POLITICS

Harper Meets With Prominent Iranian-Canadians

09/19/2012 01:20 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST
CP
A group of prominent Iranian-Canadians had face time with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Minister John Baird and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney Tuesday.

The meeting wasn't publicized in advance, but a group photo was sent out on Twitter from both the prime minister's and Kenney's account.

"Excellent meeting today w/ the Prime Minister, Minister Baird & members of CDA's Persian community about recent events," Kenney wrote, attaching the photo.

Julie Vaux, a spokeswoman for the prime minister's office, says the meeting was "not a formal discussion."

"They discussed the recent events with Iranian-Canadian community leaders," Vaux wrote in an email to CBC News.

Present at the meeting, according to Vaux, was:

- Michael Parsa

- Dr. Ahmad Tabrizi

- Farrokh Zandi

- Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay

- Farid Rohani

- Moe Eskandarpour

- Mehrdad Rahbar

- Mehrdad Amiri

- Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney

- B.C. Conservative MP John Weston, who represents a Vancouver riding and sits on the Commons immigration committee

Several of those who were present have been active in the Iranian-Canadian Congress, including Zandi, the group's current president.

Parsa is the past president of the federal Conservative riding association in Richmond Hill. Tabrizi's Toronto charity, the Parya Trillium Foundation, has received funding from Kenney's department in the past.

Activist married to defence minister

Afshin-Jam MacKay is married to Defence Minister Peter MacKay. She has a long history of activism against the Iranian regime, dating back to before her marriage.

While she doesn't support military intervention in Iran, she did campaign for the closure of Iran's Ottawa embassy.

"Why should we be giving an embassy for those who imprison, torture, and execute innocent people?" Afshin-Jam told host Robyn Breshahan on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning in July.

"I've shared my views with [husband Peter MacKay] but I don't represent the opinion of the government or even my husband. I know there are reasons why they are keeping this [Iranian] embassy open," she said.

Baird surprised many when he announced the closure on Sept. 7.

In an interview with CBC Charlottetown's Compass last July, Afshin-Jam MacKay was asked about whether being married to a high-profile cabinet minister helps or hinders her work as a human rights activist.

"I wouldn't say it's helped or hindered. Peter's very supportive of the work I do, he's never said I can or can't say certain things," she responded. "In terms of going to a lot of different gatherings, meeting different people from different walks of life, I'm able to spread awareness to a larger audience, so in that way I guess it's helped."

The other attendees at the meeting are prominent Iranian-Canadian academics, activists and business leaders.

The prime minister has shared his deep concerns about the "dangerous" Iranian regime in the past, telling Peter Mansbridge, CBC News' chief correspondent, that the current Iranian regime frightens him.

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