Baird talks tough on Iran embassy concerns

Foreign Minister John Baird. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Foreign Minister John Baird. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is talking tough on allegations the Iranian embassy in Ottawa is abusing its diplomatic immunity and using intimidation tactics to invigorate loyalty among Iranian-Canadians.

But he stopped short of commenting on calls to have the embassy shuttered.

“Iranian-Canadians left Iran to build a better life in Canada and it's completely inconsistent with any diplomatic mission — for the Iranian mission here in Ottawa — to interfere with the liberties that they enjoy in Canada,” Baird told reporters during a conference call from Bangkok, one of the stops on the minister's 16-day working tour of the region.

“We take this issue tremendously seriously.”

Baird noted that Canadian intelligence and law enforcement agencies would be taking a closer look at the allegations swirling that Iranian embassy officials are attempting to recruit loyal Iranians through cultural outreach programs.

The Iranian embassy's cultural counsellor recently posted a message on a Farsi-language website noting they 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."

Iranian-Canadian Nazanin Afshin-Jam is among the activists calling for the Iranian embassy to be closed.

“It would send a strong diplomatic message to Iran, to the regime officials there, that they are not welcome, that they don't represent the people of Iran, that their regime is illegitimate, so their embassy is illegitimate,” she told QMI Agency.

The human rights campaigner alleged the Iranian embassy is using different cultural programs to “try to spread their propaganda – and sometimes it's hateful propaganda.”

Afshin-Jam, who is married to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, pointed to a recent event put on by the embassy at Carleton University in Ottawa, honouring 1979 Iranian revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“For the vast majority of Iranians, he's a very bad man who's done a lot of horrible things to Iranian people under his rule,” she said, noting peaceful protesters were escorted out of the event.

She also alleged embassy officials intimidate, harass, and spy on anti-Tehran activists in Canada.


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