Liberal party defends Trudeau statements on Iran

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau would “hope to re-open [Canada’s] mission in Iran,” but doing so would be conditional on several factors, a spokesperson for the Liberal leader told The CJN.

“We have been clear that this will depend on many factors, including ongoing human rights abuses and the outcome of negotiations between the P5+1 nations and Iran,” said Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communications.

“The Iranian regime represents a threat to Israel, the Middle East, and the world, and we continue to be seriously concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Purchase was responding to queries from The CJN regarding Trudeau’s June 23 comments on the CBC program Power & Politics in which he said he would move to normalize relations with Iran. “As I understand it, there were security concerns that led to the closing of the mission, but I’m fairly certain that there are ways to re-engage,” he said.

Trudeau also told interviewer Terry Milewski that he would end Canada’s bombing mission in Iraq against ISIS (also known as ISIL) and focus on sending Canadian military personnel to the region to train Iraqi security forces.

Government ministers pounced on Trudeau’s statements, with Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson calling them “irrational.”

His proposal to withdraw from the military mission is evidence Trudeau is not prepared to become prime minister, Nicholson said. As to his suggestion of normalizing relations with Iran, Nicholson said it would help “a state sponsor of terrorism that systematically violates human rights with little or no respect for due process.”

In an email correspondence with The CJN, Purchase sought to clarify the Liberal leader’s remarks.

“The Iranian regime represents a threat to Israel, the Middle East, and the world, and we continue to be seriously concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Purchase said 

“As Mr. Trudeau has long stated, our objective remains a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon…. Iran must be held to account for both its longstanding record of human rights abuses as well as its nuclear program,” she said

The current regime in Iran does not always represent or speak for the Iranian people, Purchase added, arguing that “Our presence would help Canadians in Iran and the Iranian people. It would not benefit the regime.”

In 2012, then-foreign affairs minister John Baird set out the case for closing Canada’s embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats in Canada. 

Baird said Iran is responsible for terrorism around the world; it continually threatens Israel with annihilation; it violates the human rights of its own citizens; it supports Syrian President Bashar Assad in a bloody civil war; and it has failed to comply with UN resolutions to curb its nuclear program.

There were also reports at the time that local Iranians felt threatened by a statement made by an Iranian diplomatic official in Canada that Iran should nurture expatriates to serve the Islamic Republic.

Canada, which has put in place a stringent sanctions regime on Iran, also added the country to a list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Responding to Trudeau’s comments, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said, “We all share the hope that the Iranian people will come out from under this totalitarian regime’s oppressive control. But as the Liberal leader noted, any changes to the Canadian posture would have to be a function of changed – and improved – circumstances on the ground. The threats posed by the Iranian regime, however, remain an acute threat, domestically, to regional stability and global security, so we assume that the Canadian position will continue to enjoy unanimity within the political sector.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “There is no question that Canada’s Jewish and human rights communities view the current Iranian regime not only as a threat to the State of Israel, but to the safety and security of western civilians, who have often found themselves the innocent victims of Iran and its terrorist proxies. Iran is actively seeking to acquire not only nuclear weapons, but the capacity to deliver them through a secretive long-range missile program.

“The regime continues to cause chaos in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Iraq through proxy terrorist groups, and it is among the worst human rights violators in the world. The regime of the ayatollahs is notorious for oppressing, torturing and murdering its own citizens on the basis of their religious and political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.”