By Alireza Nader, March 7, 2022
Canada’s treatment of Iranian immigrants demonstrates the Trudeau government’s double standards on Iran. On one hand, Ottawa allows Islamic Republic officials to live openly in cities such as Toronto. On the other hand, it deports innocent Iranian residents back to Iran, where they could face imprisonment or even execution.
Morteza Talaei, Tehran’s police chief from 2001 to 2006, was recently spotted exercising at a Toronto-area gym, enjoying the perks of Canadian life. Talaei has presided over numerous human rights abuses, including the imprisonment and torture of pro-democracy dissidents as well as the enforcement of a draconian dress code on Iranian women. Yet Ottawa granted him entry into (and possibly) residency in Canada. He seems to feel safe enough to appear in public.
At the same time, the Canadian government recently deported an elderly Iranian man from Canada back to Iran, where he is likely to face imprisonment, torture, and possibly execution. The 85-year-old Mizraali Vaezaddeh had been living in Canada since 1997, but Ottawa denied him permanent residency due to his work for the SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police and intelligence service, which engaged in human rights abuses during the Shah’s rule.
Yet Vaezaddeh’s family claims that his work for the intelligence agency was short, and that he did not engage in torture. According to his lawyer, his work for SAVAK was “decades ago, and he did have an extremely insignificant and short-term role.” Whatever the nature of his work for SAVAK, Vaezaddeh’s deportation will spell doom for him. The ruling Islamic Republic is deeply hostile toward the Shah and SAVAK, and routinely imprisons, tortures, and executes young and old opponents alike. It is unlikely to show any mercy to Vaezaddeh.
Ottawa’s policy is cruel and disappointing to Canada’s émigré Iranian community, whose members have consistently pressured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to adopt tougher policies against the regime.
In particular, Canadian-Iranians are still waiting for Trudeau to deliver on his pledge to find “answers” to the 2020 downing of Ukrainian flight PS752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which resulted in the deaths of 158 Canadian-Iranian citizens and permanent residents. To date, Canada has failed to take any punitive actions against the regime, such as sanctioning the IRGC, an action recommended by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims.
Some Canadian-Iranians, including family members of the victims of flight PS752, have received threats of physical harm from the regime for their vocal criticism of Tehran. Though they are mostly opposed to the Islamic Republic, Canadian-Iranians nevertheless contains include pro-regime elements, members of which have openly rallied for the Islamic Republic on Canadian city streets.
Trudeau’s government must carefully review its Iran policy to make sure similar deportations do not occur in the future. Ottawa should judge each case on its individual merits rather than subject them to blanket immigration laws that produce more harm than good. Separating an old man from his family to go to certain death or torture in Iran serves no one justice. Rather than deport men like Vaezaddeh, Canada should prevent former regime officials like Talaei from entering the country.
Canadian-Iranians must hold Trudeau accountable for his promises, including finding justice for the PS752 families. He can reassure them by being tough on the regime.
Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow Alireza on Twitter @AlirezaNader. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.