OTTAWA -- Calls for the Iranian embassy to be closed grew louder Wednesday following claims it is abusing its diplomatic immunity and using intimidation tactics to invigorate loyalty among Iranian-Canadians.
"We're very concerned about the role of Iran in fomenting unrest and inappropriate violent behaviour," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said. "We don't approve of any foreign country recruiting Canadian nationals for the type of purposes described by some of the media."
The Iranian embassy's cultural counsellor recently posted a message on a Farsi-language website noting the need "very concentrated cultural programs to enhance and nurture the culture in this fast-growing population," because "it is obvious that this population can only be of service to our beloved Iran through these programs."
Former CSIS intelligence advisor Michel Juneau-Kutsuya said Iran has a long history of sending spies and bullies through its foreign embassies to monitor its nationals abroad.
"For Iran it's a question of controlling dissidents in Iranian communities abroad, but it also serves other purposes," he said. "They're interested in economic and industrial espionage."
CSIS declined to comment, but a government source said handling the Iranian embassy's comments was a "fine line because in Canada people can preserve their cultural identity," but at the same time the reality of the Iranian regime's behaviour could also not be ignored.
A representative at the Iranian embassy called claims it was recruiting loyal Iranians "ridiculous" and said the Canadian government "knows everything that we do here."
Iranian Ambassador Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani said in a statement that "foreign embassies are allowed to undertake domestic outreach activities in Canada."
"The embassy should close," Iranian human rights activist Shadi Paveh said. "These programs they want are not about national pride; just look at the way they treat their own people. They are a terrorist regime."