Here is ICC's quarterly progress report from ICC President, Bijan Ahmadi:
We are working on creating a strong and memorable past and building a promising future.
Dear members and supporters of the Iranian Canadian Congress,
The current Board of Directors of the Iranian Canadian Congress, commenced their work upon election to office following the last Annual General Meeting on May 15th, 2016. In support of my initial promise, I will be providing quarterly updates to members and supporters of ICC, with information in regards to the development and progress of our work and actions thus far.
Needless to say, each and every member of the new ICC Board of Directors is working tirelessly, with great dedication, and passion, to lead, build, and shape this organization into a professional, powerful, and influential entity, for our Iranian Canadian community. Collectively, the passed brief 3 months have been promising, and fruitful in setting a great foundation for our work. Predominantly our focus was on consultation and planning, identifying our long-term priorities, and recruiting professional talent to various ICC departments.
As always, we welcome and invite you to please provide us with your feedback about this report. You can always contact us via email or call our office (Click here for contact info). For those of you who live in Toronto, and would like to meet with us in person to discuss the details of this report, or provide us your feedback about ICC activities, we have scheduled special office hours for the coming week, for 3 days on Aug 29 at 6-8PM, Aug 30 at 3-5PM , and Aug 31 at 6-8PM. You are more than welcome to join us on any of these days. Due to our office building’s policies and rules, and the limited space, we kindly ask that you send us an email, a day in advance, letting us know about the time that you will be attending our office open house (email: [email protected]).
Community consultation process
In this process we consulted with community members, activists and experts to identify key challenges and priorities of the Iranian Canadian community. The feedback collected in the consultation process helped us in preparing a short-term and long-term action plan for the works of ICC.
As part of the Consultation and Planning process, we met with Iranian Canadian elected officials and political activists, in all three leading political parties in Canada. We had the pleasures of consulting with Members of Parliament Majid Jowhari, Ali Ehsassi, Hon. Reza Moridi, former federal candidate and conservative activist Michael Parsa, and former federal candidate and NDP activist Mehdi Mollahasani.
Further, in this process we organized a roundtable discussion with representatives of 20 active Iranian-Canadian non-profit and charity organizations, to hear the perspectives of these leading organizations with respect to the challenges and priorities of our community. In addition, two public consultations were organized and an online consultation form was launched to provide accessibility to fellow Iranian-Canadians interested in participating in our consultation process from near or far parts of Canada.
To complete and conclude our Consultation and Planning process, we sent out online consultation forms to Iranian-Canadian experts across Canada to provide us with their inputs, ideas, and contributions around solutions in addressing the identified issues and challenges of our community.
Planning and prioritization
One of the challenges ICC has continuously faced over the recent years has been the lack of direction and lack of focus. To address this challenge, the Board of Directors conducted extensive reflections and deliberations to prepare a comprehensive action plan, and list of priorities based on the inputs from the consultation process, directions of our by-laws, and thorough research of the works of comparable organizations. In this action plan we have defined the priorities that ICC will be working on, and each department’s position and part in addressing these priorities.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to our Board of Directors for the hundreds of hours of time, and the efforts they fulfilled in the last 3 months on the Consultation and Planning process. Especially ICC’s outreach director, Tayaz Fakhri, for the time, determinations, and energy he spent on the consultation process with different stakeholders.
In this report I will be summarizing the priorities of the departments of Policy, and Culture, and also provide a high level explanation about some of our organizational priorities.
As it has been announced in the statement published by our Policy Chair, Pouyan Tabasinejad, the ICC will be actively advocating for the following issues:
Accreditation of foreign trained professionals.
Re-establishing relations between Canada and Iran.
Resolving banking restrictions negatively affecting Iranian Canadians.
Combatting racism and discrimination.
- Increasing participation of Iranian Canadians in Canadian political parties.
Granting permanent residents voting rights in municipal elections.
While ICC is the only, or among the only, organizations with a mandate to advance the interests of the Iranian-Canadian community through advocacy, there are several actively successful Iranian-Canadian non-profit organizations across the nation whose work and aspirations are hearted on the Iranian arts and culture.
It is a pleasant blessing to be witnessing such great abundance, success, and prosperity surrounding cultural events and initiatives organized frequently in Toronto, and other Iranian-Canadian populated cities, including Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. A continuous challenge for ICC has been building a unique value proposition in the field of culture, exclusive of creating redundancy, and inefficiency by doing similar work that other great Iranian-Canadian cultural organizations are doing.
This challenge led us to rethink our approach to the cultural elements and components of our work. We strongly believe that in alignments with the by-laws of the organization, the Cultural priorities of ICC shall be focused on Image Building for our community. Constructed on this pronouncement, we have identified our cultural mandate and priority as:
Promoting Iranian culture and values and upholding the prestige, dignity and success of Iranian Canadians.
