Canada will use UN to knock Iran on human rights

Jul 13
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Toronto Sun
Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Just like the Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, and Jean Chretien governments before it, the Justin Trudeau government will lead a United Nations effort this fall to single out Iran for its lousy human rights record, Postmedia Network has learned.

It will be the 14th year in a row that Canada will lead the effort to get the United Nations General Assembly to put Iran in the same camp as North Korea and Syria as among world's worst human rights offenders.

"These resolutions are always controversial," former deputy foreign affairs minister Daniel Jean wrote in a memo in January to his new boss, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion. Jean said the Iran is the most "contentious" of all.

Earlier this year, Jean moved from foreign affairs and is now the prime minister's national security advisor. Jean's January memo was obtained by Postmedia through federal access-to-information laws.

This year's diplomatic offensive by Canada against Iran could be especially tricky.

First, Canada is trying to get an Iranian-Canadian out of prison in Tehran. Homa Hoodfar, a 65-year-old professor at Concordia University in Montreal, was jailed June 6 on vague, trumped-up charges. She has seen neither her family nor a lawyer since her arrest.

Second, the Trudeau government has vowed to re-start diplomatic relations with Iran that the Harper government broke off in 2012. "Preliminary discussions" with Iran are already underway.

Chantal Gagnon, Dion's press secretary, could not say how, if at all, this year's resolution will change from the Harper days.

Last fall, Iran accused Canada of spreading "Iranophobia." As it campaigned against the Harper-crafted resolution, Iranian diplomats tried to argue at the UN that it did not reflect the policy of the just-elected Trudeau government.

Iran may be disappointed with what they believed would be a softer tone.

"Once it is finalized, the text of the resolution is expected to reflect the latest developments on human rights in Iran," Gagnon said.

The resolution last year acknowledged modest human rights improvements but also made "explicit calls on the government of Iran to take concrete actions to address the most serious human rights violations in Iran," Jean wrote.

Jean said Canada's work on this resolution is "labour intensive," and begins each year in the summer with the drafting of the text followed by fierce rounds of lobbying in the fall by Canadian diplomats at the United Nations.

Last year, the Canadian resolution passed by a vote of 76 in favour, 35 opposed and 68 abstaining.

Canada believes the resolutions are an important tool to pressure Iran to improve its human rights records.

In the meantime, as Canada carries on its diplomatic offensive against Iran, it is doing what it can for the imprisoned Hoodfar, a consular case made more difficult because of the absence of any Canadian diplomats in Teheran.

"We are working closely with our like-minded allies in order to best assist Dr. Hoodfar," Gagnon said. "We are working closely with our like-minded allies in order to best assist Dr. Hoodfar.

"Privacy considerations prevent the department from discussing government of Canada involvement in further detail, however rest assured that this case is a priority for us."

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