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City of Toronto Canceled Federal Candidate Nima Machouf’s Invite-Only Fundraiser

By Elham Eslami

Nima Machouf. Photo Source: Canadian Press

On Friday Aug 23, 2019, a fundraising event was scheduled for Nima Machouf, federal NDP candidate for the riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie (Quebec), at North York Civic Centre in Toronto. However, based on information from the City of Toronto the building management canceled the event since political fundraising is prohibited at city venues. The event was booked under the name of a non-profit organization which did not inform the city officials that they intended to raise donations for a federal candidate. After the city officials did not allow for the event to take place at North York Civic Centre, the organizers moved it to another undisclosed location.

Last week, two sources spoke to the IC Journal on the condition of anonymity and informed us that a fundraising event for Nima Machouf was scheduled for Aug 23, 2019. Both sources mentioned that Ali Vakili, activist and a well-known supporter of Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), was one of the organizers of the fundraiser.

In an email response, the campaign director, Jacob Homel mentioned that the event is by-invitation only and that there was no media availability. Therefore I decided to try to meet Ms. Machouf before or after the event to ask some questions about her proposed plans and policies.

At the event, Ali Vakili was the first person who arrived at the venue to set up the room. In a brief conversation, he denied having any role in organizing the event, contrary to the information from our sources, and despite being the first person who arrived to prepare the venue.

Outside the venue where the event was supposed to take place, Amir Khadir, Nima Machouf’s husband and former Quebec MLA, introduced himself as one of the campaign officials and prevented me from interviewing Ms. Machouf in a manner that was quite aggressive. While I repeatedly informed Mr. Khadir of my responsibilities as a journalist for my report, he repeatedly accused me of disrupting the event and blamed me for the cancellation of their original event venue by the City of Toronto officials.

He also contacted the Managing Director of IC Journal and in a threatening manner told him that we should refrain from publishing any report about the event or else our relationship with the NDP would be negatively impacted.

The organizers moved the event to another location, after their original permit was declined. However, the organizers did not disclose the new location. Even a member of the NDP who showed interest in participating in the fundraiser was denied access by campaign officials and was not allowed to attend the event. In an email exchange after the event, the NDP member told us about his experience and what he observed at the event:

“I as a member of the NDP wanted to take part in this fundraiser and understand a little more about what Nima Machouf’s campaign policies... I was constantly given suspicious looks. I asked the two NDP volunteers what’s happening and they couldn’t tell me what was happening. They told me that they were sent here by the Davenport NDP office and were told to volunteer for Nima Machouf’s fundraiser. They were just following whatever Amir Khadir told them to do. When I began following them from the food court area to their new meeting spot, one of the organizers stopped me and told me that I wasn’t allowed to come with them. I informed him that I’m a member of the NDP. He stated that he didn’t care and that this event was invite-only. I was shocked to hear this. I’ve never been turned away from an NDP event before. The NDP would never engage in elitism of any kind in the past so this truly shocked me.”

While the campaign director mentioned that there was no media availability at the fundraiser, Mohammad Tajdolati, the head editor of Independent Persian, which has been recently launched by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, was among the attendees.

Another notable individual in attendance was Hamid Ghahremani, a well known Iranian opposition activist in Toronto who supports Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed Shah. Ghahremani’s participation in this by-invitation only fundraiser in support of an NDP candidate was strange. A look at the National Post public database of political donations reveals that political donations from Hamid Ghahremani have exclusively gone to the Conservative Party of Canada. Further, in December 2018, Ghahremani signed a letter to President Donald Trump admiring his hawkish policies against Iran and requesting that the Trump administration provide financial support for Reza Pahlavi’s regime change agenda for Iran.

In response to our questions about the NDP rules on fundraising a spokesperson from the NDP sent us the following over email:

"All NDP candidates are welcome to fundraise within the rules set by Elections Canada. They can fundraise from all Canadian citizens, regardless of the current location of their residence. NDP candidates are allowed to organize events with whomever they choose as long as those events respect the values of the party, and they are free to organize closed events if they wish to do so. All of our campaigns are well aware of the rules in place and follow them carefully.”

Ms. Machouf did not responded to our requests for an interview after the event.

Here is a list of the questions we wanted to ask Nima Machouf:

  • Why is she running in this upcoming federal election? Also, given that she is a member of the Quebec Solidaire sovereignist party, what’s her reason for choosing the NDP?

  • What’s her opinion about the performance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government over the past 4 years?

  • If she gets elected as the next MP for Laurie-Sainte-Marie, what are the issues and priorities that she will focus on?

  • Couple of months ago current MP for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Ms. Helene Laverdier, presented a petition with nearly 16,000 signatures from across Canada urging the Canadian government to re-engage with Iran and reopen the embassies or consular offices to provide the necessary services to Iranian-Canadians. If elected, is she going to follow up on this important request for Iranian-Canadians?

  • The presence of a supporter of MEK among the organizers of the fundraiser, Ms. Machouf’s husband history with the MEK, and her brother in-law being a current member of the MEK in Paris has created concerns in the community about any possible ties she may have with this cult group that was formerly designated as a terrorist organization in Canada. What’s her clear position about MEK?

  • What is her opinion about US sanctions against Iran? And what should Canada’s policy be towards Iran?

  • While Ms. Machouf is a candidate for a left leaning political party, some of those attending her fundraiser have consistently supported agendas of right wing figures and political parties. What is her opinion about their support for her candidacy? Why does she believe these right-wing activists are supporting her while they typically should not share the same political beliefs?

  • Why was her campaign fundraiser organized secretly and in a by-invitation-only format in Toronto that even NDP members were not allowed to participate?

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©2019 by Iranian Canadian Journal (IC Journal)