Letter from ICC President to Members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee

Here is the final letter from ICC President Bijan Ahmadi to members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade ahead of their vote on Bill S-219 (Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran Act):

Kind Attention: Honourable Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Date: March 28, 2017

Honourable Senators,

 

On Wednesday March 29th, 2017 the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is expected to commence clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-219, the Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran Act. As has been brought to your attention in a previous letter by my colleague, several Canadian experts who have requested to present their views regarding S-219 were not provided the opportunity to testify, while the steering committee decided to invite 3 witnesses from a single American organization that has officially endorsed Bill S-219, the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD). Unfortunately, the Committee Chair has rejected our request to delay clause-by-clause consideration to allow for the invitation of Canadian experts who have requested to present their opinions about this bill. With this in mind, on behalf of the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) I would like to once again ask you to vote against the entirety of Bill S-219 during the Committee meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, March 29th, 2017.

As we discussed during our presentation to the committee on Feb 9, 2017, the ICC is deeply concerned about the consequences of Bill S-219. We believe that the proposed bill should be rejected in its entirety as it contradicts the stated foreign policy of the federal government of Canada, imposes unnecessary limitations on the authorities of our Foreign Affairs Ministry, and blocks the path of reengagement between Canada and Iran.

In essence, Bill S-219 seeks to continue the same failed policies of economic and diplomatic disengagement from Iran that the previous Canadian government under former Prime Minister Harper endorsed and enacted. The ICC’s position on this Bill S-219 can be divided into five main points:

  1. Sanctions and diplomatic disengagement from Iran harms Iranian-Canadians, a population estimated at 300,000 countrywide, by: depriving them of consular services, exposing them to further discrimination by banks, and depriving them of representation by Canadian officials in Iran.
  2. Sanctions and diplomatic disengagement from Iran harm Canada’s economy; Canadian businesses have lost a figure estimated at between $1.18 and $4.69 billion in the years between 2010-2014 due to sanctions on Iran.
  3. Bill S-219’s prevention of economic re-engagement with Iran puts Canada outside of the mainstream of the international community and our allies. Specific provisions of Bill S-219 may even constitute a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 which formalized the Iran nuclear agreement. The UNSC resolution clearly states that countries shall lift sanctions on Iran in return for Iran’s compliance with the terms of the JCPOA.
  4. The Iranian Canadian Congress maintains its position that to advocate for human rights in Iran and around the world Canada must implement a policy of constructive engagement through diplomacy and dialogue.
  5. Bill S-219 ignores the universal nature of human rights and our obligation as a member of the international community to be fair and unbiased in promoting respect for human rights around the world. Bill S-219 ignores gross violations of human rights by other countries in the region and around the world, some of whom have violated multiple United Nations resolutions. Respect for human rights is a universal obligation and should not be affected by political bias or become a currency for special interests and political maneuvering. Additionally, our parliamentarians should be aware that passing Bill S-219 will create a legislative precedent that may lead to subsequent bills for imposing similar sanctions on other human rights violators, some of which are Canada’s allies and trade partners in the region. This action will have significant and lasting impacts on Canada’s relations with its partners around the world and its impact has to be considered and analyzed thoroughly.

For the reasons outlined above, on behalf of the Iranian Canadian Congress I request that you vote against Bill S-219 during the next session of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and support a motion for the Committee to recommend that the Senate not proceed with this bill.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Bijan Ahmadi

President

Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC)


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