahrooz, Reza Moridi, Nima Machouf

In recent weeks, a petition was distributed in the Iranian-Canadian community, calling for the removal of the board of directors of the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC). The petition claims that the organization's board of directors has committed violations of the law and they all should, therefore, be fired from the board. Reza Moridi, Nima Machouf, Kaveh Shahrooz, and Arsalan Kahnemouyipour are among the key organizers and supporters of this campaign.

In an email obtained by the IC Journal on Thursday, May 21, 2020, Marvin Huberman, an independent lawyer tasked with overseeing the upcoming elections of the ICC, rejected the petition, stating that the board members and executives have the lawful right to continue with all their activities and the management of the organization is under the control of its board of directors. The current members of the board of directors were elected in 2017 & 2018 by an overwhelming majority of members of the ICC.

The organizers and supporters of the petition oppose the activities of the ICC in recent years, especially their strong work against sanctions and in support of peace and diplomacy with Iran. Some of the organizers and supporters of this recent online petition were among the key figures who also opposed the anti-war protests the ICC organized in January 2020 in multiple cities across Canada in collaboration with Canadian anti-war groups.

Kaveh Shahrooz is a senior fellow at the MLI Institute, a right-wing Canadian think tank that regularly advocates for pressure against Iran. Shahrooz supports Trump’s maximum pressure policy and has met with the Trump administration special Iran representative Brian Hook. He also serves on the board of directors of a human rights group that has received substantial funding from the US Government in previous years.

Reza Moridi is a former Ontario Liberal MPP. Moridi supported Harper’s decision in 2012 to cut diplomatic ties with Iran. In the same year, in a speech, Moridi said that Iranian people are “ready to suffer under sanctions” to topple the Iranian regime. His comments outraged many pro-peace Iranian-Canadians. Moridi lost his seat in 2018. Some pro-peace Iranian-Canadian activists campaigned against him in the 2018 provincial election because of his support for sanctions.

Arsalan Kahnemouyipour is a professor at the University of Toronto. He has not been very active in Canadian politics. In 2011, he signed a letter calling for military intervention in Libya. In the letter, the signatories call on the US Government to work with allies and NATO “to create a coalition that will impose as quickly as possible a no-fly zone” and to provide “military assistance” to the opposition groups.

Nima Machouf is a political and social activist. She ran in the last federal election in Montreal's Laurier-Sainte-Marie riding. Liberal Steven Guilbeault won the riding in a landslide victory.

Nima Machouf and Arsalan Kahnemouyipour, who are among the key organizers of the campaign, did not respond to questions sent to them by the IC Journal about the petition and their campaign against the ICC board.

From left: Nima Machouf, Irwin Cotler, Kaveh Shahrooz in a 2013 press conference in Ottawa. Photo from iPolitics.

Distributing misleading information in the community

In recent weeks, the organizers of the petition have distributed false and misleading information about their campaign. One of the misinformation that has been repeated many times in the text of the petition and in its advertising is the following quote:

"In a situation where the COVID-19 has made it impossible to convene a general assembly, the signing of this online petition constitutes the vote of an absolute majority of Congress to remove the board."

But this claim is false, and it seems that such a false claim has been made to persuade some political groups to sign this petition hoping for a quick victory.

However, based on the ICC bylaws and the rules in the Corporations Act signing an unnamed online petition is not enough to remove board members who still have the support of many members of the organization.

According to the laws of non-profit corporations and organizations in Canada, a Special General Meeting of members must be called to remove members of the Board of Directors of an organization and at least two-thirds of members in the General Meeting must vote for the motion in order to remove any particular board member. Also, it is important to note that opposing members in the Special General Meeting will have the right to express their views, mobilize other members and cast their votes on the resolution. Anonymously signing an online petition on Change.org is not considered as a member’s vote in a General Meeting.

Given that there are several people among the organizers who are familiar with the laws of non-profit organizations, it is inconceivable that this group was unaware of the misleading information in their petition.

Publishing false data regarding the number of members

In recent weeks, the organizers of the petition have announced that many people have joined the Iranian Canadian Congress as new members through their campaign.

The latest numbers the campaign released states that more than 1000 members have recently joined the Iranian Canadian Congress because of the petition launched. However, this information is completely incorrect. According to the latest information obtained by the IC Journal, the number of members of the ICC is about 617 as of May 22, 2020 and sources with knowledge of the matter have said that the majority of members do not support the petition. It appears that the campaign organizers have misinformed the public about the number of actual members they have been able to recruit through their petition.

Signatures from outside of Canada

In order to become a member of the ICC, one must reside in Canada. Also when submitting a legal request as members of an organization, the identities and membership of the signatories must be verified. However, the online petition on Change.Org calling for the removal of board members of the ICC has no verification mechanism in place. Also based on several comments posted on the petition website some of the signatures are from outside of Canada.

Given the stark difference in the real number of members of the ICC and the number announced by the organizers of the petition, there are only two possible scenarios: either the majority of the signatories of this petition do not reside in Canada or they are simply not members of the Iranian Canadian Congress.

Since the complete list of signatures is not available for public or even for other members of the ICC it is not exactly clear how many current members of the ICC support this petition and how many signatures are from outside of Canada.

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©2019 by Iranian Canadian Journal (IC Journal)