The Mayor of Montreal is revealed to have secretly visited Iran to meet the Mayor of Tehran.
This trip was not revealed via the website of Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, which details his trips to Iraq and South America, but via the Iranian Press.
Canadian-Iranians are reported to be furious that Coderre has met with a member of a regime that Canada designates a state sponsor of terrorism.
Shabnam Assadollahi, an Ottawa writer, and human rights activist who was imprisoned in Iran as a teenager, said: “The Iranian regime is a terrorist regime. Why would the mayor of Montreal make quiet deals with a terrorist regime?”
A report by the regime-affiliated Tasnim News Agency revealed that Coderre signed an agreement with Tehran in his role as president of Metropolis, an association of global cities. It contained a photo of the two smiling mayors sitting under a portrait of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Tehran Mayor Baqer Qalibaf was quoted in the report as saying that he hoped this would lead to stronger cooperation between Iran and Montreal. However, Canada’s diplomatic ties with Iran remain severed; Canada closed its embassy in 2012.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said that official talks had begun in June, and met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations in New York, in October.
Payam Akhavan, a law professor at McGill University and founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, said that Coderre’s visit is propaganda value to a regime trying to gloss over its abuses.
He said that Qalibaf is seen as a pragmatist rather than a hardliner, but that is a “relative concept”.
Akhavan said: “The only politicians who survive are ones who are deemed to be ideologically safe, and who have compromised with the right people and the right interests. So having contact with them is nothing to celebrate.”
Qalibaf has formerly called Israel “a cancerous tumour in the region” and bragged about crushing student protests in 1999 and 2003.
Coderre’s office said he will not be able to comment on his Iran trip until he returns next week.
Amir Khadir, a Québec Solidaire member of the National Assembly who was born in Iran, said he texted Coderre when he learned the mayor was in Tehran, to ask him to raise the case of a recently imprisoned human-rights defender, but it was too late.
Iraj Rezaei, president of the Council of Iranian Refugees and Immigrants in Toronto, said Coderre cannot possibly think that a regime which executes minors, imprisons critics and bars women from attending soccer matches can be reasoned with.
He said: “The Iranian government has been there 33 years, and nothing has changed.”