September 28, 2020 | Insight
Trudeau Fails Canadian-Iranians
September 28, 2020 Insight
Trudeau Fails Canadian-Iranians
Recent developments confirm that Canada has become a major hub for the Islamic Republic in Iran and its supporters, and perhaps an unsafe place for Canadian-Iranian democracy activists. On January 8, 2020, the regime shot down Ukraine Airliner Flight 752, resulting in the death of 57 Canadian-Iranians and 119 others. Despite receiving promises of justice from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, victims’ families have instead experienced threats and intimidation by the regime and its supporters within Canada, while Ottawa continues a fruitless policy of engagement with Tehran. Other Canadian-Iranians have been openly and publicly threatened with physical harm by regime sympathizers in Toronto.
Canadian-Iranians have been warning their government about the regime’s growing presence on Canadian soil, yet their warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, Ottawa has chosen to look the other way as pro-regime Canadian-Iranians invest their wealth in the Canadian economy and potentially boost the Liberal party.
Canada is a top refuge for regime officials and supporters. According to Canadian-Iranian democracy activists interviewed by the author (and confirmed by public reporting), many regime officials and associates have laundered billions of dollars from Iran to Canada, bought expensive property, and settled into comfortable lives in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Many Iranian currency exchanges in Toronto and elsewhere facilitate the laundering of money between Iran and Canada.
Who are these regime supporters? One example is the former chairman of Bank Melli Iran, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, who flew to Canada after embezzling $2.6 billion from Iran. Canada has allowed Khavari to settle in the country; he now lives comfortably in Toronto with his family and operates several businesses, including five restaurants.
His case is not the only one. Several activists interviewed by the author state that Iranians with connections to the regime’s intelligence services live openly and often luxuriously in Canada and even travel to Iran.
Regime officials and sympathizers appear confident about their presence in Canada. For example, this year’s Shi’a religious Ashura ceremony in Toronto featured regime supporters openly threatening Canadian-Iranian democracy activists, with one man expressing vocal support for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei while threatening activists with action by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Other public events have included open support for regime officials, such as the notorious IRGC General Qassem Soleimani, assassinated by U.S. forces in January, 2020.
You are not safe from the Islamic Republic anywhere. That is a message Canadian-Iranians have received from Tehran and, in a way, from Ottawa as well. The vast majority of Canadian-Iranians have escaped a brutal regime in Iran only to be confronted by an insidious and well-established regime network in Canada.
Why won’t the Trudeau government act? Perhaps the billions of dollars in investment from regime elements outweigh the concerns of the larger Canadian-Iranian community and pro-democracy activists.
Trudeau has demanded answers from Tehran regarding the destruction of Flight 752, yet he is reluctant to apply any meaningful pressure against the regime, making his promises appear empty to Canadian-Iranians. Actions speak louder than words, and so far Canadian-Iranians have been offered only the latter.
Trudeau could have chosen to be on the right side of history by designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization and investigating regime networks in his country. But his abandonment of Canadian-Iranians is likely to become a stain on his legacy, especially if the regime in Iran falls. Canadian-Iranians, one of the most successful immigrant populations, are likely to remember those who stood beside them and those who ignored their plight in their hour of need.
Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Iran Program. For more analysis from Alireza and the Iran Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Alireza on Twitter @AlirezaNader. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_Iran. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.