John Baird on Canada’s New Dialogue with Iran

Minister John Baird on Canada's advocacy on the issue of human rights in Iran.
By: /
May 22, 2013

The Canadian government has been focused on supporting international campaigns against the Iranian regime's nuclear program and its support for terrorist groups and networks. Do you think that human rights issues have been sidelined as a result? 

Not at all. Canada continues to be at the forefront of the international community's efforts to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its deplorable human rights record. For example, Canada has led the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran for the last ten years.  During this period, the margin of support for the resolution has increased considerably: the number of countries voting in favour of the resolution has increased from 68 to 86, and the number of countries opposing it has decreased from 54 to 32. 

Canada has also been a strong supporter of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, and has supported both the creation, and recent renewal of his mandate. 

Most recently, Canada has expanded efforts to support freedom, democracy, and human rights in Iran by engaging directly with Iran's democratic voices by supporting the Munk School's Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, which I spoke at.

Can the international community productively engage Iran on the nuclear issue while simultaneously pressuring it to respect human rights? Must progress on one issue wait for movement on the other, or are they interconnected? 

Canada is concerned that the lack of progress and substance in the P5+1 process and the lack of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA decisions demonstrate that the Iranian regime continues to play for time while expanding its nuclear capabilities. Indeed, Canada is concerned that the regime's aggressive actions abroad and repressive actions against its own people reflect a dangerous ideology that is incapable of change or compromise. The tensions that exist between Iran and the international community will cease once Iran embraces freedom, democracy and human rights.

Could Canada be providing greater support to international efforts to hold the Iranian regime accountable for human rights violations?

The recent Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran is one of the ways in which our government is seeking to expand engagement with Iran's democratic voices, something which the Iranian regime fears.

We continue to support the courageous men and women of Iran working to protect human rights or advance democratic change in their country.  We will continue to voice our concerns loudly and unequivocally.

Can Canada work with its Middle Eastern allies to encourage a more free, fair, and less violent presidential election this June than in 2009?

With the severe and institutionalized restrictions on fundamental democratic freedoms in Iran, the widespread intimidation and persecution of opposition figures, and management of the election to ensure ideological conformity, it is clear the 2013 elections will not be free or fair.

The regime is hollow. It does not have the depth, the intellect, the humanity, or the humility to bring about a better future for its people.

If the people of Iran, despite the regime's repression, use next month's election as an opportunity to demand change, the international community must be swift and steadfast in voicing its broad support for their aspirations.

Does Canada's decision to close its embassy in Teheran and its steadfast support for Israel complicate our ability to engage in advocacy for human rights in Iran?

Absolutely not.  Canada continues advocacy on the issue of human rights in Iran in all international fora, and is increasing engagement and support for Iran's human rights and democracy activists.   This is supported broadly by the international community.

We simply lost what little faith we had in this regime to protect our mission and our diplomats.  But we have never lost faith in the people of Iran. In fact, we want to expand our relations with Iranians, free from the regime's filters.

The strong signal that Canada sent by suspending diplomatic relations with Iran has created the opportunity to play a leading role in support of a democratic future for all Iranians.

Also in the series


Human Rights and Historical Amnesia

Kaveh Shahrooz on why it is essential to revisit Iran's painful past to get to a democratic future.

Nationalism & Human Rights in Iran in Historical Context

Ali Ansari on the historical context of the Iran's push for human rights.

The Key to Religious Freedom in Iran

Geoffrey Cameron and Robert Joustra on why the rights of Iran's religious minorities won't be respected until those of the majority are as well.

Why Iranian Women Can't Have Any of It

Gissou Nia on why denying women the right to run for President is only a small part of the regime's apparatus of repression.