A statement from our Policy Chair, Pouyan Tabasinejad:
The objective of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) is for the Policy Department to be an integral part of the organization`s mandate to advance and defend the Iranian-Canadian community’s interests in the political realm. To this end, the Board of Directors has instructed the Policy Department to work on a number of priority issues. These priority issues were identified through discussion among elected board members and the conducting of extensive research and consultation with various stakeholders.
Since the last Annual General Meeting in May 2016 the Board of Directors has initiated a planning and prioritization process through which various ICC stakeholders have been consulted about the challenges and priorities of our community. During this process the Iranian Canadian Congress met with Iranian-Canadian political influencers, leaders of Iranian-Canadian non-profit organizations, and organized consultation sessions with the general public. The following issues have been approved by all 9 members of the ICC Board of Directors as the ICC Policy Priorities. However, it is important to note that the ICC continues consultations with various stakeholders, including experts and other members of our community, to identify other priorities and to build consensus and support around challenges that must be addressed in our community. As we move forward in this process this list of ICC Policy Priorities will be updated (The issues below are listed alphabetically, not by importance):
Accreditation of foreign trained professionals
The Iranian-Canadian community, along with other immigrant populations, has a major problem with members of the community not working in professions for which they are qualified. Many of these individuals come through Canada’s skilled worker immigration programs, yet find themselves unable to translate their foreign credentials and practice the professions for which they were allowed into this country. The ICC is currently consulting with various Iranian-Canadian professional organizations to determine key problems and identify possible solutions. Once our research and analysis is complete, the ICC will approach elected officials at the Federal and Provincial levels to advocate for improved policies in this respect.
Canada’s Iran policy
Re-establishing relations between Canada and Iran: The cutting off of diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran under the former government (along with the closure of embassies in the respective countries), and the unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by Canada have harmed not only the Iranian-Canadian community’s ability to access vital services, but have also harmed the Canadian (and Iranian-Canadian) business community by preventing commercial trade between the two countries. They have also prevented Canada from having any positive influence in Iran through diplomatic dialogue, cultural exchanges, or collaboration in science and research. The ICC is therefore committed to the reestablishment of ties between Iran and Canada, the opening of embassies, and promoting engagement between the people of Canada and Iran.
Sanctions and restrictions affecting Iranian Canadians: The ICC has received complaints from individuals who have been denied banking services since the February amendments to Canada’s sanctions regime on Iran. Unfortunately, it seems that Canada’s major banks continue to apply restrictions on Iranian Canadians based on outdated sanction laws which have been lifted by the government of Canada in February 2016. The ICC has been active in pursuing this file, compiling the incidents and seeking to gain clear answers from the banks as to what their policies are in regards to Iranian-Canadians, in addition to being in touch with the relevant policy makers to help ameliorate this issue. ICC will also be looking at the sanction policies of other Canadian companies/institutions to ensure that their rules are complying with Canada’s updated sanction policies on Iran and not unfairly targeting members of our community.
Combating racism and discrimination
Unfortunately, Canada is not immune to the waves of xenophobia and racism which have been occurring more frequently as of late across the globe. This was made clear when in June of this year a racially-charged attack occurred against a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in London, Ontario. The ICC is committed to working with individuals and representatives from all levels of government to ensure that combating racism is a priority for our elected officials and that adequate resources are allocated to education programs that aim to combat racism. Furthermore, the ICC is committed to working with provincial and federal governments and law enforcement agencies, to ensure that hate crime legislation is not only enforced effectively with adequate resources dedicated to the prevention and prosecution of hate crimes, but that the legislation itself is robust enough to allow for the appropriate legal identification and prosecution of hate crimes.
Promoting engagement of Iranian Canadians in the political process
Granting Permanent Residents (PR) voting rights in municipal elections: Like many immigrant communities, many members of the Iranian-Canadian community are Permanent Residents who, as opposed to Canadian citizens, do not have the ability to vote in the election of any of their representatives. This includes in the field of municipal politics, where racialized people are grossly underrepresented all over the country. The ICC has decided to endorse and push forward for a movement supported by many prominent intellectuals and public figures which would allow Permanent Residents to vote in municipal elections. This would call for the lobbying of provincial governments to adopt this policy. This would include special focus on Ontario, a province which many Iranian-Canadians call home, where the Municipal Council of Toronto, a city with the highest population of Iranian-Canadians in the country, has endorsed this policy since 2013.
Increasing the participation of Iranian-Canadians in Canada’s political parties: The Iranian-Canadian community must be engaged and have influence in all political parties in Canada and to make its desires and priorities heard no matter which party (ies) come(s) to power. The ICC is dedicated to increasing the Iranian-Canadian community’s influence in all of Canada’s major political parties. Particularly, the ICC will be working with different Iranian-Canadian party members to learn how to best accomplish this, especially in light of the leadership races which will be taking place in two of the three major political parties (the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party of Canada) in the coming two years.