Comments Regarding Public Hearing Remarks by Mr. Hamed Esmaeilion

The following letter has been sent to the Commission Counsel of the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions:


We are writing to express our concerns about certain comments made by Mr. Hamed Esmaeilion during the Public Hearing on March 27, 2024. 

We wish to clarify that our organization holds immense respect for Mr. Esmaeilion’s advocacy for the families affected by the Ukrainian Flight PS752 tragedy, as well as his pursuit of justice and accountability. Since the tragic incident in which the civilian airliner was shot down by the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), our organization has consistently expressed solidarity with the victims' families. We have also advocated for the federal government to ensure full accountability for the Canadian citizens and all innocent lives lost, in accordance with international law and civil aviation conventions. However, we find the following remarks concerning. 

Mr. Esmaeilion stated: 

“A very small minority of Iranians in Canada are engaged directly or indirectly as either sympathizers or sometimes even overt operatives of the Islamic regime. It’s a small minority, however, leverages financial advantages that mostly originate from inside Iran and political backing advantages that -- political backing from the Islamic regime to create institutions disguised as community advocacy groups, media, social media, or even research institutes, but effectively seek to undermine the majority of the community that opposes the regime, as well as to meddle with the influence Canadians or influence Canadian government and non-government institutions in favour of the regime’s agenda.” 

This claim broadly categorizes diverse organizations and individuals within the Iranian Canadian community as having illicit ties to the Islamic regime, without providing concrete evidence. It is critical to question such allegations, especially when considering Canada’s legal and security frameworks that would address any such 'overt operatives'. 

Further, Mr. Esmaeilion commented: 

“Just recently, a member of the Iranian community in Canada sought to run for as a member of the federal Parliament. The intensity of the smear campaign against him went far beyond the normal fervor of political competition in Canada. We believe that this is indicative of a much  more sophisticated and multi-layered attempt by the regime and its operatives to hinder the participation of Iranians opposed to the regime in the Canadian democratic institutions.” 

In this instance, Mr. Esmaeilion seems to refer to a recent Conservative Party nomination race in Richmond Hill, for which he has not provided any evidence of foreign interference yet. According to publicly available information and reports, the campaign against the mentioned member of the Iranian Canadian community appears to have been a domestic initiative by Canadians, including those of Iranian heritage, rather than a result of foreign meddling. Notably, a Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario emerged as the most vocal opponent of the individual who was referred to by Mr. Esmaeilion. It is essential to recognize that Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds have the right to freely participate in civic activities, supporting or opposing political candidates as they see fit.  

In a democratic society such as Canada, members of political parties should not be intimidated by potential retaliatory accusations of foreign interference by their opponents. We hope that the commission will require Mr. Esmaeilion to provide evidence and will thoroughly investigate the merit of the claim of foreign interference in the internal procedures of the Conservative Party of Canada, through all available channels. 

In addition, Mr. Esmaeilion stated: 

“We have organizations here that they don’t have any relations with the civic organizations in the community, with the cultural organizations in the community like Tirgan civic association, civic organizations like us or even political members of the community like our Parliament member, Mr. Ali Ehsassi, but they are everywhere, and they get funded by -- unfortunately, by our governments.” 

This statement suggests a biased view that legitimate Canadian entities are only those affiliated with certain cultural groups or political figures. By not mentioning other Iranian Canadian members of parliament or the many cultural organizations of the Iranian Canadian community, it fails to recognize the diversity within the Iranian Canadian community and undermines the legitimacy of various organizations that operate independently of the mentioned affiliations. Furthermore, the commission may take note that the Canadian government’s funding of organizations that “don’t have any relations with the civic organizations in the community”, does not, per se, indicate foreign interference. 

We trust that the commission will exercise utmost caution in evaluating these claims and will mandate that all witnesses substantiate their statements with evidence and factual data. 

Our apprehension stems from the potential for such claims to perpetuate long-standing internal divisions and conflicts within various diaspora and ethnic communities, including the Iranian Canadian community. Historically, certain factions within the Iranian Canadian community have engaged in discrediting individuals of Iranian origin based on their political beliefs and opinions, often leveling unfounded accusations of association with the Islamic Republic. This has particularly affected young Iranian Canadian activists including second-generation Iranian Canadians and civil society organizations with progressive and left-leaning stances on foreign policy, subjecting them to baseless defamation and smear campaigns, typically without any evidence.  

The primary source of discord in our community stems from differing views on Canada’s foreign policy toward Iran. Iranian Canadian activists who oppose military action or sanctions, citing their detrimental impact on the Iranian populace and regional peace and stability, are frequently discredited by hardline political factions. These factions prioritize regime change in Tehran over all else, disregarding both Canada’s interests and the potential harm that increased instability may inflict on the people of Iran and the broader region. We are concerned about the potential misuse of the commission’s public hearings by some parties, by framing and exclusion, to limit the diversity of expressed opinion by Iranian Canadians. 

We oppose those assertions, by Mr. Esmaeilion, that conflate foreign influence with the legitimate and varied perspectives of Canadians of Iranian descent. We unequivocally support his appeal for the federal government to actively pursue and investigate corrupt Iranian officials who seek refuge in Canada, along with their illicit financial activities. Our organization has been at the forefront, leading the Iranian Canadian community in advocating against the laundering of corruption proceeds within our borders. This advocacy underscores our commitment to uphold justice and integrity, not just within the Iranian Canadian community, but also in safeguarding Canada’s financial system against such abuses. 

In closing, we express our deep concern regarding the potential misapplication of the Commission’s esteemed platform to propagate personal biases and unsubstantiated claims. Such actions could detract from the Commission’s fundamental objective of conducting a fair and fact-based inquiry. We place our trust in the Commission’s commitment to thorough, objective, and unbiased examination of all testimonies and evidence. It is our hope that the Commission will handle these sensitive matters with the high level of diligence and impartiality they demand, ensuring that the inquiry remains a credible and respected instrument of justice and truth-seeking. 

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  • ICC Communications
    published this page in News 2024-04-10 10:05:58 -0400

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