The Honourable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, ON, K1A 1L1
September 13, 2008
Dear Minister Finley,
On behalf of the board of directors of the Iranian Canadian Congress, I am writing to raise a number of issues of critical concern to the Iranian-Canadian community. The establishment of ICC was two years in the making and benefited from the tireless efforts of some of the most distinguished members of the Iranian-Canadian community. Today we have over 500 members, and our membership is growing. Our community has been alarmed by the suboptimal quality of service provided to our relatives, colleagues, and friends by your ministry's staff at the Canadian embassy in Tehran. We have received numerous complaints about the lack of respect with which visa applicants are treated, and the rapid downturn in the number of visas that are issued.
In particular, we have been informed that the majority of invitees to three significant academic and cultural events in Canada have been turned away, preventing them from making what would have been important contributions to intercultural and academic dialogue in Canada. This trend is especially troubling since the majority of the cultural and academic programs damaged by the visa restrictions, are funded by the Canadian government.
Barring of Iranians sparks anger
Lesley Ciarula Taylor, Toronto Star
900 people sign petition decrying Ottawa's denial of visitors' visas for their family members in Iran
An Iranian-Canadian grad student at the University of Toronto has collected 900 signatures in just a few weeks from people like her whose families have been refused visas to visit. And the Iranian Canadian Congress says it's time to make it an election issue.
The first of these events was the Tirgan Iranian Festival, which was held at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto on July 17-20. The Harbourfront Centre, as you know, receives the bulk of its funding from the Federal Government. This festival was the largest festival of its kind in the history of the Iranian diaspora and was financially supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ontario's Ministry of Tourism, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, among others. Many of the key invitees to the event, who are among Iran's leading artists and performers, were denied visas, despite having invitations from the festival's organizers and from Harbourfront Centre. The second main event of the Iranian community this summer was the bi-annual conference of the International Society of Iranian Studies, which was held at Toronto's Park Hyatt Hotel on July 31-August 2.We have been informed by this event's organizers that, similarly, a number of Iran's most distinguished scholars, who had official invitations from the University of Toronto and the conference organizers, have been denied visas and therefore cannot attend the event.
Finally, we have been informed about similar policies regarding the 5th International Reunion of Sharif University of Technology Association held on August 1-4 2008 in Vancouver, BC, Sharif University, as you know, is Iran's leading centre for science and engineering education. We have been saddened to discover that here, too, your ministry has imposed collective punishment on some of the most distinguished members of Iran's scientific community and their interlocutors in Canada. We feel that our relatives, friends and colleagues in Iran should not fall victim to political squabbles.
We would like to request a meeting with you and your staff to discuss the criteria your ministry's representatives in Tehran use to grant or deny visas to applicants who have official invitations from reputable Canadian institutions, and are invited for short visits to Canada.
Please let us know when you can meet with ICC representatives to discuss these issues.
Saeed Hariri President
Iranian-Canadian Congress (ICC) is a not for profit, non partisan and nonreligious organization that is committed to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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