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Shirin Sadeghi

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Canada Cuts Ties with Iran & Syria Despite Its Embarrassing Record on Defending Its Middle Eastern Immigrants

Posted: 09/08/2012 3:23 pm

The Canadian government announced this weekend that it has cut ties with the governments of Iran and Syria -- shutting down its embassy in Tehran and expelling diplomats from Canada.

The reason? Human rights. Canada, citing its Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, says that it is taking these measures to make it easier for its Middle Eastern immigrants to take legal action against their homelands for violations of human rights. The Canadian government made no mention of the easiest and most harmless solution: changing Canadian laws to implement this highly important goal.

What the Canadian government failed to report in its auspicious announcement is that it is one of the most notorious governments when it comes to the human rights of its Middle Eastern immigrants.

Canada is an international embarrassment when it comes to defending the rights of its Middle Eastern immigrants, making its announcement of ending ties with Iran and Syria all the more absurd.

Does Canada think that Iranians have forgotten the case of Iranian-Canadian Zahra Kazemi and how horribly the Canadian government has treated her family? She was raped and brutally murdered in Iran during a visit to Tehran in 2003 and the Canadian government's response was so weak, so shamelessly unbecoming of the new home she had adopted that her son is still fighting for her rights nine years after Canada failed her and her family.

As Zahra's own son wrote recently, the Iranian government got away with what they did to his mother "because they knew and know too well, the members of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that the Canadian Government and its members and other affiliates, deep inside, are fine with them."

Does Canada think that the world has forgotten the case of Egyptian-Canadian Omar Khadr, the boy who remains the last Westerner imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay because the Canadian government refuses to pursue his extradition back home to Canada? Yes, Canada has refused to extradite and protect its own citizen: a person who, though now an adult, was a 15-year-old child when he was led into the pearly gates of Guantanamo prison 10 long years ago.

And what about Maher Arar? The Canadian-Syrian was one of the most famous cases of extraordinary rendition when, after he was detained in New York's JFK Airport for two weeks without any Canadian government intervention and then sent to Syria for one year where he was tortured, he was finally released by the Syrians themselves. He sued the Canadian government, won $10.5 dollars and received an apology from the Canadian government.

An apology does not even come close to making up for one year of torture amidst the neglect of one's own adopted country.

Canada, a country with one of the lowest population densities in the world, is one of the growing number of Western countries that desperately need and have desperately sought out immigrants to keep their nation alive. Iranians in particular have turned to Canada in droves because of Canada's fast and easy immigration policies that for years made it the best way to get out of Iran. (In recent years, Canada has tightened its policies at the same time that the United States and Australia have made it easier for Iranians to immigrate.) As a result, there are at least 150,000 Iranians in a Canada with a total population of 35 million people.

Iranian immigrants to Canada -- as they are in most of the countries they immigrate to -- are amongst the most successful and thus appreciated: they are highly educated, highly productive, low-crime, middle to upper-middle class immigrants with little reliance on state welfare who do more to contribute to their new homes than the average native-born does. In Canada, Iranian immigrants have become leaders of business, media, health, politics and other important fields.

The Canadian government, in short, is quite grateful for its Iranian immigrants. As it tends to be for most of its Middle Eastern immigrants. It's a shame Canada doesn't have the independence and autonomy to treat these fine immigrants better.

To blame Iran or Syria or any other government for how Canada itself has failed in protecting and defending its Middle Eastern immigrants is a dishonesty that is shameful. To use these immigrants' human rights as an excuse to cut ties with these governments is simply duplicitous.

If Canada truly believes that the Iranian and Syrian governments are a threat to their people, it would have taken the numerous opportunities it has had to take on those governments. It would have changed its own laws to accommodate the rights of these and other immigrants. Instead, this announcement of cutting ties and closing embassies is clearly nothing more than another failure to protect these hardworking and productive Middle Eastern immigrants, their families, and would-be immigrants from the very governments Canada says is oppressing them.

Effectively, Canada is shutting its doors to these immigrants in yet another move in the soft-war playbook against the Iranian people. The logic is that making the people suffer through the soft-war tactics of sanctions and now embassy closures will make them turn toward bringing down their government.

A quick internet search of the recent history of Iranian uprisings, protests and demonstrations immediately exposes that lie: Iranians have been protesting and revolting against the Islamic Republic government since it first came to power -- without the need for sanctions and embassy closures.

If intentionally and knowingly making people suffer is not a violation of human rights, then who knows what is.

Shame on the Canadian government, not just for taking this measure while knowing the full and terrible consequences of it but for ostensibly violating human rights in the name of defending them.

 

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