Ottawa won’t stop victims of terror from suing Iran in Canada

Jul 05
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Vice, By Justin Ling

Tuesday, 4 Jul 2017

After coming into office on a pledge of warming to Iran, Canada has apparently abandoned plans to make nice with the theocracy. In so doing, the Trudeau government is giving the green light to a flurry of lawsuits against the Iranian regime.

The Canadian government opted last month to continue listing Iran as a state supportive of terrorism, which will continue to keep relationships between Ottawa and Tehran virtually non-existent.

Being included on the list is an unenviable position for a foreign state, as those listed on it — currently just Iran and Syria — do not enjoy immunity when it comes to terrorism-related crimes. Normally, under international law, the courts of one state cannot allow legal action against another nation.

The decision to keep Iran on that list was announced on Friday ahead of the Canada Day long weekend. The government must review the list every two years.

The day before the decision was released, an Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed Iran’s efforts to stop a massive lawsuit, launched by more than a dozen individuals and families who have all been the victims of terrorist attacks sponsored or supported by the Iranian regime.

Iran has openly supported Hamas and Hizbollah in recent years.

The families have already won their case in the United States — where it was ultimately unenforceable — but are now trying to enforce the judgement in Canada by seizing all of Tehran’s property and bank accounts that still reside in Canada.

The judgement is worth some $1.7 billion. The court ultimately found that “awarding damages that may have a deterrent effect is a sensible and measured response to the state sponsorship of terrorism.”

Iran has previously declined to fight these lawsuits in Canadian courts, but has recently dispatched a team of lawyers to try and protect the state’s assets.

Read more: Canada Wants to Make Nice With Iran, But There’s One Problem: It Sold All Tehran’s Stuff

The appeal court’s decision paves the way for the families of those terror victims to start actually seizing property and bank accounts — and will reveal whether there’s real value left in those assets, which were mostly abandoned by the Iranian government when their diplomatic mission was expelled from Canada in 2012.

Last February, Canada dropped some sanctions against Iran, as the Trudeau government openly mused about normalizing relations with the regime.

“Frank and direct dialogue with Iran are essential if we are to advance human rights and consular issues,” said a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. “However, that does not mean that we agree with Iran’s policies. The role Iran currently plays in a volatile region is a subject of serious concern.”

The statement continues to condemn Iran’s support for terrorism and its support for the Assad regime in Syria. The minister’s office did not address VICE News’ questions about the Court of Appeal decision nor did they address the decision to continue listing Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, before being elected, committed to reopening Canada’s embassy in Tehran and moving to “re-engage.” In government, they dropped a slew of sanctions, in order to bring Canada in line with the P5+1 countries, which managed to hammer out a nuclear deal with the Iranian government.

Since then, however, Canada has left its attitude towards Iran largely unchanged. The decision to leave Iran on the state sponsors of terrorism list, especially as a billion-dollar lawsuit looms, is a clear sign that the Trudeau government is taking a step back from its plans to normalize ties with the Middle Eastern government.

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