Liberal Government Added Staff to Embassy in Ankara Instead of Re-opening the Embassy in Tehran
Updated: Apr 13, 2019
In a recent statement published by Jonathan Wilkinson, the Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, he said that the Canadian government has recently added 10 full time staff to its mission in Ankara (Turkey) to help with the processing of visa and immigration applications they receive from Iranians. In his statement MP Wilkinson ignores the campaign promise in 2015 by Liberals for re-engagement with Iran. In part of the statement he said:
Re-opening of a Canadian Embassy in Tehran would require time and improved behaviour on the part of Iran – in line with international norms.
Many Iranian-Canadians have been disappointed with the failure of the Liberal government to fulffil its campaign promise to reopen the embassies or at least offices to provide consular and visa services.
The statement from MP Wilkinson comes few weeks after the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) launched a campaign for its members and supporters to connect with their Parliamentarians in the new year to remind them about the policy priorities of the ICC with respect to sanctions on Iran and Canada-Iran relations. The ICC supports re-engagement with Iran and is against Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the resulting re-imposition of sanctions against the Iranian people.
Another formal response that has been circulated since the ICC campaign is from Iranian-Canadian MP Ali Ehsassi (who represents the Toronto riding of Willowdale).
In his response MP Ehsassi presented a reversed position on Canada-Iran relations, directly contradicting promises he made to members of the Iranian-Canadian community during the 2015 federal election. On multiple occasions before the election, Ehsassi criticized then Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policy against Iran and promised voters that he will work towards re-establishing relations with Iran. In his response MP Ehsassi said:
As we said clearly in the 2015 election campaign, we are committed to holding Iran to account.
Ali Ehsassi's comment is false. During the 2015 election he said "it's time to re-engage with Iran". Here is a video previously published on Facebook by Iranian-Canadian activists comparing the position of MP Ehsassi on Canada-Iran relations during the election campaign and after his election:
During the 2015 federal election campaign Justin Trudeau promised that, if elected, he will reestablish relations with Iran. However, three years in their mandate they have not fulfilled that promise. In 2012 the Harper government ended diplomatic relations with Iran. At that time it was said that they had security concerns regarding the mission in Iran. However, later reports suggested that there was no serious threat to the Canadian embassy in Iran. Since the election of Prime Minister Trudeau there have been couple of rounds of negotiations between Canadian and Iranian officials. However, based on recent reports these negotiations did not continue. Canadian officials have said that they are concerned about consular cases in Iran including Iranian-Canadian Maryam Mombeini who was banned by Iranian authorities from leaving Iran. However, many Iranian-Canadians including Dr. Homa Hoodfar, who was imprisoned in Iran, have said that having an embassy in Iran will help Canadian citizens who need consular support at times of emergency.
In July 2017, Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland herself pointed out to the importance of establishing relations with Iran especially for Canada to be able to advocate for consular cases of its citizens or permanents residents in Iran. But less than a year after in June 2018 the Liberals supported a Conservative motion in the House of Commons to stop all negotiations with Iran for reestablishing diplomatic relations.
Minister Freeland: It's important for us to have lines of communication for many reasons. One of them being, we have some difficult consular cases in Iran and to have any hope of solving them we need to be able to talk to the government of Iran... It's essential to have relations, diplomatic relationship, to have a conversation not only with countries who are your friends and who share your values but also with the countries with whom you disagree. So we are definitely on the path to re-engage with Iran...
The Iranian-Canadian community is an important constituency in several electoral districts across GTA, Vancouver and Montreal. Many of these electoral districts turned Liberal in the last election with a narrow margin. Considering the failure of the Liberals to fulfill their most important promise to the Iranian diaspora community, it's likely that many Iranian-Canadians rethink their support for Trudeau Liberals in the upcoming federal elections.