Furthering this mandate, our Culture Department under the leadership of Dr. Dorna Mojdami, is planning and developing several exciting initiatives that will be announced upon finalization. A cultural initiative that has already been announced is the Nowruz Stamp Project, a project also supported by other community groups. The Iranian Canadian Congress is proud to support this proposal, and will do its part in advocating for the Canada Post to prioritize issuing the Nowruz stamp in 2017 or 2018.
It is important to note that the ICC continues consultations with various stakeholders, to identify other priorities, and to build consensus and support around the challenges that must be addressed in our community.
Professional work & working professionally:
In strengthening the Iranian Canadian Congress and transitioning it into an influential organization for the Iranian-Canadian community, our focus is to ensure that we are strong in two core areas: knowledge and grassroots support.
In the core area of knowledge, we have recruited dedicated, passionate, and professional volunteers with an academic and educational background, and extensive experience in their respective fields that is associated with the work of various departments at ICC.
Under the leadership of our Policy Chair, Pouyan Tabasinejad, and with the new additions to our policy team we have built a strong team of policy associates, analysts and advisors, whose works and initiatives, provide our executive team and our community at large, with research and analysis regarding public policy issues. The analysis provided by our policy team forms the backbone of the advocacy work of the Iranian Canadian Congress for its priorities.
In the core area of grassroots support, our Public Relations (PR) department has the mandate to grow the network of supporters of the Iranian Canadian Congress across Canada. In the preceding 3 months, the PR team under leadership of Behzad Jazizadeh, and with the assistance of Ali Bangi, has been working on enhancing ICC’s communication infrastructure that will support our prospective initiatives.
A noteworthy accomplishment in our foundation setting has been the launching of our first ever Summer Internship Program. As part of the Canada Summer Jobs Program, we were able to obtain the necessary funds for hiring six summer interns. Three of our dedicated and passionate interns have been working on the Communications, Consultation and Planning projects and initiatives of the ICC, and one of our interns, a student with a Political Science background has been working with the operations of our Policy Department.
Expanding ICC’s reach in the community:
At ICC we believe that working in unity, and connecting to fellow community leaders, and actively engaged community organizations, is an important goal of ours, and a deep heart value. In alignment with this goal and objective, building our network of affiliate organizations is of especial importance. We continue extending our invite to active, engaged, and leading community non-profit organizations, to build and expand the diversity of our ideas, and unity of work.
With great joy, in recruiting our summer interns we were able to assist and collaborate with one of our affiliate organizations, Tirgan. This cooperation resulted in two of our hired summer interns to work on Tirgan projects. This is a successful example of the sharing of resources, collaborative efforts, and supports that we are able to offer to our affiliates.
We are not limiting our scope of collaboration with other organizations only to Canada. We have been researching successful Iranian non-profit organizations outside of Canada and are very interested to learn from their experiences and explore collaboration opportunities with them. The agreement to share experiences and learnings with the Iranian Community In Germany is an example of this work.
Another wonderful accomplishment in expanding our reach in the community has been the opening of a permanent office space for the operations of the ICC. As of early August, ICC’s permanent office opened its doors to the inquiring community members, thus far we are happy to announce that it has been very active in connecting us with our fellow Iranian-Canadian community members. We hope this opportunity continues to connect us to our community and provide a centralized location for our operations, and addressing community needs.
Lack of financial resources is our main challenge
It goes without say that a successful and sustainable organization requires within its operations planning; a strong and well thought Financial Plan/Model. It is this very plan that leads to the furthering of an organization’s accomplishments and achievements, and smooth operations.
An unfortunate challenge for ICC in recent years has been lack of a financial plan for its operations. The inherited financial and operational instability of the organization limits our capabilities. After the transition period, and receiving the financial books and accounts of the organization, the current Administration and Finance Department (Formed by Soudeh Ghasemi, Mojtaba Adibrad, Mehran Farazmand and I) started its work on reviewing the financial reports of the recent years and preparing a financial plan for resolving the operational challenges of the organization. With careful considerations, and from scratch, we have developed a finance and fundraising plan/model that will be utilized as the organization builds connections with its dedicated, passionate, and engaged potential donors, sponsors, supporters, and contributors. Aligned with previous activities, we will pursue a “grassroots model” in our fundraising approach.
The visions, goals, and accomplishments of ICC aims to encompass our community in entirety, and the responsibility to participate in building its strength and stability is in the hands of each and every single community member that it is working for. Hence, in addition to reaching out to successful business owners, we invite each and every member to financially contribute and assist in building a stronger organization, one brick at a time. Every contribution, regardless of its amount or size, and every donation enables us to get one step closer to the objective of building a strong and influential organization that can work towards advancing the interests of the Iranian Canadian community.
