Minister of Foreign Affairs and MPs speak out against treatment of Iran's Baha'is

Toronto, Ontario, 17 February 2009 (CBNS) — In the wake of the announcement out of Iran that the seven Baha'i members of the coordinating group that leads the Baha'i Community of Iran are being put on trial this week (see our previous story and read about it on the Baha'i World News Service) the Baha'is of Canada have been gratified by the positive support they are receiving from the Canadian Government, its Department of Foreign Affairs, and Members of Parliament across the country. There was also an article posted on the websites of the CanWest newspaper chain on 11 February, and a further article published in the Ottawa Citizen among other papers.

Three strong statements of concern were voiced in Parliament last week:

On 12 February 2009

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, CPC): Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran.

Reports yesterday that seven leaders of the Baha'i community, who had been detained without access to legal counsel, have now been charged is very troubling. Addressing the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Baha'i in Iran, has been a consistent priority for Canada.

The adoption of the Canadian-led resolution on the human rights situation in Iran by the UN General Assembly in December again signaled the international community's ongoing concern. It calls on the Government of Iran to respect fully its human rights obligations.

Canada will continue to raise our concerns about the Baha'i and human rights more generally directly with the Government of Iran.

On 13 February 2009

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib) Former Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, the systematic and systemic abuse of the Baha'i minority in Iran unfortunately manifested itself again this week as seven members of the [Friends in Iran] group, already being held for almost a year in the notorious Evin Prison, were charged on Wednesday with spying for Israel, insulting Islam, and spreading propaganda against the state.

These trumped-up charges also carry the threat of capital punishment, with Iran already being among the world leaders in carrying out the death penalty.

What action will the government take to protect this persecuted Baha'i minority and the persecuted prisoners in Iran?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, obviously, my colleague has raised an important issue.

Larger than that of course, the Government of Canada has been extremely active in terms of human rights in Iran. One can refer back to the condemnation. Canada led a multinational initiative at the United Nations where we condemned Iran for its human rights behaviour. I can assure members of the House, as well as the member for Mount Royal, that we will continue exactly in that direction.