Our policy actions thus far
Re-establishing relations between Canada and Iran:
As you know the Iranian Canadian Congress has announced its official position to advocate for re-engagement between Canada and Iran and reopening of embassies in Tehran and Ottawa. A position, that is in complete alignment with the feedback we have received in the consultation process and the objectives, mission, and the mandate of our organization.
Advocacy for the needs and the interests of Iranian-Canadians are at the heart of what we do at the ICC. In alignment with our responsibilities of maintaining and continuing this advocacy, on the anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal with P5+1 countries we launched a PR/Policy campaign to highlight the position of our organization regarding Canada-Iran relations and also raise awareness about the troubles and difficulties that have been created for many in our community because of the lack of relations and closure of the embassies.
As part of this campaign the ICC issued a statement, which was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the statement we emphasized on our position, and asked the government of Canada to expedite the process of re-establishing relations with Iran. Further on this matter, in an interview with Radio Canada, I repeated the position of the Iranian Canadian Congress in this regards, and discussed the challenges and troubles that the lack of relations, and the closure of embassies have created for many Canadians, especially the Iranian-Canadian community.
Moreover, in an opinion piece by our Policy Team in New Canadian Media we have provided analysis of the successes of the nuclear deal a year after, and the successes of our allied countries in re-establishing their relations with Iran, and expanding bilateral relations in advancing peace and their interests in the region. On that note, we have had a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Omar Alghabra, and discussed the process of re-establishing relations with Iran.
As we go forward in the imminent months, and in regards to this very important and critical topic, we have an action plan to continue building on our advocacy work, for the benefits of our community. We strongly believe that the closure of the embassy, and severing of all diplomatic ties by the former government was a mistake. This failed policy has created countless problems for many Iranian Canadians, with no positive attainment.
Prof. Homa Hoodfar & Saeed Malekpour:
As we speak about community and advocacy, it goes without say that the new board has also been incredibly active in ensuing the cases of Canadian linked prisoners in Iran. Since our board started its work, we connected with the family of Saeed Malekpour in Canada, and have coordinated our efforts with them.
Further, when the news of the arrest of Prof. Homa Hoodfar was released, the Iranian Canadian Congress was quick to respond and demand her immediate release. Approximately a week following the news of Prof. Hoodfar’s arrest, I had a tele-meeting with Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra. We have also communicated our concerns with the Department of Global Affairs, and the office of Hon. Stephane Dion. Both Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra, and the officials at the Department of Global Affairs, have reassured us that the case of Prof. Hoodfar is on their top priority and that Canada is taking all measures possible to secure Ms. Hoodfar’s release.
The ICC takes matters of safety, security, and protection of individual rights, of our community members, with great gravity and seriousness. We will continue working on the cases of both Prof. Hoodfar and Saeed Malekpour until their release from prison.
Accreditation of foreign trained professionals:
Another of ICC’s priorities is to advocate for the development and enhancement of the process of evaluating foreign trained professionals. Many Iranian professionals encounter substantial difficulties for their accreditation when they move to Canada, as well as seeking and obtaining suitable jobs that fit their education and profession. We have had meetings with a group of Iranian Canadian dentists who had reached out to us initially, requesting ICC’s assistance in the matter. Further, we are discussing this matter with other Iranian-Canadian professional organizations, to identify difficulties and challenges in the evaluation process for various fields. Subsequently with the supports of these organizations, we will communicate the problematic extents, and our recommendations to the provincial and federal governments.
Combating racism and discrimination:
The racist attack against a member of our community in London, Ontario, back in June was a wake up call for our community that racism still exists, and is an ever-real problem. The Iranian Canadian Congress was quick to react to this alleged racial attack, and in discussion with the office of the Mayor of London, elected City Councillors, London Police Services, and media, condemned this attack and demanded the elected officials, and law enforcement, to take immediate action against this hateful act, and to prioritize combating racism and discrimination. Further, we have communicated our concerns about the increase of these incidents in London, Ontario, with elected officials and media as well. We will continue to communicate with officials at all levels of government the need to allocate adequate resources to combating racism and discrimination. Furthermore, urge and embolden that law enforcement needs to act strong against hate crime.
The past 3 months have fashioned and conceded great successes for the Board of Directors, and the organization. We have been effective in setting a strong foundation for our forthcoming works and actions, while working in close connection and collaboratively with our community, and in alignment with the mandate and visions of the Iranian Canadian Congress. As we go forward, with every step, we are working on creating a strong and memorable past and building a promising future.
Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC)